The sun is shining. There's a breeze in the air. The closest person: two feet away. Personal space. Pollution-free air. I hear the shouts of people playing baseball in the field nearby. It's good to be home. Has it really been only two days since we arrived back the US?
This pilgrimage has seemingly come to an end, but really it's just the beginning. The purpose of a pilgrimage is to find light, meaning, and direction in life, to encounter Christ and to discover what He is asking. I have found that this pilgrimage is not the end of a two-week chapter of my life. Instead, it turns the page to begin a new chapter.
World Youth Day has revived my faith and has given me hope in the Church. Seeing the Pope and hearing him speak so personally encouraged me to be a radical apostle of my Catholic faith. In the great city of Toledo, I witnessed the cultural beauty of a world much older than ours. The cathedrals gave testimony to how man can give praise and honor to God.
Visiting the Carmelite convent in Avila and speaking with the two nuns shed light on the meaning of cloistered life and the beauty of a vocation entirely dedicated to God. Through Our Lady's message at Fatima, I found that peace and forgiveness are just as much needed in today's world as they were in the belligerent years of WWI and WWII.
We all miss Spain, the people, the culture, and the atmosphere. However, we are glad to be back! As Christ said, "To whom much is given, much is expected." There's no doubt about it that we have received much: two weeks of irreplaceable experiences in Spain and Portugal. Now that we are back, we can share this memorable pilgrimage with our families and friends.
As for me, I am glad to have had the opportunity to share my pilgrimage experience with you. I don't think that the last two weeks would be nearly as indelible without the challenges (and joys) of taking notes on everything the Holy Father said, asking for wifi wherever I went, looking for electrical outlets and taking more than 100 pictures a day. Writing this blog for WYD has helped each memory to last longer. As I said in my first blog, "the experience goes far beyond the words." However, maybe this blog has in some ways proved it wrong. I hope that it has given you a window into the experience of a young person at World Youth Day, the experience of a pilgrim. This pilgrimage doesn't end now. It's only a little part of our lifelong pilgrimage, through earth to heaven.