The World

"What changed my life at WYD was having an encounter with Christ."

World Youth Day, the Pope's meeting with thousands of young people from all over the world, is approaching and will take place this year in Lisbon from August 1 to 6. Omnes interviewed some of the young participants to learn about their expectations and experiences at previous WYDs.

Loreto Rios-July 30, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

WYD Lisbon ©️ Duarte de Mourão | WYD Lisbon 2023

Luis lives in Madrid and belongs to the team that organizes the Cursillos de Cristiandad pilgrimage in this city. In this interview with Omnes, he tells us about his experience in previous WYD and how he is preparing for Lisbon 2023.

Have you been to a WYD before? What was your experience?

I have been to 3 WYD. The first and the one that marked me the most was Cologne 2005, in Germany. I was 16 years old when I had just turned 16. I went to WYD because I was a Christian and I thought it was a good thing to be able to go to a Church meeting and listen to the Pope.

Our interviewee, Luis

Also, at that time, as a teenager, I had many doubts about my faith. I believed and wanted to continue believing, but I was affected by the atmosphere, at school and in my soccer team, of continuous criticism of the Church. There are other realities that cannot be touched, but it seems that it is well seen that everyone criticizes the Church. All of that got to me and made me have doubts.

I wanted to keep believing because I needed God's love to be real, but it was not enough to believe for the sake of believing, it had to be true. The possibility of going to WYD came up and I went. The first highlight of WYD was the catechesis of the bishops. I was very impressed because the bishops, who are so criticized, spoke to us about the love of God, but also about what it is to be a man and a woman, about life, about joy... and I discovered that no one had done it so far with such beauty and depth as they did.

But that was not the most important thing. What changed my life during that WYD was having a personal encounter with Christ. I didn't know this was happening, if they had told me about it I don't know what kind of face I would have had, but the truth is that it happened. It was not a time of prayer, it was towards the end. There is always a massive gathering in a large esplanade with all the pilgrims together, where at night there is a prayer vigil with catechesis and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and the next day is the final Mass of sending forth. During that day the pilgrims arrive at the meeting point of the vigil.

In the morning, we were walking through the countryside, we were talking, and I experienced an immense love that pierced my heart and filled me with a joy that I didn't even know existed, and at the same time with a great deal of peace. I do not know how to explain it in any other way, but in my heart I had the certainty of saying: "It is Jesus". I do not know how to explain it better. Since I was a child I had been told about faith and that the most important thing is that Christ lives and is risen, and suddenly it was not something known, but I was feeling his love, I felt known to the core and deeply loved.

Many years have passed since then and I am certain that there is no love, nor do I know it, nor will I ever know it, as deep and beautiful as that one. No one caresses the heart as Jesus does. It was this that changed my life forever, and it was in the Church that I met Jesus alive. This is what I took away from my first WYD.

Then I was later in Madrid in 2011 and in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, and in all of them it has been important to have significant Church and prayer encounters with the Lord, but for me the most important was the first one, the one in Cologne.

What are your expectations for WYD Lisbon 2023?

I don't want to have any expectations. After that first meeting I have been to two, as I said, and both have been very good, but I have always gone without expectations. I have gone to enjoy those days and to help the group I was with to create a good atmosphere. I know that I have met the Lord there, and, as far as possible, I want to help others to meet Him, although that is His task.

Until now I had always gone with parishes, but this time I am in the team that helps coordinate the group of Cursillos in Christianity in Madrid. We have more than 150 people and we have also joined with a parish, in total we will be almost 200. So on the one hand I will be helping in the coordination, but also accompanying the people who are signed up. I am looking forward to it and have a serene illusion. The word is not "expectation", but to be open to what God wants for me and for the others who are going.

How are you preparing for this pilgrimage?

At the logistical level, we depend on the Deleju (Youth Delegation), which acts as an intermediary between all the groups that go with Deleju and the WYD organization itself.

In the Cursillo team we have prepared the catechesis as a team, although one person is assigned to give the catechesis. In addition to prayer and catechesis, there will also be time for relaxation and fun.

Of course, in addition to the logistics and catechesis, there is also the work of praying for the pilgrimage. We have been doing this for quite some time. Specifically, those of us on the organizing team have the list of those who have signed up and we pray individually for all the people who are going and for the team as well, so that we may be facilitators of the encounter with God and not hindrances.

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