World Youth Day Inspires and Strengthens Pilgrims’ Faith
In the days leading up to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, numerous groups made pilgrimages to Catholic sites throughout Spain as a spiritual preparation for the international gathering.
More than 20 college-aged members of the Knights of Columbus, for instance, visited the Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Manresa, where St. Ignatius of Loyola lived as a hermit and authored the Spiritual Exercises; the Benedictine monastery at Monistral de Montserrat and Caleruega, the birthplace of St. Dominic.
FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, meanwhile, held its first international conference at a Benedictine monastery in Samos in northern Spain. The event included a 12-km pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago and a visit to the tomb of St. James the Great in Santiago de Compostela.
Now, the students recognize World Youth Day itself as a means of spiritual preparation.
“The one common thing we can all take away from [World Youth Day] is the fire of love that we have for Jesus Christ and for our faith, and wanting to take that out to the rest of the world,” said Stephen Hart, a member of Knights of Columbus Council 6268 and a recent graduate of Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
“I think the biggest thing I hope to gain from this is a deeper sense of gratitude for my faith. Seeing all of these people here and recognizing the love that they have for their faith is really powerful for me,” he said.
Alejandro Teran, a student who is involved with FOCUS at Auburn University, said, “I think this is a missionary experience. It is like a missionary training to go back home and share the Good News with everyone.”
This kind of experience is replicated tens of thousands of times as young Catholics from all over the world grow in understanding and gratitude of their faith during World Youth Day activities.
Although each pilgrim’s story and experience is unique, they find strength in knowing that they believe and celebrate a common faith in Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. And when the World Youth Day events come to a close Aug. 21, the pilgrims’ hearts and the city of Madrid will not be left unchanged.