The sun sets over World Youth Day pilgrims as Pope Francis attends a July 30 prayer vigil at the Field of Mercy in Krakow, Poland. CNS photo/Bob Roller

My spiritual revival in Poland

By  Steven Travale, Youth Speak News
  • August 3, 2016

In the short two weeks I spent in Poland for WYD, I underwent a profound spiritual revival, one which I had been searching for over the last few years.

It began on the first day when I encountered Christ in Psie Pole where I stayed for the “Days in the Diocese” leg of the pilgrimage. As our bus arrived at the parish, we were greeted by young and old with cheers and songs. When I met my host mother Krystyna and her daughter Magda, I immediately felt like an extension of their family. Each evening after participating in religious and cultural activities, I would return to the family apartment where I joined in their evening prayers. It was so touching to be united with them in prayer even though we didn’t speak the same language, and I saw God’s love in them.

I had a further experience with the power of prayer during an encounter with cloistered Carmelite sisters. My spiritual director and I spoke with the nuns after Mass one morning, and their insight was laden with wisdom and piety. One of my favourite moments was when they asked to chant my favourite prayer with me and we sang “Sub Tuum Praesidium.”

These encounters were so beautiful as they allowed me to see the face of Christ and His mercy. At daily Mass during official WYD festivities in Krakòw, in particular the Inaugural Mass at Błonia Park, I felt Jesus ever more present in the Eucharist. It was that overwhelming recognition of the True Presence that encouraged me to kneel to receive the Lord.

I had originally worried that the crowds of people would be a disruption and that the sanctity of the Mass would be ruined. That concern quickly vanished as I realized God had gathered half a million of his faithful together in unity, despite the rain, mud and other obstacles put before us.

The throngs of people were more inspiring than nuisance as events continued throughout the week, as I met more and more people whose faith inspired me. Many were on the same journey as me, where others served as examples of further faith and devotion to attain.

WYD came to a climactic close on Sunday morning. After a peaceful overnight vigil, we awoke — all two million of us — to celebrate the Eucharist with Pope Francis. He spoke beautifully during his homily, particularly highlighting the importance of prayers with the ongoing wars in the world and telling us of the need to reach out to our brothers and sisters that need us, particularly refugees. Like Zaccheus in the day’s Gospel, he explained that obstacles can exist for us, but we must remain active and fearless.

Now, we wait for WYD Panama City 2019, but we cannot wait lazily. As the Holy Father encouraged, we must take action and not become young people who are “couch potatoes.” It’s time to go forth and proclaim the Gospel every day.

(Travale, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Sacred Heart High School in Walkerton, Ont.)

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