“Swerte kayo nakapunta kayo sa Madrid!” says a lot of people who knew about our World Youth Day trip. And all I can say is, “Hindi naman po. Blessed lang po through God’s grace.”
For this WYD experience is all about God’s grace, who made everything possible happen to each one of us.
When we were first told last year that we would be going to WYD in Madrid, I said yes immediately even if I still didn’t know where to get funds for it. But I just know that the Lord will provide, for “Anything is possible to one who has faith” (Mk. 9:23).
During the preparation, we had a lot of paper works to do and money to look for. At first, it seemed impossible. But we all just did what we were asked, each one of us holding in our hearts the promise of God that we will meet Him in Madrid. And the unexpected things happened – papers were approved, everyone got their visas on time, funds were overflowing, coming from unexpected people all over the world. Blessings after blessings showered us, and our expectant hearts growing more faithful and excited of what the Lord still has in store for us in the WYD.
I only had 3 expectations in going to the WYD: to have a Jesus-experience through the Pope and in every moment of my stay there, to have a clearer view of what the Lord is asking me to do and to speak and worship in Spanish. And truly, the Lord met my expectations and allowed me to experience much more than these!
Days in the Diocese
We stayed in Valdefuentes, a town around 3 hours outside Madrid. I was transferred to the YFL sub-group (from SFL sub-group) since they needed a Spanish-speaking translator to help them around. And you bet, how big the responsibility of being a translator was! Every message should be transmitted in the right context, especially during the mass and the personal sharings. You should always be around to help out if they can’t express themselves or the locals couldn’t understand. It’s exhausting and yet a humbling experience, allowing yourself to be used by God, through His Holy Spirit, to be His instrument to your co-pilgrims, so that they may not miss the message the Lord wants them to hear.
We were given also the privilege to go to Portugal to visit the apparition site of Our Lady of Fatima. Just the sight of the church gave me goosebumps, until we were able to step on the ground and be with the other pilgrims. You can really feel that it is a holy ground! It was also a blessing that there was an International Mass that day, to commemorate the apparition of the Virgin every 13th of the month. The Mass was in Portugese, and an amazing thing happened to me during the homily – for some reason, I was able to understand the homily even if it is in another language that is unknown to me! I couldn’t believe that I was able to transmit to my co-pilgrims the homily that was in Portugese. I, myself till now, couldn’t believe what happened. ‘Coz after that, I wasn’t able to understand much Portugese anymore. I believe that it was a Pentecost experience, that allowed me to be the messenger to others.
The people in Valdefuentes were all accomodating and excited to interact with us. Even with the the language barrier, they were patiently communicating with us, sharing their life stories, and even joked around. Language became not a hindrance but a blessing because the Lord showed us that we could still communicate in another language, a language that is universal and known to all – His language of love. Friendships were built, lives were shared, faith enriched and renewed. All because everyone allowed themselves to be enveloped by God’s grace and love, allowing Him to do wonders in each one of us.
During the last days of our stay there, the YFL sub-group were given a chance to be the choir during one of the novena mass intended for the youth. All participated with much gusto, singing their hearts out our own Church songs in Tagalog, English and Spanish! And during the homily, Padre Juan Carlos asked me, together with my co-Spanish-speaking-missionary, to share how the Lord changed our lives and how we could inspire the youth to live their lives for Christ the way we did. Imagine the both of us nervous, since it has been a long time when we shared in Spanish! But the Lord was gracious, He allowed us to speak in straight Spanish; even I couldn’t believe it; and one youth, with her Mom, came to me after the mass telling me that she was empowered to also say yes to the Lord’s calling to her to serve in the Church because of our sharings! The Lord is truly amazing!
After the Days in the Diocese was our time to go to Madrid for the WYD proper. We were able to attend a lot of faith-enriching activities like daily Catechisms, a talk of Michael Voris about sexuality, Vocation Fair, Confessions, Asian Youth Forum, the CFC FFL Assembly (for members around the world who were attending the WYD) and a lot more. It was like attending recollections everyday. More knowledge of God. Convictions becoming deeper everyday. And relationships become stronger as we all search and experience God in all of these activities.
But the highlight of the WYD for me, is of course, seeing the Pope. It was just an entry in my bucket list to see the Pope. I even imagined seeing him just in the screen. But God, always being generous to us, allowed us to see the Pope 100 meters away from us, during his arrival ceremony in Madrid! All the 6 hours of waiting for him was worth it! Just his presence brought goosebumps and tears to a lot of us. It’s like seeing Jesus in real life! It was a holy experience. Added to that was the Via Crusis, which is personally, my first time to really pray it without distraction and because of the holiness you’ll feel in the air; and the Vigil with the Pope.
We had to ride trains and walk under the scorching heat of the sun just to reach the venue of the Vigil. And even stayed for much more hours before the Vigil started. But it was all worth it! Being with the Pope and the 2 million youth from all over the world made the experience amazing. And during his homily, it rained! It was a miracle since the temparature for the past days ranged from 38-42°C. The rain lasted for almost 20 minutes; and when it stopped, Pope Benedict XVI told the pilgrims: “The Lord is with us through this rain, giving us a lot of blessings”. It was just an affirmation that truly, the Lord was with us that night, blessing and transforming the hearts of each of His faithfuls present there. And during the concluding mass the day after, the Pope encouraged the young pilgrims to be disciples and missionaries to a lot of youth who still don’t know God and to share the joy and faith we have experienced in the WYD to our community.
Life changed… forever
The Lord allowed me to experience so many things during the World Youth Day that changed my life in different ways – see the urgency of our work to evangelize and share the Word of God to the world; deepen old friendships and build new ones; meet different people, sharing a different language but speaking the same language of love and faith; used by God to be His messenger/translator to my co-pilgrims; see His wonderful creations through the beautiful Spanish architectures and watch a real live football game; and know Him more through a deeper relationship with Him and by speaking and revealing His plans for me. Truly, it was a life-changing experience I will never forget and will always share for in this WYD, the Lord just showed to me once more that in Him, todo es posible (all things are possible)!