Reflection on World Youth Day 2013, Rio de Janeiro

by Savannah Simon Image

How was my World Youth Day trip? I came here with the intention of gaining tools, skills & guidance from the Holy Spirit to bring back to my people. In my biggest heart of hearts, I have a vision to help save my tribe. One by one. I want to take them from their darkness and show them the light. The light which has saved me in my own darkest moments.

I will be honest. In the beginning, I was very sad, hurt, angry and wanted to isolate myself as my uncle had passed away back home. This was my first time being away from family during the loss of a loved one. It was very difficult to be present. But after prayer, God told me to stick it out and am I ever glad that I did.

What I didn’t realize would happen on this trip, happened. The Holy Spirit, once again, has dug deep inside of me and kissed my soul with more goodness than I could ever dream of. I’ve done a lot of “firsts” on this trip. There’s always something so exciting about the first time you try anything. I’ll never forget the love, acceptance & support I felt with Team 3 when I shared my testimony for the first time. Sitting outside under God’s sunshine in the beautiful Lagoa park in Rio. Then sitting on the dock, having personal testimony writing & prayer time and this local Brazilian woman approaches me, asks what I’m doing and wants to hear my testimony. God sure doesn’t waste anytime with me! He has a good sense of humor because he knows how much I enjoy being productive and a pet peeve of mine is wasting time :P. Another first was learning how to evangelize (share the joy and love of our Faith to others). I feel extremely blessed to have done my first evangelization with 2 friends who are from my tribe. Sitting on Copacabana beach, spreading God’s love and connecting with random souls. That empowered me in my own faith, and empowered me in believing in making a huge difference in my own tribe when I return home. This is one memory I will never forget. One man we spoke to, named Miguel, shared a lot of his faith with us. I invited him to join us in adoration with the Italians at mass. He came. By our surprise, at the end of mass, he gave us each rosary bracelets with crosses. We were blown away. Once again, Jesus doesn’t waste time on giving blessings. “When you give God’s true love to others, you will receive more than you can imagine.” My heart was beaming huge at this point. Permanent smile =)

I felt a lot of holiness in the quiet catholic town of Aparecida. Visiting the beautiful cathedral on a daily was definitely one of my favourites. It excited me so much seeing thousands of Jesus lovers on a daily. How refreshing! I was blown away by how the Brazillians respect Jesus so much. Even the guards working at the Shrine would kneel down & make the sign of the cross when passing the alter. One person stuck out to me. As I was walking around the huge cathedral. I saw this guy in the corner crying during mass. (Mass happens every 2 hours daily there) So I scooped up under him to give him a huge warm hug. I always try to put myself in other people’s shoes. If that was me at that moment, I’d LOVE a huge hug. So I followed my heart & did just that. He smiled huge and was very grateful. I learned that he works for the cathedral as a video producer. What a blessing. Can you imagine? He works there daily, they have mass several times a day and he still sheds tears for Jesus and his Faith. How B E A U T I F U L.

ImageOur candle light vigil walk in Lorena city felt like a dream. Just short of 1,000 international youth glazing the city with candles and a huge Jesus boom box praising the good Lord! How fun!!! Seeing the locals poke their heads out the windows, smiling ear to ear and singing along. What a blessing that must have been to that city. Meanwhile, the world can be chaos and going through corruption, but here we are in this small town spreading God’s love and joy. Because after all, LOVE ALWAYS WINS!

Returning back to Rio, I deeply missed Aparecida & Lorena already. Those places felt extremely safe, holy and filled with positive vibes. But low and behold, God still had many surprises in store for me in Rio. Seeing Christ the Redeemer statue made me weak at the knees. I strongly felt Jesus’ presence there. I said many strong prayers for my friends and family back home.

Walking through the streets of Rio as the WYD events began, I saw millions of Imagebeautiful, joyful faces. The streets filled with song, dance, laughter and prayer. Sounds like a bit of Heaven wouldn’t you agree? Each day I’d walk through the streets gleaming in so much amazement. Lord, you’re too good! You created each and every one of these beautiful souls. You’ve given us a beautiful country of Brazil to host WYD, you’ve given us Pope Francis, a wonderful prayer group & given me the opportunity to share this experience with the world. You’re too great, Lord.

Through the fast pace craze of WYD (JMJ), it was more challenging to find that solo prayer time to connect with the Holy Spirit. And then, we had adoration with Papa Francisco (Pope Francis in Portuguese). I dropped to my knees praying to God, listening to Papa’s words of guidance, solidifying my new commitment to The Lord, tears strolling down my face pouring out from my soul. This moment was a follow up, from my confession with Fr.Dan in Lorena. My soul became completely pure. The Holy Spirit has purified me more than I could ever imagine. I see the world with new eyes. I will speak new words. I will give a different kind of love to the world.

I’ve never had a father all my life, the connection I now have with Papa Francisco is greater than I could ever imagine!! I feel like I have a Father now. His words guide my life. He reminds me so much of my favourite holy woman: Mother Teresa. I cried tears of joy when I would see his face in the morning. Not on TV, but right in front of me! Why me, Lord? Why am I so blessed? During adoration, I have made a promise to myself, to God and to Papa Francisco. I will not let him down. I respect Papa so much, as if he was my own papa.

ImageWith feelings of extreme joy, a new heart, so much ambition, new way of speaking, praying and living out my Faith- I will return home to Canada as a stronger, more open-to-share, prayer warrior. I have SO much more to share. In the wise words of our Papa, “Let yourself be loved by Christ. He’s a friend that will never let you down. In faith, hope and love.” When you walk with all trust in God, he doesn’t take anything good away, instead he gives you everything and more than you could ever imagine. Amen.

God Bless whoever reads this, as I know it could be a short novel. May your day be lifted with the grace of God. When you’re silent, you hear him. Let him speak to your heart. You are his gifted child. Don’t let your gifts go to waste. Hugs and kisses. Love you all. M’sit Nokemaq. (‘All my relations’ in Mi’kmaq language)

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