Pilgrim's dairy: Hurting my ankle was just what I needed

By  Samantha Goh, Catholic Register special
  • January 31, 2019

think I had a lot of unanswered questions before my trip to World Youth Day. But God answered questions I didn’t even know I had. 

The past year, I have been struggling to persevere, to continue to grow in virtue and holiness amongst the busyness of life. I felt like I was just doing what I needed to do and I couldn’t feel or hear God. And that was really worrying me. I felt like a hypocrite going to Mass or Adoration. Helping out at youth group and attending young adult events, I felt like I was just doing things. 

In December 2017, I had what one would call a re-conversion during CCO’s Rise Up Conference and was on this spiritual high. The Adoration session was so powerful that it jump-started my process of healing from all the hurt of the past year. 

But that feeling, that wonderful feeling, eventually faded because it was just a feeling. Our love for our God isn’t just a feeling and it took me about a year to understand that I don’t need that feeling to know that God loves me. 

I saw Jesus in the people around me, especially in each and every one of the pilgrims I travelled with. I saw God in all the little moments. It was like God was trying to tell me, “Be still, pay close attention. I want to show you my love in the little details around your life.” 

I hurt my ankle during this pilgrimage and that experience taught me so much I don’t even know where to begin. It taught me patience, resilience, gratitude and most of all humility. 

All my life I have struggled with self-confidence which affected my acceptance of praise or affirmation and even acts of love and kindness. I never felt like I deserved it even though time and time again, people around me have showed me I did. 

My pilgrimage group, the people that went from strangers to my family in a matter of days, showed me love that I never thought I deserved. And it was so difficult to accept that love because I felt the guilt and the shame that I was slowing my group down and making this pilgrimage even more challenging because of one careless step. 

I was receiving all this special attention, constantly being asked how I was feeling, people jumping to my side to help me out and even offering to miss the catechesis sessions so that I didn’t have to be alone while I rested in the hotel room. The love that rippled from these beautiful souls was overflowing and endless. 

I also saw that love in the Panamanians. As we walked to the sessions every day, cars would be honking, welcoming us to their beautiful country. The streets, the subway trains, they were all filled with people representing their country, waving and cheering for our Lord. 

During our walk to the vigil site, we had cut through a neighbourhood and the families that lived on that street were greeting us, waving at us, giving and offering everything they could for us pilgrims. 

People were hosing us down with water because it was a long walk under the blazing sun. There were others offering free water, sunscreen and even to use their washrooms in their homes. 

Seeing this love gave me the strength I needed to complete the journey. I still had crutches when we were walking to the vigil site and this lady that saw me had ran up to me to give me an ankle brace. She didn’t speak any English and I barely spoke any Spanish but she saw me in need and offered me that ankle brace even though I already had an ankle wrap on. Her genuine generosity and the simplicity of that gesture really touched my heart.

 I could tell that these families did not have much to give and yet they were giving everything they could. Jesus was so present during that journey I honestly would not have been able to do it if He did not show himself to me though the kindness of everyone around me that day. 

I believe it was God’s plan for me to meet this wonderful group of people to go on a pilgrimage with. I loved that I was able to share some of the most special moments of this trip with them, like meeting Pope Francis as he drove by on his popemobile, not once but four times. It was truly a blessing. 

His message to us young people during the opening ceremony was so beautiful. “It is the quiet love of a hand outstretched to serve, a commitment that draws no attention to itself.” And I felt that quiet love during our small group discussions, in the laughter we shared and especially the relationships that we formed. 

This experience was the perfect example of the theme for this year’s World Youth Day. “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” - Luke 1:38. I said my yes to attend this pilgrimage and the gifts I received from it has been abundant and so full of joy. 

(Goh, 25, travelled to World Youth Day with St. Justin Martyr's Parish from Markham, Ont.)