As I grabbed for my shoes recently, grains of sand fell to the floor. A joyous reminder that just a couple weeks ago, I was on a beach. This wasn’t your typical beach vacation though –– I was on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro with millions of other Catholics, celebrating World Youth Day. For me it was a super-charged spiritual retreat. I assure you, Rio is still fresh on the minds and hearts of all the WYD pilgrims. It was uplifting and inspiring, and for this pilgrim, something I will truly never forget.
I think back now, and the whole week seems like a blur. Like a dream. A dream with lots of sand.
World Youth Day has ended but the impact it left on the millions who lived it remains strong. Many pilgrims are now spreading their faith all over the globe. After all, the theme for this WYD was “Go and make Disciples of all Nations” (Matthew 28:19). The sand from Copacabana Beach will eventually leave my shoes completely, but the effects of what I experienced on that beach will always remain. I saw a unified church, and a faith that is very much alive.
Yes, World Youth Day Rio has ended, but we shot so much footage it’s still coming in, in a big way. One of my favorite memories from WYD, was our trip to Corcovado. Atop this lush mountain, is an iconic statue of Jesus – “Christ the Redeemer”. Standing tall for nearly a century, this statue represents the man who claimed he was God incarnate.
As we ascended Corcovado in a compact tourist van, which I do believe was driven by a crazy man, I began to think, many people thought that Jesus was pretty crazy, right? He was even put to death by folks who thought his messianic claims had gone too far. And what about today? Is there still a need for Jesus, or for his teachings, or the need to know him? In our present culture is Jesus relevant? So, as we waited in line to see the very big statue of Jesus, I began to ask World Youth Day Pilgrims their thoughts on the real Jesus. And although it was an overcast and rainy day, I do believe the truth shined through clear, tall, and firm. My Spanish is another story…
Hot off the heals of World Youth Day Rio, Pope Francis is still making headlines. Luckily, we were able to see this rock star pope up close not just once, but twice, the latter time as he arrived at Copacabana beach to celebrate Mass. We’ve all seen images of this pontiff celebrating Mass, visiting the poor, getting on and off a plane, etc., but what happens when he hits the beach for the first time?
I was on the beach along with 1.5 million other World Youth Day Pilgrims, all pushing to get a view of the man entrusted with the keys of Peter. In the process I lost Jimmy, and asked some pilgrims why we need a pope and what he does for our Church.
What is your vocation? No, I’m not asking where you went on your summer trip, but rather what is God inviting you to do? At World Youth Day, a big focus has been on the exploration of religious vocations, whether one is called to be a priest, brother, or nun. We spoke to some pilgrims who had questions about the call, and got responses from those who have already answered theirs. In the process we had a lot of fun, and assured one pilgrim you don’t have to fit a certain mold to bring great glory to God.
It would be hard to find a place on earth that better showcases the unity of the Catholic Church than here at World Youth Day. Hundreds of thousands of young people, all different, yet united by their faith, have gathered together here. Imagine a huge amount of Catholics coming together to worship at Mass. Now imagine them representing their countries with pride and talking about what faith is like back home. Finally, throw in a four mile beach that serves as the church. Ok, now stop imagining and watch it all right now!
It’s an understatement to say that it has been an absolutely amazing time for us since landing in Rio. Having never traveled to another country, I didn’t know what I should expect, but everything seems to be coming together, as if God was guiding this whole Busted Halo® pilgrimage.
Shortly after we arrived, we found out that the pope was going to drive right past us — and, boy did we get to see him close up! We spoke to a few other young Catholic pilgrims from all over the world about this unique experience. Reflecting on this whole event, it’s hard not to say that God isn’t guiding it with his own hand. Knowing this, I’m filled with confidence and excitement for all that the rest of the week will bring us.
World Youth Day Rio 2013 is just weeks away. Want a quick catch-up on everything this event has to offer? Check out our latest 2-minute video giving a brief, yet expansive, lesson on what World Youth Day is, where it’s been held, and what exactly happens there.
And Busted Halo® will be right in the middle of the action! Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP, will be broadcasting live from Rio on Sirius XM radio. Busted Halo® correspondent Mark Irons and Paulist seminarian Jimmy Hsu, CSP, will bring you videos, photos, personal reflections and more from the front lines of World Youth Day! Who knows — they might even bump into Pope Francis, who is making his first global trip as pope to this year’s World Youth Day! So, follow our WYD RIO blog and tune in to The Busted Halo® Show with Father Dave on Sirius XM satellite radio to keep track of all that’s happening at World Youth Day!