I´ll never be content with the surface of things. So often we hold ourselves from going deep because we are scared it may be more than we can handle or worry what people might think. But we will grow so much more from it. Exposing our hearts is not weakness. It´s bravery. It´s authenticity. It´s love.
I know it can be scary some times. We all have felt that. I know i´d been criticized after sharing my personal writings several times. And i know maybe i expose too much my heart. But i believe that when we share our stories of vulnerability, we send hope to the world. The surface may be a comfortable place, but connection is formed in the depths.
When you guys reach out to me and share your stories of sorrow, my heart aches. I wish i could hug you and i feel so frustrated when i can´t. So the one thing i can do is to give you my words. It surely doesn´t feel like enough. I wish i could take away your pain and solve it all. But my words are part of who i am, so i offer them to you with all of my heart. I want to use them for the rest of my life to let you know you are NOT alone. We are all in this messy life together.
You are my people. I see you. I believe in you. So tell me anything. Tell me everything. I am not in this world to make small talk. Talk real to me. I am here for you. I want to be a reminder that it is okay to share what you are feeling inside. Your voice is needed and it matters. A lot.
Today marks a month since i came back from Poland, where i attended the World Youth Day!! My friends and family have been asking if i´ll make a post about my time there, but to be honest i´ve been avoiding writing this down. Not because i didn´t want to share it with you, but because i feel there´s nothing i could ever say that would make justice for what i experienced those days.
I don´t know if you ever felt that way about something…but somehow i feel scared of reducing such a wonderful, deep and spiritual experience into simple words. But now i have come to realize that even if i can only share a bit of it with you, it is worth it. It doesn´t have to be perfect or complete, it just needs to be honest. So i will speak out of my heart and share with you some impressions from my WYD time.
I must start saying the trip was absolutely perfect in every way. The fact that it involved things like waiting one hour in line for simply taking a shower, using a backpack as pillow and sleeping on the floor, walking miles and miles for getting breakfast, waking up early and sleeping very late, collide with massive crowds and doing a big effort to fit inside the bus or tram, sweating a lot and constantly looking like a mess don´t change this statement at all.
I know it could sound as if it was a tough or uncomfortable experience, but let me tell you one thing…while i was there i didn´t think about this at all. God was so evidently present during this time that those little things were completely blurred.
Beyond that, the trip consisted of all i could dream of and more… things as meeting wonderful people from all around the world, attending a multitude of masses, eating insane amounts of chocolate, ice cream, apples and bread (and more bread), visiting breathtaking places, watching sunrises and sunsets, learning about history, kayaking, renewing my baptism vows, singing and dancing without control, showing up on TV, trying the most delicious food, visiting museums, listening to local legends, speaking out my heart, living in different homes, going to the sea, learning new songs, taking photographs, visiting historical places and cities, seeing the Pope, going to concerts, enjoying the sun and the rain, praying in the most sincere way, visiting our Lady of Czestochowa, meeting a talented “catholic illusionist” and watching his show, having the most wonderful polish “parents” and “grandma” in the world, learning words in different languages, meeting a dear friend i haven´t seen for so long, laughing deeply and encountering with God…..just to mention some.
In fact, i could write a whole book about it, but if i had to sum up my trip i would define it using one simple word: FAMILY!!!! The trip made me feel i belong to something larger and greater than i will ever know, and trust me, there´s nothing as powerful as being part of a family brought together by God.
One of the most special moments for me was during the last mass (with at least two million people standing by my side) when the WYD hymn started. I was singing in spanish (and the bit of “polish” i learned) while some people next to me were singing the same song in english, german, french, portuguese and other languages i couldn´t even recognize.
As the hymn went on i closed my eyes listening to the people around, and i thought to myself “this is how heaven must be like”… people from every race and tongue united as one, singing and worshiping God. It was the most beautiful melody i ever heard, because it was created by a family which, despite all the different languages, was singing with the heart.
I think for an instant in my life i knew exactly what 2 million people were thinking about, what 2 million people wanted. I became one with them and realized we were seeking the same thing: we all wanted to encounter with Christ!! Words will never describe the love, peace and faith that i experienced there… it was sublime!
The trip constantly reminded me that even though we may have different cultures or languages we all belong to the same family. It reminded me how easy it is to break the ice with just a simple smile; how singing, cheering, dancing and high-fiving are universal ways to bring people together; how any place can turn into a party (especially if there are mexicans in the act); how every meeting is a “spark of friendship”!!!!!
But what amazed me the most, is that i´ve been reminded how alive is our Church and how many young people have the same desires that i have. It reminded me the joy that being a catholic brings, that even though some people may see religion as something “boring”, “cold”, “rigid” or “old”, there is nothing true about that. World Youth Day reminded me how alive we are and how faith should be a celebration all the time. When i was there i could see young people everywhere and the streets were filled with excitement, music, colors and waving flags all the time. Every single place was swirling joy. You cant imagine how awesome it was.
That´s something i miss a lot now that i am again at home. The first days back at university were a bit strange… I was walking in the aisle, wondering when will somebody come to give me a pin, a prayer card, friendly words or a high-five… but there was nothing like that. I must say it was hard, most people didn´t even look to the eyes; people seemed uninterested about their own “brothers and sisters” around.
World Youth Day atmosphere is what i dream the world would always be like; people going out there smiling to “strangers”, cheering each other and seeing friends in everyone. For me, that is exactly the spirit of catholicism, the spirit i dream we would always outshine. But the truth is that our attitude is not always reflecting that. The joyful testament of faith we all manifested in the WYD is not always what we share in our own place, where we constantly let individualism reign.
I know we are immersed in a world that can easily vanish this cheerful faith, but we can´t let that happen. We can´t let our routines make us forget the call that Pope Francis made to all of us. We can´t “vegetate”. Not anymore!!!!
What we are called to do as a Church is to make everyone experience this supreme joy we experienced in the World Youth Day. We need to be friendly and merciful, live our faith with enthusiasm, keep our hearts young and make everyone know they are loved; not only during this “big events” but in our daily lives.
So, after a month of coming back i feel confident to say World Youth Day didn´t end for me yet. Actually, it has just begun!!!! Now, more than ever i am convinced that together, as a family, we can be the change we wish for the world. I´ve been encouraged by the Pope to bring love and hope to the world. I´ve been blessed to live this experience so now i am called to share it with the world, to spread God´s message just like the apostles did 2000 years ago.
So, to all of those who were there too, and also those who weren´t there but share the same wish, i pray you experience the WYD spirit in your heart for the rest of your life, that you wont let it die. I pray that this wont be just a trip that forms part of our memories, but a constant way of living our lives. I pray that we stay firm in faith and don´t let the world take away our enthusiasm.
Cause the truth is, we will never change the world just by going to the WYD or to the church, in order to change it we have to BE the Church. I pray that we all exemplify and let the world know that our Church is not old. That we remember our Church is young and alive, and that it needs our joy!!!!!!
My trip to Poland taught me a lot about the power of community, and it is safe to say that I left a piece of my heart in this country that i call now “home”. I’m amazed, inspired, and incredibly grateful for the people God placed around me.
So to all my new “family” members…Dziękuję!! THANKS!!! I honestly can´t think of anything better than exploring the world, celebrating my faith and spending intentional time with people as amazing as you are. You have impacted my life more than words can dare to explain. Thank you for teaching me so much. I pray with all my heart that our family will be evidence of GOD´S MERCIFUL LOVE.
Note: I want to make a big shout out to Sergio Platonoff, my wonderful and talented friend who took most of the pictures posted here and captured the adventures of the trip. Thank you for letting us keep these memories!!!