Rio 2013: Adventure is out there!
With my Facebook newsfeed flooded with prayer requests for pilgrims heading to Rio for World Youth Day 2013, I can only smile and think of my memories of my adventures at World Youth Day in Spain. Here are some tips and reflections from my experiences in Madrid for those pilgrims who are attending for the first time…
1. Bring things to share with people you meet, but don’t go crazy. I brought hand-made rosary chains made from cheap beads from Hobby Lobby and asked my sister to make friendship bracelets. I broke apart saint bracelets and attached the squares to the bracelets. I also made small business cards that I handed out to people that I met from across the world, giving them my contact information: email, website, and my country (mainly… Texas.)
2. It’s okay to drink alcohol, but drink water more. If you’re under 21, you might not have a strong tolerance for alcohol already. I don’t advise getting drunk in Rio just because you’re in Rio. Yes, I know the caipirinhas are tasty. You’re in an unfamiliar location, surrounded by hundreds of strangers, and if you are staying with a host family, trudging back to your condo/house/apartment/school/gym/university drunk beyond belief is a terrible way to represent your country, your faith and yourself. During your pilgrimage, you will walk more and carry more things that you’re used to, so drinking a few beers along the way will only make it more difficult to navigate the random cobblestones and holes in the concrete while carrying all of your belongings as you make your way to the Vigil Mass site.
3. Get to know your host family. That is, if you have one. They’re called your host family because they are taking you into their own home, allowing you a personal experience of their culture. There will probably be a language barrier, but in my experience, the hand motions, laughter and joy transcend almost any awkwardness. And if they offer to wash your clothes, let them! You are a missionary, and allow yourself to be open to being served. But also fold your own clothes, they are your family and not your maid. If you don’t have a host family, get to know the groups of pilgrims who are around your area. Also, bring something from your home country to share with your host family that is special. I brought caramelized Texas pecans and a small Texas flag and a really small photo album with pictures of my family, my friends and my city/university. It was great to bring together both my host family and my actual family together in a tangible way.
4. Keep your rosary close and your belongings even closer. This is basic international travel advice, but it’s definitely important to always keep in mind. Not everyone is there in Rio for the same reason you are. Pickpockets and crooks will be there guaranteed, but the best offense is a strong defense. Though it started out as a horrible joke about how one of our members was part Gypsy so she could tell when a Gypsy was nearby to steal our stuff, we came up with a silent signal to say, “HEY THERE’S SOMEONE CREEPY NEARBY.” Ours was a quick double tap on our noses and a glance at who was the culprit. Awareness is the best protection as is common sense. If you put your bag down, keep it zipped and the strap on your hand or foot. It shouldn’t get very far.
5. Pray. Beyond physical packing, there isn’t much you can do except pray. Pray for your host family (if you have one), pray for the volunteers, pray for the pilgrims, pray for the city of Rio, pray for the priests, pray for the religious and pray for yourself. Preparing your heart as the heart of a pilgrim is the best way to prepare. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours to orient yourself to prayer, just Morning Prayer and Night Prayer is perfect. Acclimate yourself to a lifestyle of prayer and you will see a change.
6. Be open to transformation and seek peace. There will be situations that you never thought you would ever find yourself to be in, yet there you are, praying with a tearful Australian mother who tells you that she is sad but happy for her only son Michael who is entering the seminary next week. Be open to change when things get difficult, and they will get difficult. When the metro is packed beyond belief, and a random group of Koreans block your group from getting on, just smile and be generous.When your feet hurt, someone is in your way and you drop your bag or get pushed, be at peace. In the moments of mass crowds, mania and chaos, seek moments of peace. A heart at peace will guide you to more peace. Things will get hard, but that’s where the transformation of our conscience and heart occurs, as Pope Francis writes…
“The conscience is the interior place for listening to the truth, to goodness, for listening to God; it is the inner place of my relationship with him, the One who speaks to my heart and helps me to discern, to understand the way I must take and, once the decision is made, to go forward, to stay faithful.”
Image: Carlos Ortega
Last night, I had one of the most beautiful worship experiences I have had in a long time. We played at a Catholic youth festival in Louisiana, and afterwards we stayed for “adoration.”
I didn’t really understand everything that was happening last night, but that was part of the beauty of it. That heavy and intoxicating aroma of the incense. The bending flickering flames of the candles in the wind. The bold colors of robes and crosses and crucibles. The use of different languages. It was Heaven crashing into earth.
A lot of Protestants don’t think of the first 1500 years of Church history as part of their story. They seem to think that the disciples wrote the Bible and then the Catholic church just worshiped idols and killed people for 15 centuries until Martin Luther and Calvin came along and the Church got back to Christianity.
I’m sorry to tell you this, Mr. Evangelical, but without Rome, you have no Christianity. You have no Bible. You have no theology. You have no story.
The Church today is severely splintered and fragmented, and that should break our hearts. But healing needs to start somewhere. That’s why I wanted to tell you about my experience. Because perhaps for a few of you, you can think about your relationship with the “other”, no matter who that might be. But most of the time, the “other” is exactly who has the most to offer us. And any loving movement towards the other is a movement towards healing, unity, and peace–all things we desperately need.
I have been blessed to be able to have known Sister Marie Protectrice de la Foi (or the AWESOME woman formerly known as Angelique Marcantel) for a few years.
Interacting with her several times from Tiger Awakening at Christ the King at LSU (oh sweet Jesus, those were amazing times!), Steubenville on the Bayou, and even glimpsing her in a crowd at World Youth Day at the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid, all before she entered the convent, I got to witness the true joy she has for Christ and his people.
She recently received her new name in Christ, and her habit. She is now a Novice Sister in the Sisters of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara.
My heart aches for her true joy and the love of her father. Aches. Beauty.
For more from the Investiture, go here.
Sister Marie Protectrice de la Foi (formerly Angelique Marcantel) embraces our father at the conclusion of the Mass where she and her fellow sisters received their habits for the first time.
I found out tonight that an epic priest of mythical measures passed away. Father James Keon, CSB, served as a faculty professor and priest at my university. Everybody on-campus knew who he was.
Every day he would eat lunch with students in the cafeteria, trying to meet everyone as possible. He could make guy bust into a laughing fit and bring out the sparkle in the eye of any girl. My memories of my frequent conversations with him over salad and pizza bring me so much joy. If he didn’t know your name, he’d give you a name and come up with the most wonderful, extravagant, outlandish stories about how you’ve met in the past. I met him while hot air ballooning across the States in a Great Balloon Race that I won.
So Fr. Keon, tell Jesus a good story for me. Make it a funny one about how you’ve met Him before, because I don’t think you ever forgot the the Good Lord’s name. It’s okay that you forgot my name, even though we had the same one.
Rest in peace, Father, you were truly a legend.
The video portrait was created by some good friends of mine, Cimela and Darnell. Please watch it and get a glance at the miracle that was Fr. Keon.
Father Keon (by cimela)
Please pray for Fr. Keon, this man was a great priest for Christ in my life.