High school senior reflects on World Youth Day Print
Written by MATTHEW KUBIAK, St. Francis de Sales High School   
Monday, 17 October 2011 04:00
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World Youth Day was a retreat that lasted from Aug. 12 to Aug. 23 that I will never forget. I went with 33 others from my youth group at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Temperance, Mich., and I can easily say that every person was changed in some way. The weather may have gotten us sweaty or drenched on some days, but it did not drive us away from our faith.

Matthew Kubiak, a senior at Toledo St. Francis de Sales High School attended World Youth Day with other youth from the Archdiocese of Detroit, including from left, Katie Vandergrift, Taylor Schaeffer, and Liz Sensing. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Kubiak)
Matthew Kubiak, a senior at Toledo St. Francis de Sales High School attended World Youth Day with other youth from the Archdiocese of Detroit, including from left, Katie Vandergrift, Taylor Schaeffer, and Liz Sensing. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Kubiak)

Although I was 4,000 miles away, I could not escape my school spirit. I took our “Rock with the Red and Rock with the Blue” cheer and turned it into a cheer for us to represent the USA, “Rock with the Red, White and Blue.” Many people stopped to listen to our cheer and some even joined in. St. Francis de Sales High School will always be a part of me!

The World Youth Day experience started off with a bang. The opening Mass collected all of the pilgrims together in prayer presided over by the Archbishop of Madrid. At this time, I was overwhelmed at how many people traveled to Madrid to celebrate their faith. After the Mass had ended, we headed to the venue for English speaking pilgrims. A Catholic folk band was awaiting us. We adored God while listening to their music.

Day two brought our faith even more into the forefront of our minds. We headed back to the English venue to listen to a religious sister and Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia, for catechesis.

The sister talked about how we should not hide behind others, but let our light shine. She went on saying that we shouldn’t hide behind our sins, but let the truth burn brightly. We should not abort the children, but let them see the light of the world.

Cardinal Pell called us to be true witnesses of Christ. He explained that we have the freedom to practice our religion and he encouraged us to do so. At the end of the day, we celebrated Mass with the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Detroit in a local church. Close to 200 people came to Spain from my diocese and we gathered together as one family to praise God. Each part of the Mass was spoken in Spanish and English for the locals and pilgrims.

Thursday proved to be a joyous day. We welcomed Pope Benedict XVI into the city. We waited all day on the corner of a block along with several hundred thousand people. We met other Americans from Florida, Texas and California during the seven hours we were waiting. After his ceremonious arrival, we regrouped and rested for the next day.

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We ventured out into the middle of Madrid for the Stations of the Cross on Friday. We stopped at each sculptured station that was open for viewing and marveled at its beauty. We found another place to wait for Pope Benedict and greeted him yet again. Later that night, we returned to the English venue for prayer. We listened to a new artist and praised God through song and prayer.

Saturday brought the vigil prayer service. We woke up very early to travel to the air force base for the service. We were not alone; two million pilgrims were also making their way to the event. After the hustle and bustle of arriving, we camped out for the day. At night, the real fun and celebration began. We welcomed Pope Benedict into the base and a symphony played that sounded like angels. With his arrival, everyone fell silent. Rain and wind tried to blow us away, but we stood our ground. We joined in adoration of the Eucharist with the pope. We did not want the last day to come, but it was lurking in the distance.

The last day of World Youth Day came with the sunrise. We celebrated Mass with Pope Benedict in the morning. Youth from every nation listened intently to his words and roared when he announced the next World Youth Day would occur in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

I took a lot home with me from this experience. I saw that the number of devoted Catholics is incredible. I have never seen so many people gathered in one area for one common purpose: to praise God. It was amazing that we all trusted each other because of our common faith. Also, my faith grew immensely. I no longer only see a statue of some man pinned up on a wooden cross, rather, I see Jesus Christ who suffered for me and each one of us so that we could all have eternal salvation. My prayer life was deepened and the communication between God and me was strengthened.

Matthew Kubiak is a senior at Toledo St. Francis de Sales High School.