My WYD Experience – The First Week

Okay, so I’m a week into the whole World Youth Day experience, and while I have been regularly writing about what I have seen and experienced, those entries are more about events and happenings, and not the more important (and possibly introspective) personal reflection on what I have seen and heard and experienced to date. This entry is my attempt to redress that imbalance.

As I mentioned in one of my very first entries of this journey, this pilgrimage to World Youth Day represents the first time I have left Australia. I have been reflecting on the significance of this over the past week, and there are still times when I wake up in the morning and can’t quite believe that I am not in Australia. For the last seven days I have been completely outside my comfort zone – away from all those familiar things, those things that keep me safe and in which I am secure, and which are (all but) totally absent from my Spanish experience.

I can imagine that had the occasion of my first overseas trip been in any other context other than a pilgrimage I might feel less secure than I do at present. And it’s not just the fact that I have a group of people with me, some of whom I know and others who I am getting to know, that makes a difference. Rather, I believe that it is because I am on a journey of faith, and faith requires trust, and trust not in my own abilities and strengths nor in those of other human beings, but trust in the providence of God, the God who has loved me into being, who loves me in each and every moment of my life, and who will love me no matter where I go or what I do. This is the God to whom I have come closer as a result of my experience of journeying in faith towards World Youth Day in Madrid.

My faith in God has also been nourished by seeing the faith of others expressed by both their willingness to journey or their faithful hospitality offered to others who have journeyed. The faith of the people of Bejar, a very simple, dignified, pious faith, was enough to make me feel almost infantile in the expression of my faith, so profound and expressive was it. But the most impressive part of their faith was the way in which they made time for it, giving it a place of prominence in their daily lives without becoming self-conscious about it. It was just natural, almost without second thought, that their faith in God should be expressed so. There is much there for me to learn and the true value of the gift the people of Bejar have entrusted to me will not be fully known for many years to come.

I think this is true of the whole WYD experience though. The true value won’t be known until long after I have returned to Australia, and to the familiar, safe and secure surroundings that wait for me there, although I suspect they won’t be quite as familiar, safe and secure as I once thought them to be. As with most things connected to matters spiritual, all these things lie in the lap of God, and my task – as always – is to attempt to come to a better understanding of them through God’s help to me.