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One Pilgrim's Reflection on World Youth Day


By Priscilla Oddo
St. Mary Cathedral, Gaylord

Imagine you are on a beach in a foreign country. It’s dark and chilly, and every few minutes you feel a rain drop. You’re exhausted from a long day and yet you find yourself on your knees once again. All is silent except for the lapping of the ocean’s waves. You can feel the hum of energy radiating through the crowd; there is something nearly magical going on. When you open your eyes, you realize that you are surrounded by millions of Catholic young adults, all of whom are kneeling for one simple, holy reason – adoration of our Lord.

That is the moment that World Youth Day culminated to and is all about – millions of young Catholics praising and worshipping our Lord together, as one body. Throughout the week, you’re thrown in to a country that you’re not familiar with, where the majority of people you encounter do not have a grasp on the English language, and being American is something of a novelty. Yet, somehow you make new friends, laugh off the awkward encounters of living with people you’ve barely met before boarding a plane, and all silently agree on one thing – Christ is Lord and the Church is alive.

Some would have you believe that the Catholic Church is old and outdated. Anyone who attended World Youth Day has witnessed an entirely different situation. Not only is the Church alive, it is vibrant and young and resonates with a passion that words cannot describe. It is American, European, Asian and African. It is black and white and every color in between. During World Youth Day, the language barrier slips away as the commonality of faith unites.

“Esta es la juventud del Papa!” chanted millions of voices. “This is the youth of the Pope!” It is a popular phrase that originated during World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain, but quickly became the slogan of the crowds along the Copacabana Beach. As the Holy Father drove through the crowds each day and greeted those his security was in place to keep away, visited the favelas on the outskirts of Rio with tears in his eyes, and carried his own briefcase on to the Papal plane, it became clear that he is the Pope of the youth.

Speaking of the universality of the Church that brought Catholics from around the world together, Pope Francis said, “We are never alone, we are part of a family of brothers and sisters, all journeying on the same path: we are part of the Church.” This could not be more clear or evident than during the events in Rio.

As World Youth Day came to an end and the Copacabana Beach began to empty out, young adults who had never met before but bonded over their joy in the Eucharis exchanged gifts, Facebook information and prayers.

“Go and make disciples of all nations,” was the charge that was given to this army of young adults, and as they disburse throughout the world, many will be touched as the fire that was acquired and fanned during World Youth Day begins to ignite with those they meet.

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