WYD: Experiencing the church as a worldwide family

By Emma Luigard
One in a series

LOURDES, France — It has been five days since we arrived in Lisbon. Since then we’ve visited Fatima, Santiago de Compostela and Burgos, spanning a total of two countries and are in transit to visit our third, France.

In each city we’ve encounter multiple groups of other pilgrims from a wide range of countries. So far we’ve met pilgrims from Australia, Korea, Lebanon, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Poland and other groups from the U.S.A. Every encounter begins with face-splitting grins and frantic waves from both sides, followed by the signature question, “Where are you from?” Pictures are then taken and items exchanged — in one case a Canadian flag pin for a U.S.A. flag. The groups then part ways, but not with “good-bye” but with an enthusiastic “see you next week!” The easy ways between fellow pilgrims is a wonderful display of the church as family around the world.

On Friday we went to Mass, and a group of Polish scouts was also in attendance. The Mass was celebrated in Latin, Spanish and Polish. During the Latin parts of the Mass it was incredible to see everyone singing in unison because Latin is a universal part of Mass. However, what was even more incredible was watching the Polish scout sitting in front of me participate in the Spanish parts of the Mass, not just the Polish parts. But then I realized he wasn’t much different from me. I speak primarily English and bits of Spanish, but I’m traveling with a group of primarily Spanish speakers who only speak English to make sure I’m not left out. Just seeing him in a similar position as myself made me realize that even though we may not understand each other’s spoken language we do understand each other’s faith, and that is what brings us together — our love for God.

Emma Luigard, 16, will be a senior at Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Md. The member of St. Bernadette Parish, traveling with St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, said she is “excited for World Youth Day because it will be full of cultural and religious experiences.”

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