After a week of jumping from city to city, it’s nice to finally unpack and call some place home, even if it’s just for the week. Today, we are finally in Krakow and I just had my first pilgrim’s experience. Our group had just gotten off the bus after a long drive and as we were unloading our luggage, a group of pilgrims from Boston walked by, waving their flag and cheering. Obviously, we cheered back in excitement. We didn’t have to exchange names or even greetings. In that moment, we instantly recognized that we were the same.
Today, we drove out to Wadowice to visit Pope St. John Paul II’s hometown. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures as we roamed through his childhood home. But there, we met Australians, Americans and New Zealanders. We see their flag or they would see our flag. Maybe someone overheard another person’s language or a different accent. It just took eye contact and a smile to recognize that it was because of this founder that we were all here in that moment.
We would be on our way to restaurant for dinner and because we had our Canadian flag with us, people would cheer “Hello Canada!” We met some youth from Panama and some youth from the Philippines. We met some fellow Canadians, too. What other festival encouraged this kind of instant friendship among strangers?
Poland is buzzing with young people in World Youth Day backpacks, exploring pilgrimage sites and museums, loitering in local restaurants and in the streets, and always travelling in packs. The global Church is here and I can’t wait to start meet more of my fellow pilgrims.
I can’t wait to swap souvenirs and talk about where they’re from. Maybe I’ll get learn new words in their language or maybe we’ll just try to communicate by smiling and pointing at each other. We’ll learn their country’s chants and we’ll be ready with our own. We’ll sing each others’ national anthems or maybe a just sing something we both know, like Salve Regina or “Trading My Sorrows” (which is apparently very, very common).
These next few days are going to be a sensory overload for everyone in the best way. This is why I’m excited to introduce the true launch of our World Youth Day blog series. In the next few days, The Catholic Register will be featuring a different story from a different Canadian pilgrim everyday. You will get to see how Canadian youth are celebrating this year’s international youth festival from the ground level. Stay tuned because we have a lot of enthusiastic young people who want to share their faith with you our beloved readers!