What follows are a series of reflections on World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland. To read the whole series, click here.
Let’s set the stage: it’s Sunday, July 17. I’m in the air, somewhere between Seattle and New York City. Day 1 of our double-pilgrimage: first to Ireland, then to Poland. We’re less than 24 hours into the trip.
And I’ve already experienced a full spectrum of emotions.
It started even before my husband dropped me off at the airport. I have all the tears and loneliness and separation anxiety before I even go to bed the night before. God bless my husband and his patience for my unreasonable behavior… this is just how I get when I fly without him.
We drive to the airport and he dropped me off at the door, with a kiss and words of encouragement. My face is a leaking faucet, and I’ve forgotten where the handle is. He sends me on my way, and I enter the lobby where my group is: about 70 people all together, all chattering and excited for the trip ahead.
After ten minutes of emotions, I’m able to put myself back together, collect my ticket, and check in with my students as they arrive. We boarded the plane and flew from Anchorage to Seattle without incident.
But underneath, I had this horrible sense of unease. From my journal: “I felt all wrong… sad and scared and depressed and dreading the upcoming two weeks. For a variety of reasons. Suffice to say that many tears were shed. I was so unreasonably upset about the trip, for no legitimate reason. And that really bothered me. Was this some kind of weird paranoia, or a generally overwhelming lack of faith? That all remains to be seen.”
And so, despite these unrealistic feelings of worry, I decided to read during the flight: a book called “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” I’d been trying to read for months, but never had the time to finish.
This book’s themes completely resonated with me: I’ve always wanted to have a consistent, meaningful prayer life, but that’s always been a struggle for me. I try to strong-arm my way to holiness through my own willpower, but that’s definitely not the way to go about it. After reading, I felt a great deal better about the whole venture, and decided to trust that God would walk with me.
I certainly had a lot to learn, going into this trip. But even on day 1, God was working with me, leading me along at my own pace. Here’s a bit more journaling from my first day:
“I like the model offered in this book because the concept is so easy: let Jesus lead you to holiness. Let him choose your crosses. Love him by consoling him, not by making a list of demands. Serve through prayer and acts of reparation. Offer up sufferings with Jesus’s. Make up for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ (!). That concept is incredible! My tiny sacrifices I encounter are enough to ease Christ’s suffering and help to save souls.
“It sounds simplistic, but that’s one thing I haven’t tried: simplicity. Letting God spearhead my actions and my heart. Surrendering and trusting in him. That’s the theme of this World Youth Day for me, I think. Let God. Surrender. Trust. And I think if I get my interior life right, the rest of it – my ministry – will all come together on its own. I’m trusting you on this, God. And I believe you won’t let me down.”
And so it was: even though I entered the trip with fear and anxiety, I was already finding peace and hope by surrendering my own desires to God’s. Saint Faustina and Saint John Paul II were already two of my favorite saints, going in to this trip, and as you’ll see throughout these posts, they become foundational for my personal World Youth Day experience.
I’ll be posting at least one World Youth Day reflection per week for the foreseeable future. Check back in soon for the full story! In the meantime…
Have you ever read a life-changing book? What was it, and how did it affect you??