Going to World Youth Day twice is not on my bucket list.
I mainly went to Poland because Shaun was going, on hindsight, I think I should have thought about this seemingly ‘charitable’ motive more. After a couple of tiring days and our contingent’s day of recollection, I realized that I wasn’t looking for God. I didn’t need God to show me the universal church. I didn’t need to experience joy in the midst of pain. I didn’t need to meet people from different walks of life to be inspired about my own faith life. Been there, done that. I know the drill.
Pride was obviously an enemy here. I wasn’t particularly putting my guard up, but neither I was opening myself up. I was exhausted, grumpy and purposeless.
Being caught up with myself, I struggled with 3 main things: Myself, Shaun and God.
I usually meet God in quiet, grassy and open spaces. Being surrounded by people 24/7, my introverted self shrivelled up into a ball and exploded, my extroverted self was in overdrive. How was I to find God during this pilgrimage when I didn’t have any time to sit and think and pray?
After a couple of days, I accepted the fact that these experiences everyday were the sort of prayer that didn’t require journalling in the moment. In Adelaide, I asked a Priest, “is it ok if I journal during prayer?”, after all, I am addressing my entry to God. And he said that there wasn’t anything wrong with that but it might be a different prayer experience to just converse with God and then journal about the experience thereafter. So I agreed this time, to just experience WYD and give up completely on trying to journal. I was a lot less angry.
“Do you love me?”, I pretty much asked Shaun that 3 times during the pilgrimage. It was a struggle because I felt like I was robbing his precious time which he had to balance between himself, 170 other people and me. When was he an organizer, a WYD pilgrim, a fiance?
Routine check-ins at night and time to be accountable for my state-of-being felt greedy. Was I clamouring for attention? Needing to feel special or appreciated? Could I not be grateful for what I had?
My cell group, and friends in the contingent were particularly supportive (<3!). They included him in during meals and gave us time to hang out during the free time. It made me recognize that the sacrifices of being in this relationship are not just from me alone but requires my entire community to bear it too.
This love maybe a little far from an ‘agape’ kind of love, but as we head towards marriage, it’s a continuous lesson to learn ‘to will the good of another.’
Mercy is a rather foreign word to me.When it came to a point to choose workshops to go for, I look more for how to use God’s gifts as opposed to God’s healing and mercy. I would never describe myself as merciful and I would hardly use it to describe who God is. I would describe him as healer, as king, as creator but I fail to recognize him as someone who has mercy on me, mostly because I don’t see myself as someone who requires mercy. Similarly, it’s hard to be merciful.
One special moment was when I was standing next to a friend during a time of outpouring, and she started to cry. At that moment, my heart opened because I saw God’s mercy pouring out for her! I latched unto that mercy and even though I couldn’t quite understand it, I could at the very least pray for others to experience his mercy and love.
Like in the story of Mary and Martha, I’ve been running around tending to the house without really paying attention to who I’m preparing it for and for what purpose. Like in the story of Zacchaeus, I saw Jesus but have yet to climb down the tree. Like the Disciples walking to Emmaus, heart burning but blind.
World Youth Day to me, is very much more about the people than it is about the actual events that go on. It was very much different from my first WYD experience where I came out of my bubble to witness the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The lesson this time is more about humility and understanding the role and vocation as a wife-to-be. This time I come back with more questions about my life and truly, WYD is always a reminder of the newness I need in my life. And this for one, is something I truly need.
There were many beautiful experiences along the way and I look forward to unpacking them all in the next couple of weeks. Instead of catching pokemon, I think I need to catch more God moments and spend time evolving that relationship.