It all started in 2011. This was my 1st pilgrimage to the World Youth Day. It was life changing. Even if it was 5 years ago it seems it was only last week that it happened. Everything in Spain was special. Prayers sent, sacrifices offered, relationships built because of the WYD. I thought it was my 1st and last WYD but I was wrong. The pilgrimage did not end in Spain but continued in Brazil. My 2nd World Youth Day was also a great pilgrimage. It was different from the 1st of so many sorts. I am blessed to see Pope Francis. I was so amazed on how warm and hospitable the Brazilians are. They welcomed all the pilgrims with open arms just like the well know monument of the Christ the Redeemer in Rio.
I said to myself two is enough. I never imagined that I will be able to attend my 3rd World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. At first I was very hesitant to go. I said to myself that I already saw the Pope. I already experienced shouting and celebrating with millions of youth. I am done and I just want to encourage my co-missionaries to try to attend the WYD. But God’s plan is different from my plans. I saw myself filling up the WYD forms. I am again asking God to help me finance my travel to Krakow. Pope Francis nailed it during his homily in the WYD vigil. Jesus wanted me to be in Krakow because He wanted to meet me in WYD. Indeed God is a God of surprises. He orchestrated everything just for me to be in Krakow. He made sure that I will experience Him in my pilgrimage in WYD.
WYD in Krakow was special because this event coincides with the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It was also extra special because Poland is the country where the Devotion to the Divine Mercy started. It is also the country of St. John Paul II who is the founder of the WYD. I realized that I received from God a very special gift. A privilege of being in Krakow is already a great gift from God. The great opportunity to know more about Divine Mercy and Pope John Paul II is such a great gift from God. I was in awe in seeing the real image of the Divine Mercy at the chapel of St. Faustina. I was also blessed that I saw the relics of St. John Paul II. This was all because of the grace of God. This was all about His mercy to me. He is faithful and He knew me very well. He knew that I needed His mercy.
I will never forget what our delegation team leader always tells us during our group meetings. This WYD is a pilgrimage not a vacation. Yes it is indeed a pilgrimage. It was a journey to a sacred place. This WYD will be known for the long walks we experienced. Every day we walked at least 10km. During our gruelling walks in Krakow I always remember the story of the Polish volunteer. They have a tradition of doing a pilgrimage going to Czestochowa. This is the place where the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary is venerated. They called it Black Madonna. She shared to me that she took 10 days to finish the pilgrimage by foot. When I heard her story I was amazed on her dedication in finishing the pilgrimage amidst the pain and tired body. That is why during our walks I surrender the pain I am experiencing to God for the entire prayer petition I have. Pilgrimage is the time to sacrifice. It is also a reminder for me that this sacrifice is not greater than the gruelling walk of Jesus towards His cross.
Lastly this World Youth Day is an avenue for me to learn more the mercy of God. God’s mercy is unfathomable. It’s never ending. Pope Francis told us that the Lord does not keep his distance, but is near and real. He is in our midst and he takes care of us. That is His mercy. I really felt God’s love in WYD. He showed me that He love me more than I love myself. He believes in me more than I believe in myself. He is merciful and loving even if sometimes I run away from Him.
“God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind. As far as Jesus is concerned – as the Gospel shows – no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts. No one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important! God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.” Pope Francis told us in the closing mass of the vigil.
I can’t contain the joy I experienced during the World Youth Day. Indeed this event of the Church for the youth is truly life changing. It is one great adventure with the Lord. As I continue my pilgrimage in this world I will always remember what the WYD has taught me. Trust in Jesus.
Rj Moriones, CFCSFL Full time worker