The Journey Begins Now
This past tuesday I had the privilege of beginning my duties as the World Youth Day Assistant for the Bishop’s Conference a little early and attended the Krakow Kickoff.
At the event Paul Jarzembowski, World Youth Day Coordinator for the USCCB, and Bishop Caggiano, the World Youth Day Episcopal Liaison for the USCCB, called all of those participating in WYD to begin their pilgrimage NOW – to make this a Year of Pilgrimage. They also introduced various resources provided by the Bishop’s Conference to help make this year a pilgrimage, and I’ll share some of those later on.
I first want to share with you one insight from the kickoff that really stuck out to me:
World Youth Day is not an event isolated in-and-of itself. It is not merely a week where Catholics travel to far places, pray together, maybe get to see the Pope, and get to experience some pretty cool things. World Youth Day, on the contrary, is an encounter that we must not only prepare for before we go but must also continue to live out after it is over.
Bishop Caggiano used the image of the Transfiguration of the Lord to illustrate the true nature of World Youth Day. He said, “Just like World Youth Day, our understanding of the Transfiguration is often limited to the mountaintop experience of the disciples. However, the complete story also includes the journey up to the top and the walk back down after this transformative experience.”
In order for the disciples to have the incredible encounter with Christ during His transfiguration, they had to do the work of getting up the mountain. The journey was not easy, they didn’t simply show up there. They walked with the Lord, journeying with Him to the destination. We too, as pilgrims journeying to WYD, must do the work required to encounter our Lord there. We must prepare our hearts so that when we do arrive at WYD – when we get to the mountaintop – we can truly see and encounter the face of Christ.
But as Bishop Caggiano suggests, WYD – like the transfiguration – does not end on the mountaintop. WYD is not over when the celebrations and events come to an end. It is at the end of WYD that the real work of WYD actually begins. It is after our week in Krakow has concluded that we now journey down the mountain and take the encounter we have just experienced out into the rest of the world.
“We can go up to the mountain together, meet the Lord at the top, and be ready to share that mercy and love with our brothers and sisters of all generations in this country we so love,” Bishop Caggiano exclaimed.
How am I beginning my journey up the mountain then, how am I starting my WYD pilgrimage NOW?
- I’ll be visiting the Saint Pope John Paul II National Shrine in DC. Here I can learn even more about the incredible man that is JPII, and about the love that flowed from his heart to all young people – the love that created World Youth Days and the love that I will inevitably encounter in the city where his work for the Church began.
- I am reading St. Faustina’s Diary and emerging myself in the Divine Mercy that is at the heart of this upcoming Year of Mercy and World Youth Day.
- I’m learning more about the Polish Saints who’s culture I’ll be surrounded with – JPII, St. Faustina, St. Maximillian Kolbe, etc.
- I’m looking into Polish culture itself and will be trying to visit Polish pilgrimage sites in my area.
- I’ll be praying the official WYD prayer daily.
I now want to share with you some of the resources that the USCCB has provided as we enter into this Year of Pilgrimage:
- Official WYD USA prayer
- Pilgrim prayer guide
- Pilgrim year of preparation calendar
- Pilgrimage sites of Catholic heritage in the US
- Patron saints of WYD USA
I am overjoyed to begin this Year of Pilgrimage in preparation for WYD 2016 in Krakow. I ask that you pray for me on this journey, and know that I am praying for all of you participating in WYD – both stateside and in Krakow.
World Youth Day should be a place pilgrims receive a mandate by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to transform the world. Pilgrims, will you be ready to receive that mandate when you meet our Holy Father in one year? I hope so.
*I take no credit for the 2nd & 3rd photos in this post.