Our pilgrimage began with a journey to Lourdes. The pilgrims and I were deeply moved with the faith that was so evident in this sacred place. I had the unique privilege of celebrating Mass with a brother bishop at the grotto at which our Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Bernadette. Our pilgrims and thousands of others from around the world were present. Later that day we celebrated Mass for the Vigil of the Assumption and then participated in a candle light procession. The sight of so many people demonstrating a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother is an experience I will always remember. In addition, seeing the number of seriously ill people at Lourdes touched my heart. Dedicated volunteers brought them to the liturgical services and to the holy water at Lourdes. I am confident that miracles took place right before us as the Lord touched those in need with His healing love and gave them strength, grace and perseverance. It is a reminder of the call we all have to lead others, especially those in need, to Jesus!
We also made a trip to Avila and learned about Saint Theresa, a Doctor of the Church. Her writings, the example of her life and her great commitment to prayer greatly assist us in our call to holiness.
We have been in Madrid since Monday evening. The opening Mass for the pilgrims was on Tuesday evening and it was a joyful and beautiful celebration. Today, we had a diocesan Mass at Saint Michael Basilica followed by a catechesis session. Later in the day, there was a vocation fair that included testimonies, concerts, talks and a Holy Hour. All the pilgrims were reminded that an essential step in discerning one’s vocation is to be still and quiet with the Lord, for he truly speaks to our heart!
There is much excitement in the air as we await the arrival tomorrow of Pope Benedict XVI. One young man said to me, “I am so blessed to be a Catholic and to know how much the Holy Father loves his young people. “ I am sure that all the pilgrims gathered in Madrid will soon echo those same words.
May God bless and protect Pope Benedict XVI and all the pilgrims who have gathered to be with him.
I’ve finally started packing. My suitcase is filled and the rest of my essentials are scattered everywhere around my room. A challenge that I’ll be facing starting tomorrow is my family. My mom and I are going on World Youth Day, but my dad is not. So not only will we not be seeing him for those ten days, we wont see him starting tomorrow because he’s leaving on a business trip, and gets back about an hour after we leave. He leaves a few days before we get back, and is gone for another week. So all in all? 3 weeks without my family being together. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay in touch through this journey to Christ.
Well, we leave for Spain Friday of next week. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s finally here! I’m halfway done packing (or at least, I have all my stuff laid out) and I’m spiritually prepared. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while now, but it’s finally sinking in that I’m going to another country for the first time in my life. Even better, I’ll be going with other Catholics on a pilgrimage for World Youth Day! It’s too much to sink in all at once. I’ll be logging both how I’m preparing for this mission and how the pilgrimage is going on this blog- so stay tuned!
Special contest launched for pilgrims and would-be pilgrims…
Five lucky young people could win a chance to be part of the group of pilgrims who walk with the Holy Father through Madrid’s Puerta de Alcalá during the official welcome ceremony on Thursday August 18. Puerta de Alcalá is an 18th centry gate that used to be one of the main access points to the city. It is today one of the symbols of Madrid and it is where the Holy Father will be officially received and welcomed to the city.
Another 50 young pilgrims could win VIP seats on the altar at the Vigil at Cuatro Vientos on Saturday August 20.
Even those young people who can’t make it to Madrid have a chance to participate in this contest. Ten youth from around the world will win an official WYD 2011 Madrid Pilgrim Backpack and other items from official WYD store.
To participate youth must fill in the on-line application form on the official WYD Facebook page and then try to accumulate the most points possible. Points can be accumulated by connecting one’s twitter profile to the official WYD twitter profile, or by “liking” the WYD app on the Facebook page.