A Personal Journey to WYD 2011
A Personal Journey to WYD 2011
By Maria Rivas
There’s something special about summer vacations…new places to explore, new friends to make and the chance to open up to new cultures; but this August will be more than just a vacation for me, this year I will journey with thousands of youths and young adults from around the world to Madrid for World Youth Day 2011.
I’m Maria Alejandra, 29, and after my college graduation a month ago, my parents and brother, Ronald, 28, presented me with a gift-I’d be attending this year’s World Youth Day along with a group of young adults from the Archdiocese of Miami, some of which have already attended the gathering in years past.
The group of about 30 people will be traveling through Spain with Claretian Sisters Ondina Cortes and Olga Villar. Preparations for this trip started months ago through fundraisers, fellowship and spiritual meetings; which meant I would need to begin preparing immediately and try to figure out why the Lord was calling me on this particular year to such an important gathering where the theme is “Planted and built up in Christ, firm in the faith.” (Col. 2:7)
Now, I find myself here… 47 days before I’m in the beautiful city of Madrid, preparing to say yes to God and his plan for me; like Blessed John Paul II once said, “the future starts today, not tomorrow.” My journey to World Youth Day began the very moment my parents announced I was headed to Madrid.
Since I was months behind with preparations, there was no time to hesitate. First thing I needed to do was stop, contemplate and listen to what God was asking me to do. I needed to unpack my heart, leave all “excess baggage” behind and that could only be done by entrusting myself to the Almighty.
Prayer has become a constant partner through this journey. My favorite form of prayer is contemplative prayer along with reading scripture-especially the psalms. I was once taught that love is in the details; scripture, like God is timeless and speaks louder to us when we’re open to listening to his every word and every detail.
Opening up to God’s call is never an easy task. Thankfully, I’ve gotten by with a little help from my friends the saints. One of the biggest blessings bestowed upon me recently has been finding time to read. I must admit, I’m not a big fan of conventional books. My biggest thrill is to allow every piece of information to sink in, regardless of how many times I have to go back and read a chapter. The book I’ve been reading recently is based on Theology of the Body. I must have gone back to chapter one about four times before I felt I was really ready to move on to the following chapters. I find that being challenged on a particular topic can really help during moments of meditation.
In a city as busy as Miami, there is little silence and not enough time to meditate, but there is nothing impossible for God. I’ve found myself being pulled towards adoration. I admit, I should visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament more often. His presence is refreshing after a long day at work; he’s able to clear up your mind, fill you with joy and helps you open up your heart to all that happens around you.
There’s definitely nothing as fulfilling as getting to know God through prayer, but meeting new people is a close second. Blessed John Paul II’s beatification was an event that gave the youth and young adults in our archdiocese the opportunity to worship God through prayer, adoration and song, as well as the chance to meet new people. An all night vigil was organized to celebrate Blessed John Paul II’s love of young people.
A month or so after the vigil, our group was able to plan an event to help us fundraiser for the trip. We worked together to host a “Fiesta Espanola.” We kicked off the festivities with a blessing from Monsignor Pablo Navarro pastor of Saint John Neumann Catholic Church, followed by yummy Paella, Flamenco dancing, and great music by DJ Kiki. The party gave us all an opportunity to work together as a family in Christ and enjoy time with our loved ones.
Despite the fact this journey is a personal one for each of us; those who stand by us have experienced and lived out every emotion leading up to the momentous occasion when we arrive in Madrid. I invite you to follow me on this journey and not miss a moment of this adventure and my discoveries, as I will be trying to stay in touch and recount the amazing things I hope to discover as I continue preparing for World Youth Day 2011.