A pilgrim from the United States waves the American flag joyfully in front of Our Lady of Almudena Cathedral in Madrid while others from different countries do the same, Aug. 16. Pilot photo/George Martell, The Pilot Media Group
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Madrid was my third WYD Pilgrimage. My first time was Toronto in 2002, and my second was in Sydney in 2008. While all three pilgrimages were amazing, what made Madrid special was that it was the first time that I was leading a group as the youth minister. I went to Toronto when I was in college, and traveled to Sydney with friends. This time I was blessed to lead a group of 19 people, including our pastor, youth and adults. At each WYD I was blessed to participate in all of the events, such as the papal welcome, the Stations of the Cross and the pilgrimage to the vigil site. However, Madrid was different, and even more amazing. I was not only able to experience God's grace myself, but to see Him at work in the youth! As I was experiencing my joy at seeing the Holy Father (from only 10 feet away!), I was blessed to see the same joy reflected in the faces of the high schoolers. As I felt my own tiredness and aching muscles, I was able to observe and help the pilgrims to recognize their suffering and learn to offer it up, sharing in Christ's suffering and death. The blessings and graces of the WYD experience are not limited to the youth who traveled to Madrid, but extend to myself and the other adults who traveled with them, to the whole parish who joined us in prayer through the pilgrimage, and to the whole Church that shares in their joy and benefits from the gifts they have been given. I pray that every adult is able to speak with one of the youth pilgrims, and that your joy in Christ may increase from their experience of Christ and His Church in Madrid, for, as Blessed Pope John Paul II said, they are the "protagonists of the New Evangelization."
Chris Carmody is from Immaculate Conception Parish, Salem.