Blessing received from World Youth Day 2016

10 August 2016

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His Love endures forever. (Ps 118:1)2016 World Youth Day has been a blessing for me! I have developed more deeply my relationship not only with God but also with young people whom I had so dearly encountered. I thank God for this pilgrimage - following “the footsteps of St. John Paul II” organized by the Archdiocese of Brisbane which Sr. Rosario and I were privileged to join with other young people from Brisbane, Rockhampton and Darwin for 22 days.
World Youth Day 2016
Warsaw and Czestochowa are the places where I was deeply impressed by the devotion of the Polish people. I was not just overwhelmed by the magnificent architectures of Basilicas but also by the heroic faith demonstrated by these people in their times of distress and suffering. I could reflect with greater understanding the sentence in St. James’ letter: “Consider it a great joy when trials of many kinds come upon you” (James 1:2) in these places. World Youth Day 2016The wonderful chances of visiting the uprising museum of Warsaw and contemplating on the Stations of the Cross in Czestochowa taught me about “the worth of faith proved in trial is more valuable than gold, which is perishable even if it has been tested by fire” (1Pr 1:7). In one of the talks of catechesis given by Bishop Timothy Dolan from New York at World Youth Day when he mentioned about the visitation of St. John Paul to Poland, he said the saint did not mention a single word of hate to the Nazis or did he ever encourage any uprising, but just simply talked about God and His Love. But then, it consequently made a great impact on the Polish people, who afterwards started a revolution, to stand up with words “we want God” repeated louder and louder. This question “Do I really want GOD who is the source of my strength to overcome tribulations, or be humble to step back in order to praise the Lord”? occurred in me as I was walking on bended knees around the altar in Jasna Gora Shrine, Czestochowa. This has been a significant lesson for me about the desire to live in true freedom, freely to love and forgive. Nonetheless, I could not have this experience deeply until the moment I walked through their steps in the concentration camp, Auschwitz.

World Youth Day 2016Auschwitz, I prepared myself quite well in mind physically and spiritually to enter the place where Death can be felt right at the gate and I could keep it until the last moment when I visited the gas chamber. I could smell the smell of Death, see the screaming faces of fearful victims painted on the rotten wall. At that very moment, I could not breathe any more when the innocent faces of who assumed to have a wonderful clean bath after a long period of improperly bathing but consequently became ashes in the gas chamber. My spirit was filled with trauma, my heart bled. I thought I could not stand any further. But then, a thought came to me after all: “is this also a warning for me, this cruel place?” Yes, I realized they, the Nazi, were human but they could think of some terrible things to destroy those whom they thought to be their stumbling block on the way. I myself, too, could think of other things else much crueler and harm to others if I allow myself to be trapped in hatred, greed and selfishness. When I cannot find love, I might become the second Nazi to my fellows. This really frightened me and I just could pray to God to keep me in His love even though I could do nothing good to others but yet just keep me in His Love so that I gradually learn to love and abandon World Youth Day 2016myself like Jesus, like St. Maximilian Kolbe. This trauma kept on remaining active in me for the rest of the day until the healing Mass, which was a great idea of our chaplains, inspired in me a wonderful reflection that God is our Unique Supreme Healer who could demolish the hatred, greed, selfishness in human’s heart and plant the seed of peace nourished by water of grace in humans’ heart. He is the One who can heal my external and internal wounds and bathe me in His Love so that I could love. I thank God for His Presence in my life and yet in this very moment, I could feel how precious and important it is to have Him in my life as I journey on the way of a consecrated person. 

After Auschwitz, the rest of time we spent at Kalwaria - the retreat center, Wadowice – the birthplace of St. John Paul the Great, the shrine of the Divine Mercy in Krakow. I felt I was surrounded by an atmosphere of sanctity and fraternal love. I could follow the footsteps of St. John Paul from birth to being “the Pope of the mountain” when I could pray together with my enthusiastic young fellows as we challenged ourselves to go on the adventure of discovering the huge mountain in Kalwaria, the place where I could gain for myself the experience of heaven by being immerged by the Gregorian chants of the Franciscan monks every morning at 6:00 am Mass.

