I’m not within the prescribed age range of WYD participants, but they allow otherwise if they act as the group leader. Acting as group leader or not, I still joined my first WYD. Allow me to be illogical: It’s the best WYD that I’ve attended! What made it the best? All the pain that we experienced.
“Esta es la juventud del Papa! Esta es la juventud del Papa!”
The Jornada Mundial Juventud (JMJ) pilgrims in Madrid chant the words from the top of their lungs to the point of almost losing their voices. “This is the youth of the Pope!” Indeed, the youth of the Pope is this: lively, enthusiastic, faithful, prayerful, and energetic long-haired rockstar-looking caucasians, slit-eyed Asians, dark-skinned Nigerians, sharp-jawed Iraqis, and ubiquitous Filipinos holding the Philippine, US, Abu Dhabi, and Canadian flags proudly. The youth loves the sweet Vicar of Christ on earth. 1.5 to 2 million youth from France, Italy, Spain and afar profess their faith along the streets and subways of Madrid — shamelessly and proudly, wearing their “cross” on their sleeve. This is reality — the reality of our faith, the reality of evangelization, the new evangelization.
Pope Benedict XVI has always been portrayed as a strict and stern Pope. Ask the 1.5 to 2 million young pilgrims if that is true, and they will surely answer that he’s not. His facial expression when winds and rain battered the JMJ stage during the Vigil at Cuatro Vientos is priceless: ever smiling, almost looked like he’s enjoying the spontaneity that the phenomenon is bringing out in him! To the point that he was moved to say these unscripted words: “You (the youth) are stronger than the rains.”
Firmes en la fe.
“Strong in faith.” Faith is the greatest gift that God has given to man. Faith allows us to see God in others and exercise Charity. Faith allows us to speak about God unashamedly to others. Faith allows us to kneel down and pray to God, our creator, and father. Faith allows us to have Hope in the future. These are the reasons why our faith needs to be strong: firmly built up and planted in Jesus Christ, the source of Faith himself.
Vale la pena
Vale la pena. It’s worth the pain. The heat, the thirst, swollen feet, discomfort, and crowded metros are all worth the trouble to see and hear Benedicto speak. When he talked to us, we became almost blind-sided to his words and forgot all the miseries and discomfort that we were experiencing. We, the sincere JMJ pilgrims, only saw and heard the Pope as if we were on Mt. Tabor experiencing the transfiguration. “It is good to be here.” It was good to be in Madrid; the spiritual high was good to have and we all wish that it does not end. Thanks to the Pope for the gift of the crucifix that will help remind us of what happened in JMJ 2011 in Madrid, and that all the pain is worth it. Vale la pena.
JMJ 2011 – Not as perfect
I decided to add this last paragraph as an endnote to explain to those Filipino pilgrims who only had bad things to say about their experience in Madrid. Some of the comments are as follows:
- “We were housed in a school almost an hour away from the JMJ venue.”
- “Some of our things were stolen during the Vigil.”
- “Why would they organize the WYD during the Spanish economic recession?”
- “Communion was not distributed during the Closing Mass!”
- “The adoration tents were destroyed!”
These comments, though factual, have a bratty connotation to them. When we participated and registered for the World Youth Day, we should have known that we were not going there for a vacation or to expect to see heaven. We will see heaven when we die; only then will we have great and perfect accommodations.
- Theft during the vigil is expected. We cannot assure that every single “pilgrim” is 100% sinless. For all we know, like other thieves, people go to these crowded events to take advantage to precisely steal.
- The World Youth Day is a spiritual event and income generating. If the pilgrims registered properly on the WYD website, they would have paid a fee and received food cheques amounting to almost 15 lunches and dinners at great restaurants and fast food chains, each cheque worth 6.50 Euros. Imagine all the 1.5M to 2M pilgrims spending this much in each restaurant. Food business is good! Not to mention the souvenir shops and malls that opened even on Sundays (malls are closed on Sundays in Spain) for the pilgrims.
- Naturally, since the adoration tents were torn because of the strong winds and rains that night, the organizers were not able to keep the consecrated hosts the next day’s Mass. We were told to receive communion in any Church in Madrid — we didn’t have to wait for Mass to receive communion. We can simply knock on the Church door, and ask the priest to give us communion.