The World Youth Day in Madrid was a life-changer for me. And I am sure it was for all those who were able to go from our community. It wasn’t my first WYD, but it was my most complete one.
I didn’t go to the one in Manila as I was living in “dark times” then, and preferred to go to Bacolod with my friends. The first WYD I went to was in Toronto, but because of a conference the weekend before, I only attended the overnight Vigil and Closing Mass with Pope John Paul II. The second WYD I went to was with Des during the International Youth Forum last year in Rome (the WYD is actually held every year! But on the years when it is not outside Rome, it is held during Palm Sunday). We got to sit a few meters away from Pope Benedict XVI.
This year, I did everything. I traveled with the delegation. I went to the Days in the Diocese. I attended all the activities. Slept in a gym during the World Youth Day itself. Took a shower right beside other people. Walked miles. And miles. And miles. Under scorching heat that made you sweat until you had no more sweat to sweat. I squeezed through crowds of thousands. Making their sweat and smell my own. But all worth it. And all for Jesus. Everything we went through brought us back to Jesus. Even seeing Pope Benedict XVI, which was a treat in itself, always brought us back to Jesus. As it should.
But there were two occasions when my tears flowed uncontrollably. When I had to move to the back of our massive delegation and try to control myself before coming back to everyone.
Second, Closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.
As I posted twice already, Our Lady of Fatima helped change my life. And it was time for me to say thank you. I never thought I’d ever step on the grounds of Fatima in Portugal. But I did – another testament to God’s awesome plan for our lives. Just being there, where Mother Mary appeared, and expressing to her my thanks made me cry like a baby. Getting burned under the sun during the 3-hour Mass meant nothing to me. I was happy because I got to live the dream I never thought I had.
And the second time, I was standing during the closing Mass. And then suddenly my eyes teared up. The tears started falling. My nose started running. And I started sniffing. Was it because I was tired? I was happy to be going home? Stressed? Extremely happy and blessed? It was because I felt my call to be a missionary was renewed at that moment.
In May 13, 1997, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, I prayed to God to give me direction. He answered for me to spread His love to as many people around the world as fast as I can. And then from a distance, the song “Here I am, Lord” played.
And on August 21, 2011, during the closing Mass (after my thanksgiving in Fatima), that same song played again. Right after I prayed to God to strengthen me for my missionary life. To take care of my family, and give us everything we need. To equip me to spread His love to everyone as fast as I can.
And that was when my tears flowed again. Uncontrollably.
I am truly blessed to have gone to World Youth Day. At 36 years old. Married. Three kids. And still, it changed me. Thank you God for everything. World Youth Day 2013 (in TWO years!) will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I can’t say I am packing my bags to jump on a plane to go – because I don’t know if my 38 year old body can take all that again – but I know that I’ll do my best to make sure more people can go and experience the glory of God at the WYD.