Discomfort and Joy — Pilgrims offer reflections on World Youth Day

Following are excerpts of reflections provided by young adults who traveled from the Archdiocese of Louisville to WYD in Lisbon Aug. 1 to 6

Young adults from the local area posed for a photo under the Lisbon sun during World Youth Day. (Photo Special to The Record)

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Zoe Bernard

This pilgrimage turned out to be way harder than I had anticipated. We were fairly warned that this was a pilgrimage and not a vacation, therefore, there would be some suffering along the way. Even still, I had no idea what to expect.  

In the beginning, there were many small sacrifices that we all had to make which is very natural when traveling with a group of 25 in a foreign country. Those small sacrifices, I felt them starting to wear on me by day three. I felt like the Lord wasn’t hearing my prayers and that, since I wasn’t really getting to do what I wanted to do, that I would miss Him speaking to me.

I turned to Jesus and I chose to surrender any expectation for this trip that I had coming in. I said to Him an act of faith: “Lord, I give you my requests. You seem to have something else to say to me on this trip that I was not expecting. I know that if my request isn’t what you want to answer right now, then whatever You want to say to me will be even more amazing than what I was ever asking for.” 

This was a big turning point for me on the trip. I noticed a deeper openness to Him and was able to see Him working in very unexpected ways in my heart.

John and Crystal Sohl

Crystal Sohl

Fatima offered me the opportunity to pray with my husband while walking on our knees toward the Chapel of the Apparitions. We were able to offer up this sacrifice for our loved ones and each other. All I could think about was Jesus carrying His cross on the way to Calvary and I wondered how He could love us that much, when just that small sacrifice on my knees was so hard to bear. This was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.  

Laura Makin

When I was first invited on this pilgrimage, I had great hesitations. I had a hard time trusting that it was good, something I could do physically, or that God’s hand was actually in it. 

Looking back now, this was the start of moment after moment of having to surrender and place radical trust in the Lord’s loving and personal care. Perhaps the most tangible experience of surrender and trust was in the hike back to our gym from the papal Mass. 

We were already hours into the journey, on the blacktop, in 100-degree heat when we came to a resting place under a highway overpass. I had not yet felt exhausted, overheated, dehydrated or unable to continue on. When we stopped under the overpass, however, I was suddenly wiped out. 

The thought of stepping back into the sun was painful. In that moment though, I received a great grace that somehow allowed me to smile and make the rest of the journey home with relative ease — truly carried by grace. 

I was struck by the magnitude of suffering that many people had endured the day before and were enduring in that moment. I am strong, healthy and physically able. I enjoyed the hike both to and from the vigil. I sacrificed but not to the point I saw others sacrifice. 

In that moment of realization, I knew what it meant to be one Church. One Church that picks up and carries the weak and vulnerable. One Church on the pilgrimage to heaven together. 

We talk about, read about, and pray about all that the Church and her individual members suffer, but in that moment, faced with the sweltering heat, sore feet, and countless ambulances whirring past us to pick up another pilgrim, I realized what it means to be a pilgrim who is part of the universal Church. It means to be loved and to love. To suffer and to help those suffering. And ultimately to be carried by grace to our ultimate pilgrimage site, heaven.

James Endres

In the craziness of World Youth Day, patience is one thing that is sorely tested and sorely needed. “Mary went with haste,” but not impatience. Throughout my life, patience is one thing that has often eluded me. Rest with the Lord is not something that comes easily to me. I think that in the “holy chaos” (as one fellow pilgrim described it) of World Youth Day, I was given a great grace from the Lord — the gift of resting in Him. 

In his morning catechesis, Bishop Robert Barron told the pilgrims of WYD to seek the “Unum Necessarium.” In all of the questions I had, the problems to which I wanted solutions, the anxieties I wanted driven away, I was missing the one necessary thing – to rest in Christ. It was through this World Youth Day experience that I was reminded of that and for that I am forever grateful. 

Sean Holley

We had a lot of sufferings, including staying in a packed gym with no air-conditioning, minimal hot water, and no beds, dealing with 100+ degree heat, walking with heavy backpacks and keeping a 26-person group together.  

Although this pales in comparison to the pain and suffering Jesus went through in the Way of the Cross, we did offer our sufferings up to the Lord. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus mentions taking his yoke because it is light and easy. We had to look up to Jesus to lighten our yokes, whether it was a heavy backpack, lack of hydration in the blistering heat, missing friends and family. 

I saw many people help lighten our yokes, whether it was volunteers handing out water, our guide leading us on the right path, other pilgrims carrying extra weight for those struggling, giving up a seat on the bus and people donating food to the less fortunate. 

Father John Baptist Hoang

Father John Baptist Hoang

Millions of people go to World Youth Day to encounter God, especially in the Eucharist. 

Yes, I can still encounter God at home in the comfort of my own parish, but sometimes we need to step out of our comforts in order to do something crazy for God. Do I love God so much, that I am willing to leave everything behind for Him? 

That is why World Youth Day is the craziest thing I have done in my life. World Youth Day is just doing what the saints did in pursuit of God. They left everything behind and followed Him. That is what Mary did in her fiat. 

The reward for World Youth Day is simply this: God does the craziest things for us. God did the craziest thing for us when He suffered and died for us on the cross. And God continually does crazy things for us by loving us constantly in the Eucharist. 

World Youth Day is a crazy way of giving and receiving love.

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