8 August 2011
And we are under way . . . the churched, the un-churched, those that are seeking and the curious. Truthfully our pilgrimage started at Baptism, but this particular journey began with each of our registrations for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. The 325 pilgrims from the Diocese of London, Ontario have been planning, praying and organising for months, even years for our departure and here I am writing from Terminal 3 at London Heathrow just days before we gather with the thousands of young people and the Holy Father. The small group of 55 that I am with comes from five parishes, there are brothers and sisters, parents and children, friends, married and ordained. Some are veterans of multiple World Youth Days and some are rookies, but all come with searching hearts and minds.
It is easy for me to claim that the World Youth Days are amongst the best our church has to offer: The wisdom of the leadership of the church, the creativity and energy of our youth, the hospitality and sacrifice of the welcoming city and country, and the prayers and support of those left behind in our local communities.
This past Sunday at my local parish our Pastor blessed the 18 pilgrims from our community. In the midst of a busy parish, preparations for WYD can seem overwhelming at times. The sheer enormity of the event, fundraising, international travel, safe environment policies, fundraising, retreat days and more fundraising can stretch the patience and resources of a parish community. I certainly witnessed this after mass when my Pastor and I were discussing the next World Youth Day. To say that he was excited for the ‘next’ experience would be a gross over-statement. His exhaustion was evident and his body language certainly did not communicate an excitement to do-it-all-over-again.
How true is this experience for most of us? Are not many of our clergy feeling taxed and stretched? Are not our families running here there and everywhere trying to make ends meet and respond to the needs of their children? Are not our institutions, our Catholic schools, parishes and dioceses bustling with activity and schedules always trying to do more with less? And so, I am left thinking; thank God our Church is teaching us about pilgrimage, about retreat, about prayer, about solidarity through World Youth Days. Without a doubt the intensity of resources and necessary sacrifices to organize pilgrims for Madrid are tremendous. My experiences of Denver 1993, Paris 1997, Toronto 2002 and Sydney 2008 have all taught me to ask myself a most fundamental question: Do I choose to see all things through God’s eyes, through the eyes of faith? When I do this, often hope, creativity, faith and love follow.
And isn’t this where our Church puts her trust: That World Youth Day provides opportunities for the pilgrims to meet Jesus and become that same hope, creativity, faith and love in the midst of their friends, families, parishes and communities? May we continue to thank God for the sacrifices many make to pass faith on to the young and may the young continue to learn to see life through God’s eyes.
Dan Moynihan is a Youth Ministry Specialist with the Diocese of London, Ontario.