Firmes en la fe (WYD Chronicles, Part 4 of 4)

Also known as: The overnight vigil that challenged our faith
* Here’s part 1, part 2 and part 3 if you want to keep up with the entire story :)

As of this post, it’s been a month since I was in Spain and I was a part of World Youth Day 2011. I won’t even wonder how fast time flies.

So, the World Youth Day activities culminate with an overnight vigil at some big place with all the delegates. This ends with a mass with the Holy Father the following day, with his address and the announcement of where the next WYD will be. I’ve been looking forward to the vigil because of the things I heard from those who came from Sydney: they say it’s going to be a night of prayer, with adoration chapels and confession all around. I wasn’t really expecting it to be easy, but I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be hard, either.

Funny how God challenges these expectations and then blows them all away.

Literally.

So for the first time since the WYD activities started, we got to sleep in that morning since there was no more Catechism. That gave us permission to stay up later that night and run a load of laundry and bond with our host. The next morning, we had a full breakfast again (and wow, was it a big one!) to get us ready for the vigil. Our host mom also arrived that day and she made us eat (again!), and we got to rest a bit more while we got ready to go out.

Truth be told, we were all kind of wary about heading out in the Madrid summer heat. The hottest temperature the previous day was 41 C, and we were supposed to head off to Cuatro Vientos, the venue for the vigil, at around 2, when it was usually the hottest time of the day. Ah well, but it’s not like we can’t go, right?

So we went.

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¡Esta es la juventud del papa! (WYD Chronicles, Part 3 of 4)

Also known as: Seeing the Pope, and the Way of the Cross
Rough translation: “This is the Pope’s youth!”
* Here’s part 1 and part 2, in case you missed them

You know how you know some things or some people are exist because you see them on TV or read about them, but it never becomes really real until you see it/them with your very own eyes? That’s how I can sum up my third day of WYD 2011.

Buenas tardes, Madrid!

The third day of WYD’s highlight was Pope Benedict XVI’s welcoming parade in Madrid. Here’s the thing about WYD that I learned that day: you need to be able to tolerate enjoy crowds if you want to enjoy and make the most of all activities. Remember that it’s an international crowd, too, so be prepared to squeeze in with people from all parts of the world, some of which seem even unfamiliar. And be prepared for all kinds of culture to surround you, especially those you are not used to. More often than not, you’d be standing with them for a loooooong time, so it’s best to learn to enjoy the experience because hey, all of you are waiting for the same thing, anyway.

So, we headed over as near to Cibeles as possible to wait for the Pope’s welcoming parade.

We're all waiting for him!

Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to arrive at around 7:00pm, but we were already at our spot by 4. So what do to while waiting?

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Stand Firm! (WYD Chronicles, Part 2 of 4)

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. :)

Cookie all ready for Day 2 of WYD!

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:

Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see You.

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. :)

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