We found WYD to be an amazing experience with young adults from all over the world who were coming together in the united purpose of celebrating and deepening our faith as one young faith community. Additionally, it’s a great opportunity to take a step back from all of the distractions of everyday life and join fellow pilgrims in prayer. WYD helps pilgrims to gain perspective on what is really important. That’s why, when we met on pilgrimage, it really felt like we achieved the equivalent of several months of dating in those 10 days.
The personal experiences Christine and I shared as a part of the WYD activities really helped bring us closer to God. In my experience, when you’re closer to God, you are closer to your true self. For example, we celebrated midnight Mass at the Cologne Cathedral with our group and a large percentage of the other groups of pilgrims at WYD. Christine and I prayed the rosary together with our group and knelt together during the Mass. It’s amazing how close a person can feel to God and one another in these types of events. After Communion, in the music and in the singing of the choir, we felt the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit. This particular experience moved Christine enough to know that the person kneeling next to her (me) was important and sent into her life by God.
One of our favorite experiences during WYD was the 13 mile walk to Marienfeld from Cologne for the concluding Mass with Pope Benedict. Christine and I talked for the entire 6 hours with no awkward silences nor any doubt between us. We were free to be our true selves because the WYD experiences from the previous week really helped us to connect on a level that may not have been possible if we were still in the Chicago area. Even though a million people were on the pilgrimage to the same physical location, our individual, spiritual journeys were far different. We were alone with each other in an intense but relaxed journey that God set up for us. We were up for the physical journey of 13 miles and spiritually we accepted God’s call to each other. Our “yes” to our vocation of marriage started there.
The atmosphere at WYD and being able to experience different cultures together was a wonderful way to learn both about each other and different types of people at the same time. It was great trying to speak German together and travel around the area both with each other and with the rest of the group that we were on the pilgrimage with. We really felt like we were guided by the Holy Spirit and were brought together during the pilgrimage. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many people have found their vocation at WYD—whether that be to ordained, consecrated, single or married life. Being able to get away from day-to-day distractions and join a million other young adult Catholics with a common purpose can help you grow closer to God and hear His message. The experience at WYD helped us find our vocation of Marriage. 10 years and 2 children later, we couldn’t be happier!
Whether or not you know your vocation, try to keep an open mind when experiencing WYD or a stateside pilgrimage. The people and the various cultures at these events provide a unique experience with other young adults from around the world. Don’t be afraid to experience it alone. As with many retreats or pilgrimages, the purpose is to get away from your normal surroundings and get in touch with God in a different way. WYD provides an amazing opportunity to get away from the stresses and pressure of everyday life and gain a deeper understanding of yourself and potentially your calling. We invite you to quiet the noise and distractions around you to open yourself to God’s message for you.