WYD2013 Reflection by Rian Galliott
Mark 6:21 states “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. Something I very rarely reflected on when I was younger, and admittedly, not very much in recent years. But those few times that I did, it always brought about a process of purification.
As you know, I have been blessed with the opportunity of attending the recent celebrations on the pilgrimage of World Youth Day (WYD) 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. To say that it was life changing is an understatement of all World Youth Days and fails to adequately describe the true experience.
Sure, there are those that attend it and treat it as a party, there are those that attend it as simply a social gathering, but there are also those who enter into it as an opportunity to participate in the spiritual life and growth of the living Church.
I remember that my original purpose for my first WYD wasn’t necessarily for the right reasons. But instead of finding a nice Italian girl, I found God and my life has not been the same since. Back then, the quote that stuck in my head was “let your yes, mean yes” from Matthew 5:37. So my regular participation in Mass called me to a deeper living of the Faith. As is quoted from St. Theresa Benedicta of the cross, “Faith is not belief. Belief is passive where faith is active.”
This recent experience is my fifth, spanning the period of 13 years, in 13 countries, with four mission trips, five years on mission and a partridge in a pear tree. It is a pilgrimage that started on the 21 August 2011 when, at the final Mass of WYD Madrid, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced Rio as the next host. In that moment I promised myself I would go.
Beginning with a mission trip in Pamplona, the poorest area in Lima, the 2013 Pilgrimage plunged headlong into the very real understanding of the aspect of Christian unity. We are ‘One’ in Christ, and in working with the poor, we suffered with them to a degree. For many, it was their first encounter with such conditions. The hard work itself had a purifying nature that brought us closer together and closer to the poor. Many said that they felt they were giving the poor their dignity. I prefer to think of it as helping them to remember the dignity they already have.
Moving onto Rio and the amazing celebrations there were a definite contrast. The brown and muddy streets of the slums were replaced with the colours and festivities of the city of Rio. Surrounded by pilgrims from so many different nationalities, singing and chanting, I was reminded that the Church’s ‘Catholicity’ meant that it was ‘universal’.
When Pope Francis arrived bearing the ‘Apostolic’ office and grace of the See of Peter, the context of ‘Holiness’ in all the celebration was highlighted. The youth of the Church who are an integral part of its present, as well as being its future, were gathered in praise. Not for a rock star, not for an earthly reason, but for the worship of Christ and His work in the world through the Church. It was a celebration of faith, hope and charity that resounded in the call to life with Christ. The pilgrimage rounded off with a retreat at Iguazu, along the border of Brazil and Argentina. While we wondered at the majesty of God through His creation in the waterfalls of Iguazu, we were able to have a period of silence to begin unpacking WYD. Guided by sessions with the Bishops and the Cardinal, the challenge of living our experiences in our daily lives began to take more and more of a solid form.
To quote The Lord of the Rings; “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back?” Every journey is an invitation to growth and this was no different. Once again the challenge was going from an experience of being in the majority to a life in the minority. From being explicitly surrounded by the faithful to a life where faith can be so scarce.
As I shared with my small group, these graces were not simply for ourselves. They were for us to share with everyone we encountered. Through our actions and our words. We live in a privileged time in Australian history. This generation of youth have experienced the three Popes of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. We have been exposed to the amazing experience and fruits of World Youth Day in Sydney and we witnessed the canonization of our first Australian Saint: Mary of the Cross Mackillop. This is not simply so that we can say “I was there” but to empower us, and encourage us in our own faith so that we can go out and “make disciples of all the nations.”
Although I am still recovering from my pilgrimage, and preparing for my next one, WYD has already borne a change in my life. After three years away from ministry, feeling that it was time for me to move on, I felt a call to return to it. Though this will take more reflection and preparation in order to get back into the swing of things. I know that the lessons from Rio have only just begun.
Will it be difficult? Yes it will be. Will I go through darkness? Surely. Will I need your prayers? Undoubtedly. For my goal is greatness, not for myself, but for God. That His name will be glorified and that people will encounter Him when they encounter me. He is my treasure, He has to be, because, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. "