"You can’t really explain it, you have to be there to understand it,” says Anna Whitehead, a young Londoner from the Diocese of Westminster who attended World Youth Day 2016 in Poland.
"My head abuzz with crazy memories, snippets of talks, and interesting discoveries; it’s no wonder I’m struggling to make sense of it all." Anna described the whole experience to Universe of Faith as completely unique: "I suppose at times we felt we were at sell-out concerts, in football matches, or, as on the last walk to the vigil site, that we were on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. Now combine all these experiences together, adding thousands of vibrant youth from all over the world, erratic weather and Pope Francis, and I feel you might have taken a small step into understanding WYD."
The noise and the silence
When asked about the things which struck her most, Anna mentioned the sheer size of the gatherings. However, she also said that, "the most powerful moments were not the sounds of thousands of voices shouting “Jesus Christ – you are my life” – although admittedly that was quite special – but the moments of quiet. During one of the mornings in Łódź there was a power cut; the microphones and translations cut out, the whirring of the machines completely stopped. The hall was filled with an intense silence, as people stopped singing to turn their hearts and thoughts to Christ. Just to be still and pray among so much noise served as a pertinent reminder as to what the real reason behind all the festivities was – our faith."
The outside and the inside
Anna described how World Youth Day was a mixture of big events and personal encounters, "There were innumerable chances to meet other Catholics – whether it be to trade trinkets and take selfies, or to discuss their experiences and journeys to WYD. One of the simple joys was that an interesting conversation and new friends could materialise at any time. One moment you might be chatting with some Italian monks at the road crossing. A few hours later, and you’re introducing yourself to the Ecuadorian priest and the Polish nun sleeping in the same field as you."
But, what is World Youth Day really?
World Youth Day for me was a great time to grow deeper in my faith, to exchange stories with new friends from all over the world, a time also to strengthen existing friendships. It was a time to feel truly one and welcome in this universal family of our Catholic Church. Most of all, it was a time to realise that us, the young people of today, must “get off the sofa” and take responsibility; for we are the future of our Church.
World Youth Day 2016
Top Pope Francis Mercy Quotes from World Youth Day 2016