It's only just begun.
“We can say that World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on. The Lord doesn’t want to remain in this beautiful city, or in cherished memories alone. He wants to enter your homes, to dwell in your daily lives.”
Pope Francis, final WYD Mass
These. These are the words that matter. They matter now that we have come down from the mountain and have returned to the steady day in and day out, or are settling into a new rhythm after a change. Jesus wants to be here. He wants to have a place—the place—in our lives and in our hearts. He ought to have a home in us.
I’ve been carrying many memories and graces and gifts from that blessed trip. Ones that I fear I will spill, will somehow lose sight of, will not even notice slip by as I reenter the comfort of daily life. Happily, He has kept them for me. He has probed my heart and spurred me on and even now, stirs up that goodness once again. And it is a goodness that’s meant to be shared. So, here they are—just some of the little treasures I’ve taken with me. I hope you find them valuable, too.
1. Notice God in the little things.
One thing that delighted me during our time in Krakow was seeing with eyes of faith at every turn. God gave me vision to view the ways He was working, from giving me supernatural energy in the midst of little sleep, to planning my path to cross with dozens of dear friends at the most unexpected of corners, to orchestrating conversations of great depth with pilgrim after pilgrim as I led the pack.
Even now, I look for Him in the smallness of life. I rejoice as I just make the traffic light as I bike uphill. As my plans happen to fall through, making me available to comfort a suffering friend. As I wake well before my alarm with a tired excitement and amble to the nearby chapel for an early Mass as the sun rises. He is in all of these things. Let us both receive the grace and choose to see Him everywhere.
2. Don’t complain.
Still I marvel at the absence of complaining among my group. Still I am amazed by their preparation and attitude, Fr. Eugene setting the tone and bolstering them in their weariness. They called me to a higher standard, showing me how to live joyfully in the midst of suffering, how to find a reason to rejoice, always.
Our culture is full of complainers. I, too, am guilty. Somehow, there is a sweet relief and release in the act of complaining, followed by a bad taste in my mouth as the negativity hovers, even grows. And how unpleasant it is to listen to! Let us instead seek to build up a culture of positivity.
3. Lean into discomfort.
World Youth Day was very much uncomfortable. We walked for miles, sweated for hours, slept on rocky ground (or didn’t), and suffered. Not only was I inspired by the lack of complaining, I found myself appreciating those daily discomforts, sharing, in the smallest way, in the sufferings of Christ and of my worldwide family, the Church.
I often see discomfort as something to be avoided at all costs, or else I reluctantly bear it if I can’t. But I’ve been finding myself more apt to welcome discomfort, to seek the lesson God desires to teach me, to let it purify and shape me. In shouldering the weight of the cross, even with gratitude, we draw nearer to Christ. Let us lean into our crosses, thanking our Father for the gifts that they are.
4. Build unity.
One of the most tremendous gifts from World Youth Day was witnessing, in a concrete and mysterious way, the universal Church. I thought nothing of our differences when we’d dance and sing and worship alongside millions of pilgrims from countries near and far. I was brought to tears—fat, persistent tears—at the sign of peace during the first Mass as I watched my brothers and sisters, mere strangers but somehow dear to my heart, exchange hugs and handshakes and waves. This is the Church, I thought. These are my people. And we have been brought together by the same Jesus.
A house divided against itself cannot stand. And the devil loves to sow disunity. I notice it often, in places I’d least expect. Including my own heart. We make jokes at others’ expense, we jockey for esteem, we compare. The Church, our home, ought to be united. It ought not be divided against itself. Let us do our part to build bridges, as Pope Francis said, not walls.
5. Practice hospitality.
We were shown such hospitality in Krakow. We kept our hostel staff up at all hours of the night. We were fed meal after meal. To receive great charity and generosity is humbling, especially when we lack the chance to return it. But through our thoughtful hosts, I experienced the generosity of God.
Still, I desire to practice that same hospitality I received. In a way like never before, I am relishing in the chance to open my doors to new friends, to prepare meals and plan get-togethers and listen well. Let us extend that same hospitality we benefitted from, and find ways to reach out, to welcome, to make our homes a source of life for others.
6. Show mercy.
It was no accident that World Youth Day occurred during the Year of Mercy in a place of such mercy, the home of St. John Paul II and St. Faustina. Again and again Pope Francis called us to accept, share, trust in, the mercy of God.
We are still called to welcome that message of mercy today. How easily I forget that it begins in small, stubborn ways—in forgiving the driver that cuts me off, in holding my tongue when the tourists in front of me are walking too slowly, in taking out the trash without keeping score. Let us not forget the abundant mercy we have so undeservedly received, and look for ways to lavish it upon our neighbors.
7. Rest in the present.
At World Youth Day, God held me in the present. He prevented anxiety, distraction, the desire for control, from choking the goodness He had planned. I did nothing to deserve it, and I can only hope that that gift remains. There was a certain timelessness during that week, a blissful luxury in dwelling in the eternal now.
How easy it is for me to lose sight of that. I find myself so naturally thinking ahead, filling my mind with plans for what’s to come and forgetting to rest where I am. Each moment, this moment now, is all that we have. Let us taste the joy of eternity by striving to be fully present, by asking God to hold and keep us close.
8. Swim in the graces.
I am overwhelmed by the graces that God has poured down upon us pilgrims at World Youth Day. There is a particular receptivity, I think, that we have on a pilgrimage, when we make ourselves radically available to God. Ready and waiting for whatever He will bring. And He brought, alright. He brought in abundance.
I recently had an image in prayer of these abundant graces as water in a pool, and me as a blissful swimmer. I have only to return to that pool whenever I wish to taste again that spiritual wealth. I’m sure the memories will fade with passing time and my own sinfulness, but for now, I go swimming every chance I get. Let us keep returning to the memories, the lessons, the gifts we have been given.
9. Embrace your pilgrimhood.
World Youth Day was, very much, a pilgrimage. We received a call from God and traveled from afar and entered a place of unfamiliarity. Each step not only brought us closer to the destination that happened to come next, but ultimately, mystically, closer to an unseen destination. Closer to God’s kingdom.
World Youth Day, as Pope Francis said, is not over. It has, in fact, only just begun. We are but pilgrims on this earth, called to live not of this world, merely in it. We ought to feel somewhat at odds with the comforts we’re offered, even with that sense of home we feel when we walk through our most familiar door. The world’s thy ship, says St. Therese, and not thy home. Let us sail always in the direction of our heavenly end.
10. Let Jesus change you.
He certainly did change me at World Youth Day, if the above is any indication. I have received without merit and have grown closer to Him without deserving. We made ourselves like clay in His hands, being shaped and molded by His design.
Still Jesus desires to change me, to change us. Still I am far from being the woman I ought, so attached to selfish pursuits and stubborn pride. Still He persists in changing me, if only I give Him permission. How He wants our permission! How He desires for us to simply let Him in, to let down our defenses, to welcome whatever seemingly daunting task He has waiting for us. Let us not keep Him waiting. Let us give Him permission. Let us be changed.
To my dear, dear KMCC family, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to walk with you for such a time, one that I’ll remember always. As I’ve entered this great season of joy, I haven’t ceased thanking God for you. Let us keep this goodness alive, let us not forget. For our pilgrimage has only just begun.