World Youth Day Panama
Pausing to receive and share the love of Christ
Jan. 24, 2019
World Youth Day has been a continual whirlwind of experiences. We have been constantly traveling around Panama City to meet new people and try to capture the story that is unfolding, stopping only to write down and share those stories, eat (sometimes), and sleep (not enough).
Yesterday, we joined other English-speaking pilgrims for the Fiat Festival at the Amador Convention Center. That day was another whirlwind, where I took pages of furious notes on my laptop and used dinner time for interviews and writing.
Having gotten so used to constantly doing something productive, it felt uncomfortable when the Adoration began and I realized there was nothing I could be doing in that moment – my laptop was too bright to keep open in the darkness (and it would have felt a little rude to Jesus to keep writing anyway), there was no one giving a talk that I needed to take notes on, and there was no one available for me to interview in that moment. I decided there was nothing else for me to do but to actually stop, kneel, and participate in the prayer.
It was a beautiful moment as Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley carried the large monstrance around the room, led by priests in a candlelit procession. As he made his way closer to where I was, I could feel myself getting more and more excited. After many hours of listening to speakers discuss God's love for each of us and the care with which He has crafted a unique plan for our lives, it was an intimate moment to see that same God present, right in front of us, and to let ourselves pause to feel that love.
While World Youth Day is an extreme version of a busy schedule, my experience of initially feeling uncomfortable with pausing my work isn't something that I have only experienced here. Life at home in Washington can also feel crazy, and it can be difficult to convince myself to step away from my to-do lists and dedicate time to just be with Christ in the Eucharist.
But I am starting to understand why after the last World Youth Day, when I asked people how their experience was, they tended to tell me that they were still processing it, even weeks or months later. When we are constantly moving, we don't have time to stop and process what we are experiencing, or to bring those experiences to prayer. I know after this week is over, I am going to need a lot of time to revisit some of my own thoughts and feelings that I have pushed to the side in order to keep moving.
If we want to truly listen to how God is speaking to us through these experiences, not only at World Youth Day, but also in our daily lives at home, we need to make time to stop and actually talk to him. If we want to continue to grow in our spiritual lives, we need this time of reflection to acknowledge where we are falling short, and how we are called to grow – otherwise we will keep spinning our wheels and not going anywhere. Or, as Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron explained last night, we will continue "fooling around in the shallows" and neglect to venture out into deeper waters.
After I allow myself to pause and receive the love of Christ, I hope also to see something similar to what Cardinal O'Malley must have seen as he carried the monstrance around the room. From his vantage point, as he literally brought Jesus to the pilgrims, it must have been inspiring to see the faces of all of those people in fervent prayer, looking up at Christ in the Eucharist. In the moment, I found myself being slightly envious of that position, and wishing I could see what he saw.
Then it dawned on me – maybe I couldn't see that exact view, but I am also called to bring Christ to others through my words and actions. If I stop and listen to what God is calling me to do, I can discover exactly what that looks like for my life, and hopefully, eventually, I can see firsthand the joy that others around me feel when they, too, encounter Christ.