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Closing Reflection from World Youth Day

I'm showered, my bags are unpacked, and all of my dirty clothes are in the laundry.  The pilgrimage is over, but the mission has just begun.

The Holy Father's final words on Sunday were: 1) Go, 2) Do Not Be Afraid, and 3) Serve.  This is the mission from the theme to the entire week, "Go and Make Disciples of All Nations."  I feel more prepared to do this than any other time in my life.  I also feel more compelled.  There were a few things that happened this week that opened my eyes to the other side, if you will.  On Saturday after we got to the secure line of armed guards at the end of the beach, we saw about 7 to 10 people who were protesting the Church, Brazil, and the Pope.  They are upset about women priests, the perspective on gay marriage, and other things.  What baffles my mind is that they aren't Catholic, and don't want to be - so why the protest?  But anyway - it brought to mind the fact that so many people truly have no idea why the Church teaches the things they do.  One of the reasons I think that this is has to do with the lack of information and knowledge that Catholics have about the Church.  Also a lack of desire to share their faith with others.  On Saturday at the bus station, one of our group members was standing talking to some Jehovah's Witnesses before we got onto our bus.  Why were they there?  What purpose do they believe they have to make a stance at a Catholic event (now to be far the bus stations weren't an actual event - but the majority of the people coming through were attending World Youth Day.

Anyway - back to sharing about my experience.  I think the last thing I wrote about was Thursday seeing Pope Francis, which was amazing!

On Friday, we had catechesis again in the morning, then we ate lunch at McDonald's (they took our meal card and had some great 2x1 specials!) before heading down to the beach for the Stations of the Cross.  We were kind of far back, but we could see one of the jumbo screens and along with my super handy radio I was able to participate the entire time.

seriously the three most valuable items I packed:
Radio, iPhone Charger, & Headphones
We got back from the beach much quicker than on Tuesday evening with our special angels - our host family's daughter and three of her friends who all spoke English were with us.  They were better able to find the buses we wanted and navigate through the city since they know it.  Lorena's dad lives about 2 blocks from the beach so she's very familiar.

We went to our host family's house for pizza that night afterward and had a blast!

Saturday morning we ventured to our Catechesis site once more for a morning Mass before heading to Rio Centro to begin the 9km Pilgrimage to Copacabana.  It wasn't actually that far, but with backpacks, 1.5 million of our closest friends, and 35 minute bathroom and food gathering breaks, it took us until dark to get to the beach.

As we walked we prayed and sang offerings for the many intentions we had for the journey.  All in all it was a beautiful journey.

Then we had to find a spot to set up camp.  We walked onto the beach about 1km from the stage and then walked at least 1.5 or 2km along the water until we found a spot - literally at the very end right next to the wall of armed Brazilian military police.  They made us go to the other side of the line where there was more room and we were able to be closer to the road (instead of the water) and we set up camp.

We are literally at the end of this big group of people!  The tent at the bottom left hand side is about 500 yards from the stage.  And the building at the very back where it juts out into the sea is the end of the beach - 4km in length.

I was able to sleep a little after I had one final bathroom run - I learned that porta potties and 3 million people aren't the most pleasant situation - and using my handy emergency foil blanket to keep warm.  I was out until the sun came up.  I've never slept on the beach before and it was an interesting experience - you'd think sand would be pretty comfortable, but it was really just an opportunity to offer up some prayers for the poor soul's in purgatory.  I'd do it all over again, though!

Our view during Mass on Sunday
Sunday morning was the Mass with the Holy Father, which was beautiful.  Although we were only able to listen as we were too far back to see one of the jumbo screens.  A few of us were stuck on the other side of the street when we went to go to the restroom so we got to see him roll on by again.  After Mass we hung out on the beach for a little while to let the crowds settle before jumping on a bus about 2 or 3 km down the way.  Then the trek to get our stuff began and 4.5 hours later we were finally situated in the hotel.

For dinner, Giuliana, her mom, and three friends brought us pizza (delicious) for dinner and we all hung out one last time in the lobby before heading off to bed.  It was so nice to have an actual mattress one night!  Although we were extremely blessed with a host family (the girls) for the week -  meaning we got a hot shower every day, extra food every night and morning, and a special tour guide - we were still on the floor, okay, but not a bed.  I enjoyed every moment of sleep on Sunday night.

Monday morning was laid back - we had a chance to eat at an actual Brazilian restaurant and shop at Barra Shopping, which was across the street from our hotel.  I found a super cute skirt and some earrings to remember the trip by.  Then we headed to the airport at 3 for our flights and made it just in time for the first flight to leave.

Now all are safe and sound in North Carolina - most of them home with their families by now, I'm sure relaxing.  We had a family who came and met us all at the airport this morning - I had an especially great time with this little girl - she wanted to come home with me and leave her mom for a few days!

A few other random thoughts coming at you later this week on Friday with Quick Takes.  For now, off to rest a little bit so I'm ready for work tomorrow!


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