“I’m home now from the World Youth Day pilgrimage! It was an incredible, life changing experience – seeing the homes of so many heroic children of God and celebrating our Lord with other young Catholics from 187 different countries really rocked me deep in my guts with a new awareness of Gods powerfully close mercy. I’m very grateful to have been able to go and experienced this, and I hope that sharing a little bit about my experience here can help bring to Facebook in a little way the awesomeness of the past 3 weeks.
For the first two weeks, where we visited the Prague Loretto shrine and the Church of the Infant Child of Prague, and then saw the home monastery of Maximillian Kolbe, I was struck over and over again by the magnitude of Gods mercy, which is truly his greatest attribute. I felt the trace images of my God as a harsh judge or standard of perfection who wasn’t really quite interested in my phoniness and hypocrisies being washed away in the overpowering truth of his mercy, and his sacred heart, that BURNS to know us as intimately as sharing a single body with us.
After this experience of knowing God as shockingly, ridiculously merciful, I began to feel a growing inspiration to find our God more in my everyday life. Jesus had the same desire, to find me in my everyday life, and we began to meet over and over again throughout the day – through the sacrifices I was given the chance to make, through the vows our priests and nuns made to serve God completely, through the witness so many Christians were making in their lives to leave themselves behind and love others – through the sacraments – through the joy of millions of people gathered in Poland for these festivals – and most of all, for me, through the community we traveled with of 45 Detroit area and Canadian and Mexican pilgrims who shared our stories together, our weaknesses, our struggles, and the overpowering victories of Christ in each of our lives as his love destroyed all of those little sins and vices without him we would have always been a slave to.
I discovered the presence of Mary with Jesus everyday towards the middle of our trip. Whenever Jesus was known to me in all of these awesome ways, I could always discern our blessed Mother gently with him and with us, protecting us by the protection the Angels give her, calmly encouraging us to “do whatever he tells you”, loving us, praying with us, and strengthening us by helping us love her son with the same love that she has. I always discovered Mary most in the community, when we were gathered for holy hours in the morning, all focused on her son – where she focused on him too, and prayed with us.
After these experiences, the pope made his way to Kraków and gave us three days of preaching again about how merciful our God is, but also how much God desires us to go and be warriors and missionaries of mercy, constantly reaching out with bravery and love to those poor and abused and oppressed individuals that Christ suffers and dies with and who he longs to help, through us, as he has always come to “preach good news to the poor and set the captives free”. He urged us not to be couch potatoes and inspired me not to let all of these awesome messages of mercy and experiences of his presence and nearness grow stale in a journal or memory, but plunge me and us all deeper into its manifested reality by more fearlessly and actively giving our lives to serve others – picking up the crosses of service and love for those in our neighborhoods, families, and metropolitan areas who are forgotten, forsaken, hated, cursed, condemned, suffering, hungry, thirsty, ignorant, and written off as lost causes by anyone who isn’t deemed radical, overly optimistic, or, in the proper sense of the term, Christian. Pope Francis wants us young people to stick out our tongues at the very notion of a lost cause in a society, in our family, in our own weaknesses, and in the neighbors we see everyday. God doesn’t believe in lost causes – Jesus always bets on the future with us – and we Christians are challenged to “always bet on the future” as well, especially when it seems the most ridiculous for anything to ever change.
Pope Francis said God calls us to become protagonists of history.
Finally, I think the most amazing moment of it all came on the plane ride home. I was inspired by this amazing trip, but I knew something was missing. It all hadn’t quite entered my heart – it was all still just sterile and orbiting my heart in a nice sort of way, but it wasn’t MINE yet.
So I asked two friends, Evelyn and Joanna, if they could pray over me – that I could invite Jesus more truly into my heart.
They sat on the plane and prayed for me for 40 minutes, and I experienced Jesus in as personal and close a way as I ever had – it was incredible – Jesus, who I had become such a fan of during this pilgrimage and was so inspired to go find in my everyday life and was also inspired to serve and love in the hopeless causes that surround us all the time, approached me in that prayer, touched me, and I could see him touching me, and I experienced him inviting me INTO him in in this really awesome way. I experienced myself as the ridiculously strong desire of his, rather than just my service, or just my good parts. He ate me up and invited me in and his heart was so warm and happy to have me there – and I really really could look at all the other stuff my sinfulness seeks all the time, like a good reputation or a fruitful ministry, or control over my life or good regard by everyone or talent in this area or that, and I could see – I could one way or another, in fact, possess all of that stuff. It wouldn’t be that hard to finagle.
But looking at Jesus right in front of me, and him looking at me, in that prayer time, and in my friend and in the love he fills my heart with – like, I don’t really want any of that stuff. I’d rather have him. And I already have him. He’s already given himself to me, perpetually, on his cross especially made preset in the deeply intimate and tangible and REAL Eucharist.
SO life is really good. Super thankful for all those who supported this trip and all those who prayed for us pilgrims as well as our priests and our nuns who guided us everyday.
Excited to give up every little “ism” desire that’d distract me from totally loving the one who totally loves on the old wooden cross – excited to serve him like crazy and hope in the “hopeless”, love the “unlovable” and believe in the future when the verdict is out that it’s all doom and gloom and the worlds circling the drain, and Gods not big enough to do a thing about it. I believe God can lift us out of the toilet even when we’ve already gone 10 feet below the drain!
Like if you want to be a protagonist of history!!”
-Daniel, Wayne State University Student