Also known as: WYD Day 2, Asian Youth Gathering and on being a part of the Catholic church
* Read part 1 here.
The first full day of World Youth Day 2011 was…well, full. World Youth Day activities are composed of a Catechism session in the morning and festivals in the afternoon/evening. You can choose which Catechism and festival to attend out of almost hundreds of them happening all at the same time.
Now that we have our pilgrim backpacks, we expect to have an easier time going around the city because of our free transportation passes. It was pretty handy, too, because it was big enough to fit the water bottle I carry around and even Cookie. :)
We were supposed to attend a Catechism in a place a bit far from where our hosts are, because we had to attend the Asian Youth Gathering that afternoon since the Philippines is hosting it. My housemates and I were pretty relaxed with how we were going on in the morning, that it took us a bit by surprise that we were actually running late for the meeting time! Our host told us how to ride a bus, which we can do now since we have our all-city pass. We met up with our fellow delegates at Alvarado, one of our usual meeting places. It turned out we weren’t the latest ones, so we stayed there to wait for the last ones to arrive.
This is where I first got a taste of how God’s plans ultimately trump ours. The original agreement for us at the house is to go to the train station where the Catechism we were supposed to attend was. It was a bit far, but we already planned our route by train. But because we were running late, we ended up somewhere near. While waiting, we saw some pilgrims heading for a church nearby. It turns out that that church was where we were supposed to attend the Catechism, and the one we were supposed to go to was actually German. So our being late was there for a reason. :)
The Catechism was led by the Antioch church group in Australia. The church was jam-packed, but we found ourselves seated comfortably at the front. After some sharing, we started singing some songs, and I caught myself smiling when we started singing this:
This was and still my prayer every morning for the past years now. Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see You. How fitting that we sang this song then. :)
The first session, entitled Firm in Faith, was led by Bishop Anthony Fisher, OP, Bishop of Parramatta in Australia.
It was a very good session, and Bishop Anthony emphasized the importance of our faith and how we should nurture it and make it grow. Here are the things I got from the session that hit me straight:
- God is something that makes us tremble with terror and delight.
- To believe in God is to believe that there is a meaning in the universe.
- To believe in God is to ask big questions and expect unexpected answers.
- To say “My Lord and my God” is to change everything.
- The world needs you to ask the big questions and not be satisfied by glib answers.
- Secularism sells you short! With God’s grace, you can do so much more.
- When you give yourself to God, He does unexpected things to and through you.
- There is nothing more attractive and persuasive than authentic, joyful and passionate Christians. :)
Perhaps I’ll blog about one or two (or more) of these things I learned from this session in another post. :)
It was refreshing to attend sessions led by a bishop. The question and answer portion after the session was also very enlightening! I loved that we were actually talking to a church leader, and he really knows his stuff. I had to admire the peace he showed about all that he knows. We had a chance to meet him and ask for his blessing after the session and it turns out he has visited the Philippines a few times. :)
After the Catechism, we headed out of the church to get some fresh air and some water, and we were greeted by so many pilgrims! :) Just like the previous day, everyone who was passing by was saying hi, and taking pictures and exchanging tokens! We even met a priest who was born in Seattle, grew up in Cebu and now lives in Paranaque. He was trying to trade one of his boys for our Philippine flag, haha. :) Ate Sheh was also introducing us to the Australians she knew from the last WYD in Sydney.
Then we went back in the church to attend the mass. This was where I saw what they meant about mass in WYD: it was celebrated by so many priests and bishops! I think there were about 10? Talk about blessing.
Truth be told, I was actually trying to hold back the tears during the Catechism and the mass. I was just so, so, so overwhelmed with the fact that I was there. I was in Europe. I was in Madrid, Spain. I was in World Youth Day! I know I dreamed about it since last year, I wrote it down as a goal at the start of the year, I prayed so hard about this, but I never actually thought of how it would feel when I was there. This is my dream, and it’s actually come true in front of my very eyes. How can I not be overwhelmed?
And as if to affirm me, this was the Gospel for that mass:
Didn’t I just write about this a few days before I left? I know then for a fact that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. :)
After the mass, some of us had to rush to the venue of the Asian Youth Gathering to prepare while the rest of us had to get our lunch. We were given food vouchers that we can use to get pilgrim meals through different restaurants around Madrid. This offered a lot of variety, but we had to work with the crowd to get our food, especially since after every activity, pilgrims are bound to stick to one place and converge on one restaurant for food. Still, God is good, for he gave us huge slices of pizza for lunch, and we got to eat it under pretty nice (read: not-so-hot) Madrid weather along the street.
Then it was time to head for the venue of the Asian Youth Gathering. And again, more friendly pilgrims in the metro!
The Asian Youth Gathering was, as the name states, a gathering of the Catholic youths in Asia. When we got to the venue, there were already a lot of people there, and we split up to join different groups to meet other Catholic Asian youths. There were also some Asians from other countries who visited the event that we got to talk to.
The AYG was definitely a colorful gathering. I saw how different the faith situation was in the Philippines compared to other Asian countries. We Filipino Catholics are lucky because of how the Philippines is predominantly Catholic nation. The worst we can get whenever we bring Bibles around or talk about God is weird looks, and probably some debates and such. I realized, yet again, that in other countries, it’s so much harder to live out their faith. Catholics have to hide in windowless rooms to celebrate mass, the churches get burned or bombed. Families and/or government aren’t supportive of their faith and all that. It reminded me of how I should be thankful being born where I am, where I can practice my faith more freely than others.
Since we were talking about being firm in faith, the theme of the gathering was to Stand Firm. It was fun yelling “Stand firm! Asia!“, especially when your delegation head is leading the chant onstage. ;)
The Asian Youth Gathering was a loooong event, though, so by the end of it, we were all tired and hungry. It was 9:00pm and there was still light out, but there was one more thing our group had to do. While we were sitting at McDonalds the night before, some Filipinos living in Madrid spotted us and talked to some of us. They extended an invitation for our entire group to have dinner with them the next day, where they’d cook authentic Spanish paella for us. How can we say no?
So, tired as we are, we headed off to her house, and we were greeted by the sight of this:
We had a bit of a harrowing metro ride because of the sheer number of people, but still, it was a very blessed day. There’s just something so beautiful at being able to attend mass with people from different races all over the world and know the songs, how it was celebrated. For the first time in my life, I understood and appreciated how it feels to be a part of the Catholic Church. I’m pretty sure all of us ended the day with full hearts and stomachs, and definitely more appreciation of our Catholic faith. I know I did. :)
Facebook status for August 18:
Today we learned to ride a bus, heard excellent Catechism, prayed with other Asian youth and ate authentic Spanish paella. :) Muy bien. Tomorrow is another long day – hope we can see the Pope! Buenas noches!