World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland
World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland
This summer I attended World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. During those grace filled days I saw Saint Faustina’s tomb and convent, I made pilgrimage to the Divine Mercy Shrine, visited Saint Maximillian Kolbe’s monastery, walked through Auschwitz and Birkenau, prayed at the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, visited John Paul II’s birthplace, and attended Mass with our Holy Father. The incredibleness of it all continues to take me back and praise God for His Providence and action within my life. I would never have believed that one day I perform in a play written by young John Paul II in his city for Catholics from around the world! As I reflect on all the experiences I encountered, I’ve been asking myself, “What graces have I and am I receiving from WYD?”
One of the main ways that I see the Lord working through my pilgrimage in Poland is a response to my time at my summer assignment. I was blessed by the Lord to be at Holy Trinity in Norfolk, VA for four weeks before going to WYD. During this summer, I noticed that I was going through high and low points in my spirituality. This natural spiritual undulation is normal for any Christian as God uses the dry times to call us closer to Himself and the times of consolation to invite us to know Him more intimately. As expected, I went through dry spells and praying seemed mechanical and felt like a burden. However, my time in seminary has taught me that these are the times that we must pray most consistently. Admittedly, there were days when I made excuses until I was too tired to pray. Nevertheless, I never missed Mass. The Mass is something I cannot go a day without.
I’ve gone to Mass nearly every day (some days are out of my control), for about three years now. When one stops to think about that, it is quite remarkable. How many things in our life do we seek to do every day without ever getting bored? It can seem as though the Mass would be something that a person wouldn’t want do every day; it is an hour of almost the same words and motions every single time. In what Pope Francis calls the “throwaway culture” we live in today, the Mass is viewed by many as a boring, ineffective, insignificant, and outdated monotony; “Why would anyone spend their time like that?” My reply is inspired by John Paul II:
The Eucharist is the secret of my day. It gives strength and meaning to all my activities of service to the Church and to the whole world . . . Let Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament speak to your hearts. It is he who is the true answer of life that you seek. He stays here with us: he is God with us. Seek him without tiring, welcome him without reserve, love him without interruption: today, tomorrow, forever.
I went to Poland spiritually dry, but it was during WYD that Jesus reemphasized my dependence on the Mass. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend Mass every day; our schedule was such that we needed to be somewhere else, but I was reminded that part of pilgrimage is knowing and accepting that whatever happens to you on it, either pleasant or difficult, has been willed/allowed by God. On one occasion in particular, I was told that we had to leave the arena just as Mass was about to start in order to make the next event. I was devastated. The whole week had been trying because I hadn’t been able to get to Mass but a couple times. I broke down when I learned that I would have to go yet another day without receiving Jesus. But as I begged the Lord to let me stay, I was tapped on the shoulder and told that I could stay and make it to the next even when I could. It was at that moment I realized just how much the Mass meant to me. I felt like John Paul II; the Eucharist, Jesus, was the source of my strength and happiness.
I thank God for that brief moment of torment, because it was only after it that I once again fell in love with Jesus, His Church, and the Mass. The Mass is the highlight of every one of my days. It is the greatest prayer there is. It is the way by which the world is sanctified. That Mass at WYD reaffirmed my desire to be a Catholic Priest; that I may bring Jesus to his people and the people to their God, their King, their Creator, their Savior.