World Youth Day pilgrims hold candles during a prayer vigil in 2016 with Pope Francis at the Field of Mercy in Krakow, Poland. CNS photo/Bob Roller

Jean Ko Din in Panama: World Youth Day is a vision of heaven

By 
  • January 21, 2019
We are united in the name of the Lord.


If there is only one thing that a pilgrim can take away from World Youth Day, it is that message. When you attend a Mass and look around at the many different faces of the Church, you realize that your faith is not just localized to your religion class at school or in the youth group at your local parish.

World Youth Day is the real and visible sign of what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like when all of God's people are in the same place, singing the same praises, sharing the same love for God. Beyond the celebrity effect of Pope Francis or the allure of travelling to a different country, this is the heart of what this gathering has always been about.

This is going to be my third time attending an international World Youth Day event. My first time was in Madrid, Spain in 2011 and the second time was in Krakow, Poland in 2016. There's something about World Youth Day that inspires people to act differently.

When people are packed like sardines onto a crawling subway car, they are also clapping and singing "Yes, yes Lord!" to pass the time.

When you are walking down the street, it is normal for a pilgrim group to wave you down and teach you a cheer in their language because that's the only way they know how to communicate with you.

In the scorching heat, as you patiently wait for the Pope to arrive at the park, a neighbouring pilgrim offers you half of their granola bar because you naively didn't pack snacks of your own.

World Youth Day taught me to see people, that they are good and they are the same.

This is the life-changing factor of the event. It doesn't happen with the glitz and glamour of what is happening on a stage miles away from where you're standing. It happens right next to you, in the eyes of a fellow young person who wanted to feel like they are a part of something outside of themselves.