Today, pilgrims are joining the Holy Father for a World Youth Day vigil in Madrid, Spain. Last night, they experienced the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, and tomorrow, World Youth Day 2011 will culminate with the closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI in Cuatro Vientos.
Jesuit Father Jack Bentz sat down with some Magis pilgrims to talk about their experiences at World Youth Day 2011 in this video.
“We have finally arrived,” he wrote on Aug. 16. “After three years of anticipation since the last World Youth Day, hundreds of thousands of Catholic young people have descended upon Madrid for the festivities surrounding World Youth Day, which officially starts this evening with an opening Mass in the heart of downtown Madrid.”
Before arriving in Madrid, Rossmann participated in the Jesuit-sponsored program Magis, where nearly 3,000 young people from Jesuit universities and parishes from around the world were sent out in groups to participate in service projects or walking pilgrimages.
Rossmann spent a week with 26 other pilgrims living and working with African immigrants who labor in agriculture on the southern coast of Spain.
“This is the first trip to Europe for many of the students I am accompanying and is certainly the most intimate encounter with people from other countries,” he wrote. “While speaking different languages at times hindered communication, boundaries quickly broke down in sharing the common difficulty of trying to fall asleep while sharing a gym floor with snorers who were heard by all people, no matter the native tongue.”
Rossmann continued, “On a deeper level, many expressed the significance of what it meant to be a part of something much larger than themselves, as was evident in sharing the same faith and holding the same convictions, whether praying to God, Dios, or Dieu.”
Read more of Rossmann’s reflections at the Huffington Post. Below, you can view Rossman’s video with pilgrims he chaperoned to the southern coastal town of Roquetas de Mar in Spain to work with the elderly.
Jesuit Sam Sawyer is wrapping up a full week and a half of chaperoning a group of students from Loyola University Maryland during their trip to Spain for Magis 2011.
Sawyer is in the Regency period of his Jesuit formation, which is a time when Jesuits work for two or three years in a Jesuit school or other approved ministry while also living in a Jesuit community.
Sawyer’s group of seven pilgrims joined up with others from Slovakia, Romania and Nigeria hiking from Verdú, where Jesuit Saint Peter Claver was born and then following in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius’ journey towards Montserrat and Manresa. Traveling 68 miles in six days, the group hiked for 12 hours a day and also found a few opportunities to share pictures and to journal during their experience in their blog “Bringing Loyola to Loyola.”
On their blog, the students have shared their reflections on being pilgrims at Magis. Brendan Fulmer wrote that he was “Humbled. That is one of the first words that pops into my head. I am humbled over this experience. After hiking for hours, a 4 hour bus ride is like heaven. After sleeping on a rock-hard…well rock, a wooden floor to sleep on is too good to be true. My point is that I embrace and give thanks to the life God has graced me with. God is everywhere we just have to notice him…Embrace the little joys of life; do not take them for granted. Don’t complain; offer it up for someone or even as worship to God. Give thanks and rejoice.”
The Magis pilgrims usually bring along little trinkets and gifts to share with their fellow pilgrims during their travels. Kate Velcamp bought green rubber bracelets inscribed with the words “F.R.O.G.” and “Fully Rely On God” on the other in gold letters.
She shared in a blog post that, “This is how I have lived my life for the past few months at Loyola. I know that God has a plan for me and that there are is a reason why certain things happen. This is why I loved the bracelets so much. I know God is in my heart and by listening to my heart I can get to where God wants me to be to continue his plan. It took me until our last day of pilgrimage to realize how perfect the bracelets turned out to be…That’s when it hit me. Our whole group had gotten through this pilgrimage because of our love of God and the belief that God was there for us. God was with us for all 115 kilometers. We all believed that there was something great coming our way by completing the pilgrimage. Like Ignatius, we left our land and our comfort, changed our habits and learned to accept the unexpected. And we did it by accepting that we were being led by God. God was in all our our hearts, pushing us, making sure that we get to our goal safely. It was God that helped us take that first step, and then the next, and before we knew it we were in Manresa.”
While the Loyola University Maryland pilgrims were traveling to Manresa, 265 miles to the north, in Puente La Reina, a group from Marquette University was taking a break from their own pilgrimage to Javier, the birthplace of Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier.
In this video, Magis pilgrims John and Patricia discuss what they’ve been doing on their pilgrimage and how they are looking forward to what World Youth Day has in store.
After hiking centuries-old pilgrim routes, volunteering to assist in infirmaries, discussing inter-religious issues with Muslims and visit the sites where the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola, experience a religious conversion, the 3,000 Magis pilgrims will gather with the hundreds of thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims as they arrive in Madrid to begin almost a week of festivities and activities.
Marquette University student Emma Scuglik has been taking us along on her travels and shared this video with us as she packed for her three-weeks in Spain. As Emma shared in her previous video, packing space is tight in the pilgrims’ backpacks but she made room for a very special item to go with her during her travels.
Boston College junior Kimmi Vo, like most of the Magis 2011 pilgrims, wasn’t sure what was in store for her when she signed up to attend the Magis program this summer in Spain. During her tweets from @MarylandJesuits, Vo writes, “First hike ever. 97 mi trek to Javier tomorrow! This week should be interesting.”
Vo is joining other pilgrims on a week long journey from the birthplace of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Azpeitia, across the rugged terrain of the Basque countryside to Javier, where another Jesuit saint and a first companion of St. Ignatius, Xavier, was born.
On the first day of her trek, Vo tweeted, “Just completed 15km of hiking for the first day of our pilgrimage. Brutal to say the least but thankful we all made it!” After hiking an additional 12 miles the next day, Vo tweeted, “Pain and suffering! Haha, no seriously, I’ve never been more sore. But when else will I ever be able to do this?”
During her hike, Vo shared this image from Twitter, above, of the scenery during her pilgrimage.