Jesus, the Reason for World Youth Day

"On the plane, I attempted to look past all of the excitement and realize why I was on this journey.  Why did I come? What did I expect to gain from this pilgrimage? Was I spiritually prepared?"

By Justin Hall

Published in The Compass, March 30, 2009, vol. 4, issue 6.
Photo: Justin is in the second row from the bottom, in the center.

My experience at WYD Sydney 2008 is very hard to describe in words, but it was indeed amazing to say the least. It hadn’t been long since I entered the Catholic Church that past Easter Vigil, which was the greatest decision I had made. So there I was, a relatively new Catholic, on the plane heading to Australia! Before then, I had not EVER been out of the country, except for a little trip over to Canada from time to time. This was extremely exciting for me, and I was thrilled. But on the plane, I attempted to look past all of the excitement and realize why I was on this journey. 

Why did I come? What did I expect to gain from this pilgrimage? Was I spiritually prepared?

            As I thought about it more and more, I knew I had come not to go sightseeing or just to have fun, but to encounter Christ in a new way. Hundreds of thousands of people were all gathering in one place…for one reason…Jesus! We were coming to deepen our knowledge, spirituality, and faith in the Catholic Church. The thought excited me. I did not know what to expect, although I had seen pictures and video clips from previous World Youth Days.

We first went to Melbourne, Australia for Days in the Diocese, which was a great experience and spiritual preparation for WYD in Sydney. Each morning we would have morning prayer, Mass, and catechesis. Then we would head to different events and do some sightseeing, concluding the day with evening prayer. Many wonderful memories come to mind when thinking about Melbourne. From summiting to the top of Eureka Tower (tallest building in the southern hemisphere), to learning how to play Australian football (footy). What an extraordinary place, and what kind people. They will be missed!

            When we arrived in Sydney, we began to feel the atmosphere change. There were many more Catholic youth walking the streets now, and we could see them arriving by the multitudes. This is when I personally began to realize how “universal” the Catholic Church really was. 

We spent our days in Sydney doing roughly the same schedule as Melbourne, but with much more events to choose from. I was blessed enough to attend a chastity talk given by Jason and Crystalina Evert, and even had the chance to meet them afterwards. Despite the large amounts of people swarming him, Jason still took time to talk with me for a few moments and even asked me questions, ultimately taking a photo with my girlfriend Jessica and I.

Afterwards, I also was able to attend a talk given by Christopher West, who is well known for his continuing work with John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”. Those were two major highlights of my WYD experience, I must say. Yet, I can’t describe the emotions I was feeling at the candlelight vigil, the evening before mass with the Pope. It was so peaceful and so wonderful to pray with Pope Benedict XVI, the actual Vicar of Christ.

But sadness began to set in after the Sunday morning mass, knowing my pilgrimage was coming to an end. But when Pope Benedict announced the next WYD was in Madrid, Spain in 2011, it gave me something to look forward to. Lord willing, I will DEFINITELY be in Madrid for the next WYD and I recommend it to anyone who wants to better unite themselves with Jesus and His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

Justin Hall

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