World Youth Day an opportunity not to be missed

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World Youth Day an opportunity not to be missed

World Youth Day 2011 was an experience I’ll never forget. Not only was it a great lesson in faith but also a wonderful experience of friendship. Being a pilgrim is different to being a tourist in many ways. We were encouraged in every place we visited to take the time to sit quietly, reflect, pray and take in the beauty around us.

There’s a lot you can miss in a place when you try to see as many sights as possible and take as many photos as you can. The beauty of pilgrimage is being aware of God’s presence wherever you go and seeing Jesus in every person you meet. Without taking time for discussion and reflection, we would never have played on the grass with the gypsy children in Lourdes who drew in our diaries (before politely asking if they could have our jewellery) or met the or met the old Italian woman in Assisi on a mountainous path behind the town who stopped to tell us (I think) to be careful not to fall and made us wait while she blessed us and prayed for us.

Our group of Tassie pilgrims was very diverse with people of different backgrounds and different ways of understanding and living their faith. This meant we were all able to share a beautiful experience with people we may never have got to know otherwise.

The World Youth Day week in Madrid was an electrifying experience. Travelling from the city to Cuatro Vientos airfield in the pounding heat on foot and crammed public transport amid thousands of other pilgrims, tested our patience and endurance. But it also allowed us to share the excitement with perfect strangers, knowing we were all there for the same reasons.

To anyone considering joining the Tasmanian pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2016, Krakow, I encourage you to go for it. I also advise being prepared for all weather events! Spending the night in an open, dusty airfield in a storm with a tarpaulin as a blanket might be funny later but not so much at the time. My best advice is to take the opportunity with both hands, and go into the experience with an open mind and open heart, it will be one of the best things you will ever do!

Go here to register for WYD 2016.

By Dominique Cotterill, Tasmanian WYD11 Madrid pilgrim.