Zdzieszowice was the place where my tears dropped when I had to depart to continue the journey, the tear of World Youth Day 2016attached love to the inhabitants of the lovely village and the tear of joy and praise to the Lord for His bountiful love shown among nations. In this peaceful village, I had a precious opportunity to live with a Polish family whose members taught me a great lesson of hospitality, simplicity and sincere love. I was mostly impressed on the day of culture when we could dance and praise the Lord with the parishioners of this village, and the day of community when we joined the annual pilgrimage on foot to the top of Mount of St. Anne, the center of the village. Moreover, we joined on foot to the Diocese of Opole with the young people from 34 countries who were also experiencing the day in the Diocese. These occasions were so amazing for me to throw myself with zeal of the youth in hospitable dancing, walking among thousands of young faithful of the Lord and adoring Him with them in songs, silence and veneration. I assume once again my youthful age and praise the Lord with energy and spirit. Words can describe neither my thankfulness to God nor the experience of being so much part and parcel of the irresistable and vibrant spirit of faith in the young pilgrims, yet I lift up my heart with gratitude to the Lord every time I am reminded of these moments.

World Youth Day 2016
The last destination of the journey was Krakow where millions of young people over the world gathered in one accord to praise the Lord and search for His Presence in their lives. It was so amazing for me to see so many religious and consecrated people in an occasion and an excellent experience for me to witness the love of the young people to our Pope as I was choked by them on the day when the Pope arrived. Nonetheless, I thank God for that great moment because I could see the love of people towards his Holiness. Thus, it was not the photo of the Pope in the internet but the delight and prayer for the Holy Father that I could gain. May God continue to make him His great instrument and example to His Church and to people all over the world.

There were moments of World Youth Day I could not forget. These moments led me closer to the young people, understanding them and loving them as my young brothers and sisters in Christ. We had gone through together many good memories during these short days. Though we were so tired, we could care for each other, think of each other’s World Youth Day 2016need, encourage each other, endure with each other, worry with each other, feel the pain of each other and rejoice with each other. The memories of mine with them almost went together with the rain. We danced together in the rain, shared raincoats and umbrellas, walking in the dark and singing the blessing songs of the Lord. The greatest of my memories was placed on the last days when we had the closing Mass. We walked miles and for hours to reach to the place and said the Divine Mercy Chaplet along the way. It was also a memorial moment for me to sit down with my young brothers and sisters in the glittery light of candles and tell stories after the Adoration and Song of Praise. After the closing Mass, we had to walk home tiredly and went through three turns of heavy rain which caused us to go through muddy road, be wet the whole body because of losing the raincoat. However, with me it was really a blessing for me to experience this and I want to treasure that moments with my brothers and sisters in World Youth Day. I once again reflect as St. James wrote in his letter: “consider it a great joy when trials of many kinds come upon you” (James 1:2). Though it is really hard to accept this, but it is really true that through trials we can gain for ourselves the experience of love and care that the Lord has revealed to us as His Grace. Through this walk through the rain, I could learn to care for my brothers and sisters, enjoy praising the Lord and learn not to complain in every situation. My heart was lifted up again with joy to thank the Lord for this experience. I really love that muddy way which has given me so much treasure which was not only the relationship with my dear young brothers and sisters but also the love to my Lord through caring for them. We had won victoriously together in this journey.

World Youth Day 2016

World Youth Day has a special place in my heart. I thank the Lord unceasingly for this blessing that He had bestowed on me. I wish to continue the journey with my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to share with them their joy and sorrow in daily life as the time never stops going on as I also share with them about me and my love to Christ, my Spouse. May God continue to accompany with us in our continuous journey and be the central source of our love to each other as we proclaim and share His Merciful Love to everyone we meet.


Sr. Teresa Francis Pham


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