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Europe X World Youth Day: Adventure, Pilgrimage, or Both?

July 19, 2016
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written by Risabella Roque
World Youth Day... In Europe...?! WITH THE POPE?!?! I’M IN.
Upon hearing the news two years ago that the next World Youth Day would be in Europe, my thoughts went immediately to my sister. For how many years had we dreamed of going on an epic tour of Europe! And for long had we yearned to experience a World Youth Day!?
Like many other Vancouver, BC pilgrims, I wanted to combine both dreams into one epic adventure. Europe, a foreign and exotic continent full of culture, languages, (and accents!) that I've fallen in love with time and time again. World Youth Day, the largest gathering of young people in the world! And even better, to be gathered altogether to celebrate the Catholic faith! I would be able to check both things off my bucket list in the summer of 2016!
Fast forward two years and I'm here! My younger sister, Ina, and I began our European tour (#EUROQUE) just over a week ago and it STILL hasn't hit me that I'm actually backpacking across Europe and that I'm FINALLY going to attend World Youth Day.
risabella 2Amidst the chaos and excitement of my Eurotrip preparations, I see now how little I've prepared for the spiritual portion of my trip: World Youth Day. For the Europe half, I watched countless YouTube videos on 'how to pack the perfect pack', read one too many 'Top Things to See in (insert city here)' blog posts, and compiled long-winded Google Documents with my sister to plan out every leg of this trip to the max.
But what have I done to prepare for the World Youth half of my pilgrimage? Have I increased my prayer time? Did I purposefully ask family and friends for prayer requests and intentions to bring to the Holy Father? Am I as logistically prepared for the Days in the Diocese and World Youth Day itself as I am for the rest of my #EUROQUE tour?
Sadly, no. I didn't do anything to incorporate any JPII or Divine Mercy-related spiritual reading into my prayer time. I haven't committed the World Youth Day prayer to memory. I don't recall researching anything about Kraków, short of how far the airport was to Bolonia Park. I even opted to leave my Bible at home because it didn't ‘fit’.
I've been so focused on getting as many adventures accomplished that I lost focus of the true meaning of this trip: to meet my brothers and sisters in faith and recharge my missionary heart by learning for their example. (AND MEET THE POPE, OBVS.)
But what can I do with less than three days until the start of the Days in the Diocese? I know from previous missions that you can only get as much as you put in.
I'm giving 150% of my focus to World Youth Day just as I have been giving to the adventure half of my trip so far. I'm praying for those pilgrims making their way to Kraków right now, for their safety and protection. I’m praying for those young people unable to attend World Youth Day that they will still join us in this historic event and be just as inspired.
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With Days in the Diocese just days away, I am excited to immerse myself in Polish tradition and to experience their culture firsthand. I am most looking forward to learning more of the Polish language and practicing my phrases! I'm hoping to meet young people struggling with same day to day challenges as myself,  a young adult practicing their faith in a secular world. I hope to be inspired by their witness so that I may also grow in fervour and faith. I look forward to forming an even more connected universal community, especially in this digital age! Keeping in touch will be easier than ever!
Ultimately, I open my heart completely to God that he will speak to me through my fellow pilgrims and speakers. I hope to learn more of His mercy and fall ever more in love with my Saviour.
To keep myself accountable in making this experience more pilgrimage than adventure, I've given myself a few goals to complete during World Youth:
  1. Mentally present > physically present
  2. Take an opportunity each day to approach a fellow pilgrim I don't know well and befriend them.
  3. As it will inevitably be a grueling two weeks (Days in the Diocese and World Youth Day), I know my body will fall to illness. When this happens, I hope that I’ll be able to find the JOY in that suffering, as Christ did.

risabelle squareHello! My name is Risabella Roque and I hail from the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I am a full-time literary enthusiast, cheese connoisseur and lover of all things yellow. When I'm not studying linguistics and psychology at Simon Fraser University, you can find me reading, on an adventure, or napping.
Follow my #EUROQUE adventures on social media!
@risabellamegan/@theroamincatholics risabellamegan.wordpress.com
Photos by Risabella Roque

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