Getting to the July 29 World Youth Day Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis is no easy trek for this pilgrim
On Friday I represented the Archdiocese of Seattle at Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis. I'd like to say it all went smoothly and that I had a magical experience the whole way through, but it took more work than that would imply.
After an early afternoon Mass, our group leader, Caitlin Lanigan, and I tried to get a taxi to Blonia Park before 4:30 p.m., but the streets are packed almost 24/7 with pilgrims, and taxis are scarce because of it. We ended up half jogging a mile or two in order to get to the field in time.
By the time we arrived, I thought that it could only be smooth sailing from there on out, but that was just the beginning. Blonia Park is a massive field that has been exposed to a lot of rain and foot traffic, so it is currently a hazard to walk on the main pathways. We were still jogging when we finally arrived at Sector 01.
I said goodbye to Caitlin and asked a volunteer where I needed to go. "On the other side of Blonia," was the response. By the time I got to the final checkpoint, my legs were covered in dried mud. I met a pilgrim from New York who was in the same boat as I was, and we agreed that this trek was a great metaphor relating to our faith journey. We'll slip and slide and get muddy. But we'll keep going no matter the hardships because we know that it's all worthy of our toil.
I admit I was complaining a fair amount to myself but I refused to give up on my mission. I've been seeing that same attitude in the pilgrims I've met from all over the world. I eventually got to my sector and was right near the stage, just to the right. I had finally made it home. On the way back to my hotel, the people running by me all wanted to give high-fives and ask me where I was from. We traded souvenirs from our homes and wished each other well.
The people who impacted me the most were those who traveled from Middle Eastern countries. I traded a little apple trinket for a bracelet from a Lebanese pilgrim who said apples are grown over there in large quantities as well! We immediately had two things in common: Love of the Lord and hometowns that grow delicious fruit.
This is the reason I'm here; to witness the love and community of our faith.