Greetings! I am writing from the scene of World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain! Even before the official start of World Youth Day, which occurs later today, I am seeing how different a pilgrimage is from any other type of trip I’ve taken.
While checking in at the airport in New York, it was easy to spot the pilgrims among the usual travelers—from the large groups traveling together, to the sleeping bags they carried (many people are sleeping on the floors of gymnasiums and other large spaces while in Madrid), to the matching World Youth Day shirts, hats and bandanas they wore. Even more evident was the anticipation on the faces of the young travelers. What surprised me most of all was the sheer spirit among those getting ready for the pilgrimage. One group sitting in an airport restaurant loudly sang the words “Jesus loves you more than you will know” from the song “Mrs. Robinson,” and another group of young men on the plane took a moment from their excited conversation and joking around to say a prayer together as the plane prepared to take off.
It’s easy to spot the pilgrims in Madrid. A massive group from Brazil, for instance, is
proudly walking around the city in bright yellow shirts and hats declaring they are there for World Youth Day. Other pilgrims have backpacks, shirts, and other gear as well.
Already, I have obtained a backpack full of goodies for the pilgrimage. Many of the things in the backpack are things that are available for pilgrims.
Among the gear are things essential for travel, and even more importantly, things to help pilgrims for their spiritual journey, such as the new YouCat youth Catechism book, a comic book created specifically for World Youth Day, and a book of prayers given out by Magnificat.
Readers, if you are in Madrid, what are your impressions so far? Please share!