I really don’t know what to tell you about WYD 2016 in Krakow, except that it was the best time of my life. Please bear with me as I ramble a bit, about just part of what it meant to me.
Before going to Poland, me and my friends from uni joined with a group of about 300 pilgrims from around the World for a “pre-encounter” in Hungary, organised by Verbum Dei. We listened, we talked, we prayed, we had mass, we joked and sang and danced. But in the most incredible atmosphere of love and friendship I’ve encountered. Everyone was a friend. Everyone smiled and said hello to everyone. And I felt embraced by an inexplicable love. I really experienced the joy of the gospel, and the Kingdom of Heaven.
A good example, is when in the evening, we all learned Hungarian folk dance, and had three hundred of us dancing around the hall in these great circles and lines, soaked in sweat, jumping about, and smiling like madmen. It’s an image of Heaven.
My highlight of the pre-encounter came at adoration. Even amongst such love, I was somehow able to start feeling alone and unlovable again. It wasn’t too strong a feeling, but I did feel cut off…
Then, some of my friends began a beautiful piece of theatre/prayer, centred around mercy and removing masks to be loved. At the end of this, the Eucharist was brought out for a time of adoration. A screen blocked me from seeing Jesus as He began proceeding from the tabernacle, and as I tried to prepare myself to see and adore Him, I didn’t feel any closeness to Him. I didn’t feel like He was really present at all, and I worried what this meant.
Then He came past the screen, I saw Him, and I knew it was Him, right there, in love for me. I felt His loving gaze, and it broke me apart. I cried a lot, and didn’t wipe away the tears, because I didn’t want to lose a thing. I kept repeating ‘Jesus, you love me` and ‘Jesus, I love you`. I desired nothing but to belong entirely to Jesus, to love Him and be loved by Him, at any and all cost.
God loved Rudolf Höss
The first thing we did in Poland was to visit Auschwitz. The above sign really struck me. The idea that there was any more blood spilled at Auschwitz after the war, filled me with sadness. The thought of any more hatred, and killing, and saying that people aren’t worthy of life; or of the blood of the innocent and the wicked being mingled, horrified me. The war was won, but where was the peace?
I remembered that God loved Rudolf Höss, and even went to the cross for him. He was incredibly inhuman to his prisoners, because he didn’t believe they were truly human. But the response to this was to see his evil deeds, and say that he wasn’t truly human, that he didn’t deserve life. But God loved and created Rudolf Höss, not for the monster he made himself, but for the human being, capable of love, that he simply was.
It was humans that perpetrated the holocaust. It was humans like you and me. It was us.
As I continued around Auschwitz II- Birkenau, the horror kept growing within me. I felt the need for us all to repent for what the Nazis, and many others, have done throughout history. I felt terrible anger, followed by sorrow and pity, for the perpetrators of all our atrocities.
The more I saw of Auschwitz and human evil, the more clearly I saw that the world desperately needs mercy. There is no other solution.
Welcome pt 2
The People of Krakow (and Wadowice, where we were staying) gave us an incredible welcome. Our host families made us feel truly at home, despite every barrier of language and culture. And our fellow pilgrims too, were all incredibly friendly and welcoming.
I didn’t understand before this trip, just how crucial being welcoming is to being merciful. But how can we ever be merciful if we don’t welcome others? And how could we welcome those who most need it, if not for mercy?
On our long march (about 14km in the heat) to Campus Misericordiae, families who lived along the way came out of the their homes, and out of the sheer kindness of their hearts, gave us cold water. And on the long way back, in the pouring rain, one family came out offering us hot coffee. It was pure grace.
So many friends, old and new! And the new, are so close, that they really feel like old friends already. I feel incredibly close to them, because we shared our lives, and our deepest life (Jesus) for this two weeks. In each of them, I discovered incredible depths and beauty I couldn’t have imagined, and each of them showed me Jesus that much more.
I really can’t express my gratitude enough. They’re in the depths of my heart forever now.
Seeing and hearing Papa Francesco was amazing. I think he exudes the love and mercy of God in a very special way.
His speeches and homily were very powerful, and made clear to me how greatly God loves us, and how God wants to use us. How God wants you and me to go out and change the whole world, to build a world of love, mercy, and fraternity. How God dreams of our true happiness, which is not “a good couch”, but a life of love and action!
As I queued for Holy Communion at the final mass, I was overcome with God’s love for me again, and I began crying once more, desiring for every part of me, from the biggest to the very smallest, to be given to Jesus in love. I didn’t want anything held back. I wanted his light in every last crevice in the depths of my heart. I realised I’d rather God’s love and nothing, than everything except God’s love. And then I realised, that since everything is each moment created out of God’s love, apart from God’s love there is nothing, and within God’s love there is everything, and so I found myself surrounded by God’s love on every side.
The entire World Youth Day was one big Holy Communion, in which I found Jesus over and over and over again. We were all there together, being made one, by the one body, the one love, of our one Lord.
Now, the real challenge begins: to take God’s mercy home with us and out to the world…
God bless you and pray for us!