By José Carlos Mendoza Dillon, Cali, Mexico •
I belong to the Schoenstatt Professionals in Monterrey (Mexico). I participated as a volunteer at World Youth Day in Krakow.
How does one experience World Youth Day?
We know that World Youth Days are massive gatherings of youths celebrated every three years. There are cultural events, youth concerts, catechesis with bishops of different nationalities, pilgrimages to important sites, a vocational fair, and it ends with an encounter with the Pope.
This gathering and the previous one surpassed 3,000,000 pilgrims. It is common to see groups of hundreds of people walking, carrying flags and singing without stopping. Everything is intense and joyful.
Important sites and events
The Shrine of Divine Mercy and St. Faustina Kowalska’s Chapel are located in Krakow. An original painting of the Merciful Jesus can be contemplated in this chapel.
Like all the gatherings, this one also ended with a vigil, in which the participants slept in an open field, and the following day, we celebrated Mass with the Pope. The vigil took place at the Misericordiae Campus. One had to walk five kilometers to cross the campus filled with pilgrims camping out, singing and dancing.
What do volunteers do?
The organizational committee invites people from several nationalities, with a knowledge of different languages to serve as support to the pilgrims.
The volunteers sleep at the same site as the activities, so when you awaken you are with about 600 people all around you. At the place for the volunteers, everything is joy and companionship. In each one of them, you find a committed Catholic who offers their time to serve others. In speaking with them, I learned how faith is lived in different ways in other parts of the world. This experience enriched my faith very much.
Every volunteer is in charge of a specific activity. During the gathering in Krakow, I helped in the email area, in the catechesis area, and occasionally I helped lost pilgrims on the streets, so they could reach their destination.
How did God manifest himself to you at a World Youth Day?
The youths transmit a joy that is contagious. The testimonies one hears are very strong and direct. One is marked by the experience of being with millions of people praying and in adoration.
Some of the Pope’s phrases from the prayer vigil, which were very important to me:
“(…) But in life there is another, even more dangerous kind of paralysis… I like to describe it, as the paralysis that comes from confusing happiness with a sofa to think that in order to be happy all we need is a good sofa… A sofa like one of those we have nowadays with a built-in-massage unit to put us to sleep…that promises hours of comfort… A sofa that keeps us safe from any kind of pain and fear.
The truth, though, is something else. Dear young people, we did not come into this world to “vegetate,” to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark…But when we opt for ease and convenience…then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom.
Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and of ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths…To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love…”
(Phrases taken from: PRAYER VIGIL WITH THE YOUNG PEOPLE, ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER, Saturday, 30 July 2016, Vatican website)
Final recommendation– attend the next World Youth Day 2019 in Panama.