Updated: Aug 12
"Unlike the Olympics where all of the nations come together to compete against one another, they came here to be united"
Far surpassing the expectations of 1.5 million participants, the record for the total who came to the World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal is around 2 million. However, the true total is much higher. Imagine if the number of people in Louisville suddenly tripled over the course of a week. This is what happened in Lisbon, and there is no doubt that that the average citizen was unable to avoid the whole of the visible Church alive in their city.
Alongside those around the world who witnessed the true universal beauty of our faith through the internet and those who we took with us in our prayers, thousands were evangelized in this city. Thus the statement of Our Lady of Fatima rings true: “In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved.”
While flags from all countries flew in the hot summer air, and groups filling the sidewalks marched to their national songs, a business man on the bus packed to the brim noticed one thing: Peace. Unlike the Olympics where all of the nations come together to compete against one another, they came here to be united. Though there was certainly much room for chaos, peace prevailed. So close to the truth, the man only lacked the one reason for this peace: The Christian faith.
After returning home to America from my grand pilgrimage to World Youth Day, I went to the supermarket. There, I noticed people turned inward, obsessed with their daily duties and failing to notice that the Holy Spirit always moves around them. Joy is what many Americans lack. The heart of the Christian faith is the joy of salvation.
Notice the birds of the air who only keep moving forward. God gives them whatever they need. In Europe, I was like a bird who was provided two meals a day and only had to follow my group wherever they went. Since I was not distracted, I noticed the Holy Spirit working all around me. The most grace-filled moments where those that came unexpectedly, such as when things didn’t go according to plan. To continue to focus on the one thing that is in front of me is what I hope to implement in my life now that I’ve returned home. Never give a moment to worry; “Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
It must also be noted that on the last day of our travels even a pigeon heard the Gospel when he saw us in the park, slowly walked toward the priest, and joined us for Mass. O what joy the Christian faith brings! Now, coming down from Mount Tabor, may we all go forth and spread the transfiguring light of the Gospel, for “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:2) and “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)