As I sit down to write my last blog post it is a bittersweet affair. I have so enjoyed bringing this pilgrimage alive for those of you who followed and will miss rushing to post the latest adventures. But as my sainted mother used to say, "all good things must come to an end."
I wanted to relay to you the chat I had with a delightful young man from Georgia who shared the flight to Paris with me. He traveled to Spain on his own to witness the papal audience and was able to stay with friends whose mom cooked authentic Spanish meals for him! He had developed his faith basically on his own as his folks were not well churched. The enthusiasm he shared was inspiring and as he spoke I wondered if a vocation was stirring within him.
He was able to be up front by the stage for the papal Mass and showed his outstanding close up photos of the pope from the Sunday Eucharistic celebration. I was so pleased to have had the chance to see the shots after being unable to see any of that Mass for myself.
But the most astounding part of our conversation was when he explained that during his trip he felt he was in desolation and wondered what God had in store for him. He said he continued his faithful journey by attending Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, Confession and catechesis sessions, but to no avail. He still was unable to feel God. Throughout his days in Madrid he began to hear the same message over and over — identify with Christ crucified. He reported that he finally came to understand that his faith wasn't just about the rituals of the Church that he had been performing, but that he was being called to focus his sights on Christ and His promise of redemption.
Wow! What great insight from a young twenty-something. God works in all whose hearts are open to His truth!
I witnessed God's hand in so many situations along our journey and was awe struck several times when various pilgrims approached me to tell their stories of healing and inspiration. (Most I have posted in previous blogs.) I would have loved to hear more stories but group time was limited and as you already know, we were busy with activities and events from sun up to sun down!
My guess is that near everyone on the pilgrimage, from our beloved retired Father Paul Bueter to our 16-year-old high school student, had a touching and memorable moment or two on our trip. "Kingdom moments" they were called. My hope is that those moments will plant themselves deeply in our spirits and come back to us as we continue to seek God.
So as I recall our enthusiastic send off, the flight prayers for safety, our amazing adventure in the healing waters (and gelato) of Lourdes, St. Ignatius's home at Loyola, the 13th century cathedral of Burgos, our bus trips through the mountainous landscape of Spain, the many walks we took singing through the streets of Madrid, the Mass celebrations in so many ancient churches and cathedrals, catechesis, the metro, meeting so many youth from all around the globe with the same fervor for our Lord, group prayer, waiting for the pope mobile to drive by, the masses of pilgrims that attended the Way of the Cross in Madrid, the outdoor vigil with its hundreds of thousands of pilgrims anticipating the arrival of our holy father, and of course, Pope Benedict XVI himself, I find myself smiling. There is so much more that I will ponder in my heart as the memories rise to the surface in the months to come.
Father Terry shared this website via email and I thought you might want to hear how one of our dynamic speakers at the vocations fair perceived the WYD event. This is Father Barron. http://www.wordonfire.org/WOF-TV/Commentaries-New/Fr-Barron-comments-on-World-Youth-Day.aspx
I can't thank you all enough for your steadfast prayers that lifted us up on our journey of faith. Know that you were constantly in our prayers as well. My hope is that you will be as blessed as we have been with a real thirst for our Lord and a deepening of faith as we journey forward.
God's blessings on all and Buenas tardes!