WYD LISBON 2023, Stefanie Rottler •
In Lisbon there are only two directions: Up or down. Whoever wandered through the charming alleys of Lisbon from August 1 to 7, 2023, may have encountered us, a group of 150 young people from the Schoenstatt Movement from Germany, Austria and Australia. —
The big international Schoenstatt festival at the chapel in Lisbon was our impressive opening event, where the Portuguese Schoenstatt family spared no expense or effort in giving us a colorful welcome to the vibrant city. From there we went to our schools, in whose classrooms we were accommodated. We showered open-air with a fire hose; fortified ourselves with pastéis de nata, the traditional crispy custard tarts. After the daily morning praise, we went out in small groups to participate in the many alternative activities of the WYD: Catechesis, concerts, adorations, sightseeing….
World Youth Day as a counter-example of hope
The WYD was a hopeful counter-example to the worldwide unrest, wars and church crises: It is possible that people from all countries of the world can spend a peaceful and enthusiastic week together. Even though Christian people from different organizations and spiritual movements were present, it is the one unchanging constant that unites us: Jesus. We diligently exchanged thoughts, conversations, photos and small giveaways, such as colorful bracelets or pencils.
Four major events, four core messages
There were four major events in miles of parks attended by more than a million young people. Pope Francisco gave a speech at each event, giving the young people a core message of the Christian faith, for example, “There is room in the Church for you and me. In the Church, there is room for everyone.” – “Radiate, listen to one another, and don’t be afraid. Go boldly into the future.” – “In the world nothing is free, except the unconditional love of Jesus”. In a particularly modern way, the Stations of the Cross on Friday evening surprised with its expressive dancers and the transfer of the stations to what concerns the youth today. The spontaneous dance parties in the pre- and post-program remain unforgettable, as well as the priest who unpacked his beats to be an ultra-cool DJ on Sunday morning to wake up the sleeping field where 1.6 million people had fallen asleep after the vigil celebration on Saturday night.
Best to experience for yourself
This represents only a tentative attempt to capture images and emotions of these days in a few words. If you want to experience the world’s largest festival, the hype surrounding the Pope and the possibility of strengthening your personal relationship with God for yourself, you are cordially invited to the next WYD in the capital of South Korea. There the youthful believers of this world will come together again in 2027. To celebrate God and our faith, to experience the lively flair of overcrowded buses and trains, to enjoy tender or roaring guitar sounds, to queue for hours at 30 degrees for a pilgrim menu or a good place on the field.
Because it is worth it to be a sign that faith lives in us and makes us alive. At best, it is worth it for the expansion of one’s own horizons and for the discovery of new, previously unknown emotions of one’s own personality.
Original: German. Tranlation: Maria Fischer @schoenstatt.org