Note that I used the word “pilgrimage.” I hope that the young people are not packing for and expecting a vacation. The World Youth Day website advises that, “A pilgrimage is a journey a pilgrim makes to a sacred place for the purpose of venerating it or to ask for heavenly aid, and ultimately to come to know God better.”
I particularly like the section that instructs the young people how to prepare physically for the pilgrimage. It suggests (among other things):
- Walking: Be prepared to walk an average of 15K (10 miles) every day. From early in the morning until possibly after midnight you will mostly be on your feet or sitting on the ground… Accept this cross with JOY.
- Crowds: WYD anticipates about 3 million pilgrims for the final events. Streets, public transportation, and event venues will be very crowded. Expect 10 people to be in your personal space at any given time. Accept this cross with JOY.
- Sleeping: Simple lodging is usually in a schoolroom, parish hall, or in a gym… on the floor… and without air conditioning. Don’t expect to sleep much at the final vigil. Many cultures love to stay up late, singing and dancing (all night). They will probably calm down just before sunrise, giving you a couple hours to sleep before Mass begins. Accept this cross with JOY.
- Food: WYD food is hit or miss… mostly miss, though it is food no matter what it looks like. Eat it and smile… Lines (for food) are usually very, very long (90 minutes is not unusual), and venues often run out of food… Accept this with JOY.
- Missed connections: Expect at least one late bus, train, or plane. Also expect your group to be late and miss some connections as well. Accept these waiting times with JOY.
This week as you watch the news reports and read the articles from World Youth Day, do so in a spirit of joyful prayer. Ask God to help you to participate in this great pilgrimage and to catch the spirit.