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A few thoughts on World Youth Day

July 19, 2011
World Youth Day 2011 is coming up soon! In August, an enormous group of people is going to travel to the beautiful city of Madrid.  Among the pilgrims we will see young people, priests, religious, pastoral ministers and, of course, Pope Benedict XVI. [singlepic id=51 w=320 h=240 float=right] Though I will not be going to World Youth Day in Madrid, I can sense that the people who will be attending will undoubtedly have a profound experience – one that will be uplifting and from which they will not walk away unchanged.
I think back to one of the last retreats that I attended. It was a week-long retreat. I can remember being among thousands of young people, their youth ministry leaders, priests, religious men and women, and the list goes on. What an experience! We had time for games, lots of uplifting music, and great food, of course. But that was just a small part of the experience. I believe that the fruitful parts of the retreat were bonding with the youth, participating in the Mass, being together for Adoration, listening to the wonderful talks given by great Catholics, and going to Reconciliation.
I remember leaving from the retreat feeling energized and motivated to be a “better me”. I also remember thinking “I wish I could be here longer!” This very thought would later resurface and fall into perspective for me the next time I heard the reading about the Transfiguration – you know, the account in which Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain and is then transfigured before these three apostles. While on the mountain, Elijah and Moses appear to them and Peter says aloud, “Lord, it is good that we are here.” Overwhelmed by what they had seen and heard, the disciples become fearful, but Jesus tells them to not be afraid. Later, they find themselves traveling back down the mountain and they return to the land from which they came.
Well, I think that when I was on the retreat, I became filled with awe much like the apostles who were with Jesus on the mountain top. My thought of “I wish I could be here longer!” sounded a lot like Peter’s “Lord, it is good that we are here.” But the reality for me was that I could not stay there forever. This was the case for the apostles. And I think it is the case for any retreat or World Youth Day participant. Perhaps, God lets us experience such things so that we can get a glimpse of the good that comes from following Him. These experiences can get us really “fired up”! But, we are to go back to the places from which we came to continue our missions.
My job, now, is to continue discerning what God wants me to do next. I know it will involve lots of work and doing things I may not want to do, but also moments of joy and understanding. I have to remember that Jesus is with me and that he will tell me “Do not be afraid” – over and over again.
For those of you that will be traveling to Madrid for World Youth Day 2011, I hope you make this experience a great one! If you have children, family, or friends that will be going to this great event, please encourage them to be open to the ways in which the Holy Spirit will work in them!
You may find yourself seeking an extended stay in Madrid. But remember, you’ll eventually have to return to the land from which you came! I hope you become inspired to make positive changes in your life and to continue the good works that you have begun already.
CNS photo/Paul Haring
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