MANILA, Sept. 15, 2011—A summer’s week in Spain could have been a tourist’s adventure, but for the Filipino pilgrims who trooped to Madrid for the World Youth Day (WYD) last month, the experience bolstered their faith and, for some, their pro-life and pro-family convictions in particular.
For Christine Violago, one of the delegates from the World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific (WYAAP) and Trish Castro, a language teacher, the learnings from their WYD experience remain fresh, weeks after coming home from the event.
“A friend of mine once shared to me that events like WYD are ‘Investments to our Soul.’ Somehow I agree with this. WYD was a perfect opportunity for me to strengthen my core values and reaffirm my beliefs,” said Violago.
Violago remarked that she knew the trip would be an enriching one but that she hadn’t expected it to change her outlook in life.
“I am now challenged to always stay positive in whatever difficulty or state I am in because no matter what, I know I am never alone in the journey. I was reminded that there will always be someone across regions and continents fighting a more difficult battle than me,” she explained.
“I believe that God will always provide, no matter what circumstance. It is true. He is and will always be the way, the truth and the life!” she said.
The week-long pilgrimage, which included group activities with international delegates, trips to churches and cathedrals, daily mass and prayers, and several encounters with Pope Benedict XVI, impressed on the 24-year-old some points that she has taken home with her.
“As I let myself embrace all the adventures that happened in that week, it made me realize that it is okay to pray. It is okay to say you love your life and family. It is okay to speak the truth,” she stated.
“Given the changing environment we live in, there are so many threats to life and family. We need to constantly remind ourselves of the things that truly matter, values we need to continuously promote and fight for,” she said further.
“For one, we need to protect the family as this is where we first learn the important values such as faith, hope, love and respect which in the future define how one acts and responds to needs of the time.”
Violago added that the WYD journey made her “truly understand how faith can be an expression of our dignity. For whatever background, color or race, all were welcome to celebrate life, faith and love.”
For Trish Castro, the physical hardships and the good cheer amid all those hardships particularly struck her about the WYD pilgrimage, her first.
I didn’t expect that I would get so tired and thirsty but forget all about it because at the end of the journey to Cuatro Vientos – the venue for the Vigil with the Pope – was an oasis of spiritual content, peace, and overwhelming experience,” Castro recalled.
“Seeing all the pilgrims kneeling on the rocky and sandy ground of Cuatro Vientos and completely silent for 10-15 minutes in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament made me feel that I was in Jesus’ time – perhaps, during the Sermon on the Mount or even at Calvary! It wasn’t what I expected it to be.”
The language teacher, who embarked on the journey as part of the Stella Orientis Choir delegation from the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), said she doesn’t really remember particularly anything that inspired her in the context of life and family issues, “but it’s what I witnessed that strengthened these convictions in me.”
“Seeing 1.5 to 2 million youths strengthened my conviction that only a prolife-based education will inspire these young pilgrims to be there at the World Youth Day. If this group of youth will continue to become pro-life parents one day, how wonderful the life of the Church would be! The youth is the future of the pro-life Church. We have to take care of them,” she said. (CBCP for Life)