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Hope beyond Loneliness and Despair: A Reflection on World Youth Day

Another World Youth Day post. This one is out of order, but it’s been tugging on my heart, so I have to get it out there.

While I was in Poland, it took me a good while to adjust to things: where was I supposed to lead, and when was I supposed to follow? Why are there so many people here?

And my anxiety spiraled down and down… and I found myself in some beautiful church outside of Krakow, sitting alone at Mass amidst 120 pilgrims: feeling frustrated, isolated, and… full of despair.

Not a good day.

And one of the themes of World Youth Day was so blatantly obvious: Jesus, I Trust in You. And was I trusting? Nope. Absolutely not. I was trying to do things my own way. I knew I had to start over.

So I found a priest and I went to confession a few days later, and I told the priest how I’d been despairing and letting myself become overwhelmed and hopeless.

And I won’t forget that moment.

Because the priest asked me precisely what I was despairing of… and I looked up and saw that he was looking at me, intently, like a human, not like some mechanical prayer receptacle, check the boxes and send me on my way. What, indeed?

At first, I was at a loss for words, because I didn’t really know precisely what it was that had caused the bout of hopelessness in the church – and then I knew.

It was the sense that I was not doing well, and that I would never do well, and I distrusted that God could or would bother to fix it.

And so we talked, the priest and I, in the middle of a yard with a hundred people milling about on the fringes. He told me that I was doing well; that World Youth Day was the best thing that the Catholic Church had to offer to young people and that the devil was not happy about it.

The devil tries to isolate us and make us feel alone, unworthy, unholy, unlike everyone else with their perfect lives… but we are all called to resist his lures and to cling to Christ.

He is our hope. He is our one true confidence. He is always there.

And beyond that, there’s the whole communion of saints. We are surrounded by an innumerable multitude of holy people: some are here on earth, but a great many more have gone before us and now pray for us in heaven. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ; we can never be alone. God is closer to us than our own breath, and the communion of saints and the angels also walk with us.

My penance was to take John Paul II and Saint Faustina as my companions for the duration of World Youth Day, but they’ve followed me beyond that; I brought them home with me, and intend to share them with everyone!

So do not lose hope today, even if you feel alone or on the brink of despair. We are never alone.

Share your inspirations in the comments below: what gives you strength to keep pushing, despite shortcomings, setbacks, or self-doubt?

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4 thoughts on “Hope beyond Loneliness and Despair: A Reflection on World Youth Day

  1. Several of the saints have written if you ever feel despair, to immerse yourself in the Sacraments. So, good job on going to Confession!!

    Sometimes, I need to go to Adoration when I feel that way, by myself – no kids, and literally just sit there and stare. Other times, I make it a point to go to Daily Mass several times during the week – until heaviness gets lifted.

    But, I don’t think I frequently remind myself that it is the devil getting into my head/heart. I think that thought both scares me, so I don’t like to think about it, and it is also a newer thought for me.

    Awesome job bringing two of our “modern” saints home with you!!

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  2. Living that sacramental life is so essential. Also, reminding myself that I am not alone. There is never a time as isolating as when we despair. I constantly remind myself that I am not alone, but have the entire Church – militant, suffering, and triumphant. And I need them, and they also need me. If I wallow in my despair, I won’t be able to see beyond myself and be present to those I am meant to be present for. I fly to the lap our Mama Mary, present her with my sorrows, and ask me to lead her ever closer to her son. Christ is our hope! The devil wants nothing more than for us to feel isolated from him and the Church. Saints and Sacraments is the way to restore hope!

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