Diary of… a student who attended World Youth Day

Victor Wong is a junior business administration major with a minor in sports management. He is from Guatemala and enjoys playing soccer, reading, going to the gym, listening to music and playing video games. He dislikes waking up very early and being stressed, angry or bored. His philosophy in life is a Catholic philosophy which summarizes what Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Over the summer, I was in Madrid, Spain for the World Youth Day 2011, which was the best experience of my life.

The World Youth Day is an event held by the Catholic Church every two or three years. WYD was created by Pope John Paul II in 1985 in Rome.  The five–day event that I attended consisted of various activities like concerts, films, conferences, plays, masses and the arrival of the Pope Benedict XVI. Young people all over the world, who were not necessarily Catholic or Christian, participated in the event. I decided to go because one of my brothers went to the event in 2005 in Koln, Germany and he told me if I didn’t go, I would regret it because it was an amazing experience.

My trip actually started three weeks before WYD when I went to Europe with my best friend to visit other countries and visit friends who are studying in Europe. For those three weeks, we visited many cities,  including London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Venice, Florence, Assisi, Rome, Barcelona and finally, Madrid. We got lost in London, ran all over Vatican to get to our airplane and accidentally walked onto a nude beach in Barcelona.

The WYD activities started in Barcelona, Spain on Aug. 11, and my friend and I joined our group from St. Jude Thaddeus. After four days in Barcelona, we traveled to Madrid where we watched “El Clasico,” Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. They were playing the “Supercopa” of Spain, so as a crazy fan of soccer and the team FC Barcelona, I couldn’t miss out on this chance to watch my favorite team and the best soccer match in the world.

On the 16th, my entire group arrived for the official WYD activities. WYD started with the inauguration mass where more than two million youths attended. This mass impacted me in a huge way because I’ve never seen so many people in one place with the same mindset and with big smiles on everyone’s faces.

During these five days, I experienced joy and peace like I never have before. I wanted to stay in Madrid forever and never come back, thanks to this awesome feeling that I had. I think being good in the whole meaning of the word and being spiritually pure gave me these feelings.

The Pope arrived on the third day, and he traveled in his Popemobile, which is the vehicle that the Pope uses to transport on his visits. He traveled all over Madrid where two million people welcomed him. The last day, we went to a military airport where we slept and had closing mass. This was a tough day because we arrived at 10 a.m. with a temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and we had to sleep with the other two million people. The airport was very big, but everyone had to squeeze to sleep because there were a lot, and I mean a lot, of people. However, no one cared about the extreme situations, like the overwhelming temperature and being with too many people, because of the happiness we had in our hearts.

The Pope arrived at 8 p.m. that night to celebrate the vigil with the Holy Spirit, which is when the Pope exposed the Holy Sacrament for two hours.  It was supposed to be longer, but there was a thunderstorm, and they had to put it away because of the climate. This my favorite experience from the trip, even better than watching “El Clasico,” because I felt a true feeling of joy, and this was one of the things that made this event the best experience of my life. It was not just a pleasant feeling that you get from going out to a party or having one of my childhood dreams come true, like watching that game.

The next day, the Pope celebrated the closing mass, and the event ended after five exciting days of sharing and meeting people from all over the world. When I arrived back home in Guatemala, I felt like my life was changed.  I felt happy and peaceful. Even my parents told me that I had a different face, that I seemed different. There are no words for what I experienced in Madrid and you have to participate in a WYD to have this feeling.

The next WYD is in 2013 at Rio de Janeiro and I encourage you to go and I’m sure you will not regret it. After what I experienced in Madrid, I would go to as many WYDs that I possibly could. If you want more information on it, you can watch videos on YouTube to see what it’s like.

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