Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pilgrimage 2011 Part VI: Reality and Peace

I need to start out this post with a little youtube video clip. The scene comes from the recent film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If you're at all familiar with the original classic movie starring Charlton Heston, then you know that in that movie, his character Taylor crash lands on a mysterious planet (spoiler: it's earth in the future) where humans are slaves to sentient, thinking, talking monkeys. The most recent film kinda/sorta/maybe explains how that all came about. Just imagine: you, a scientist, starts giving a monkey this experimental drug that's supposed to cure Alzheimer's disease. You then notice that the monkey is getting incredibly smart, incredibly fast. Then this happens:

Everyone who saw this movie had the exact same thought after watching this scene: "Oh crap...things just got real." And just like that, the entire movie went from "okay, this is kinda interesting, he's definitely getting smarter..." to "Oh wow! The humans are SCREWED." But it was as if every single scene that happened before Caesar the monkey spoke was building up to that moment, for no other reason than to have everyone realize that this moment was just that awesome. And there's the reason I was so happy to have gone to WYD this summer: because at certain times, everyone present realized that we were witnessing what was going on. And it all had to do with what just looked like bread. We saw the Real. True Presence. Jesus Christ, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.

It first happened at the "Catholic Underground: Holy Hour", held by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal at the Love and Life Centre. Now, I've been to adoration before and have found it hard to listen or to feel anything. Sometimes my eyes will water for a second, or at the end I will say to myself, "yeah. That was nice." But for whatever reason, at this event, it was to the extreme - I just bawled. It was so sudden. Christ spoke so clearly and just told me to let go. The floodgates just opened, and at first I was shocked because something like this had never happened to me before. All tension seemed to disappear. I said to myself, "this is what Peace feels like." I didn't want to leave.

Everybody getting comfy at Quatro Vientos
The week went. I was continually blessed. And finally, over a million people gathered in Quatro Vientos Airfield for a vigil with Pope Benedict XVI, and the subsequent sleep out and final day of WYD. We had braved the heat, the crowds, and the dust, and now we had to brave...the storm. Shortly after Pope Benedict started the prayer vigil, it started raining. Sideways. Lightning was constantly lighting up the sky. The wind was crazy - the pope had to stop for a while because the wind kept wanting to blow away umbrellas and papers, and actually succeeded in blowing away his Zucchetto (his little skull cap thing)! People on stage got wet, and all the pilgrims were getting wet and cold; makeshift shelters were abundant, for those who weren't smart enough to bring rain gear. I started laughing with a few of my group members, while the rain pelted us. We had known that Spain starts to get sudden rainstorms in the middle of August, and I had actually called it a few weeks back: "You know, it's going to rain the night we sleep out. That's just the way it's going to be."Hahaha.

We all managed to cope. At this point in my pilgrimage, I was able to offer it up - and it was still quite warm, so water to the skin wasn't that bad! Still, it caused a lot of commotion. The pope however, continued to pray with us, leading up to Eucharistic Adoration. The 9 ft tall, 15th century, gold and silver monstrance rose up out of a trapdoor in the floor of the stage, holding the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ for 1.5 million people to see. And then the rain stopped.

Yep. Things just got real.
It was nothing short of a miracle - the rain, wind, lightning - it all stopped. Completely. It spoke so much to me. That in anything and everything that we do, we will inevitably face the tempests, the storms that will try to knock us off course. But in the middle of any storm, no matter how big it is, Christ can always bring peace. Stillness. Quiet. Serenity. Because for the entire time of Eucharistic Adoration, 1.5 million people were hauntingly silent - you could've heard a pin drop. When I got home from Spain, someone who had watched a live online feed of the prayer vigil told me that some thought the feed was having sound problems because they couldn't hear anything. Peace. Love. Jesus Christ.

And if all that wasn't enough, the second that the monstrance disappeared back underneath the stage, the wind and rain came back. People started cheering, and I can only assume that it was because of how much glory we had just witnessed. Jesus Christ paused life for us during adoration and told us that He is with us in the middle of the storms. He is the only one that can bring our restless, struggling hearts the calmness that it needs. He is the Reality that brings us Peace.

It's been almost two months since I've returned from Spain. Coming back was weird. For two weeks, I felt very out of place in Vancouver, almost like I didn't belong there. I was instantly surrounded again by media and music and technology and noise. I experienced a "Spiritual Dissatisfaction," one that came not from a Holier-Than-Thou attitude, but from a sense of sadness that all of us - myself included - find it much easier to miss out on something much more beautiful than what we focus on in our daily lives.

The spiritual high is gone now, that's for sure. The only difference is that since I've now experienced a new, deeper level of Peace, I can strive to again reach it through grace, and prayer, and faith. World Youth Day was a great reminder for me of how much God loves all of us, and that we are all pilgrims. Not pilgrims of WYD, but pilgrims of life, striving to reach our Heavenly Home. Reality and Peace await us, as long as we are open to accept it.

In this blog series:
Pilgrimage 2011 Part V: The Nature Of It
Pilgrimage 2011 Part IV: Pick a Side
Pilgrimage 2011 Part III: Pressing On
Pilgrimage 2011 Part II: The Breaking Point
Pilgrimage 2011 Part I: The Beginning of the End
Pilgrimage 2011: An Introduction
Whatever Happens, Happens (WYD 2011)

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