The catalyst to crystallizing my experience of World Youth Day was Pope Francis' address at the Saturday evening Prayer Vigil. Now, my experience at this particular World Youth Day was unique. I was behind the scenes, behind a camera, backstage, in press centres and on press platforms, photographing and filming our daily stories at many different events through the week. This freedom allowed for me to be immersed in the cultural diversity of the true and diverse experience of World Youth Day.
A key experience to the entire World Youth Days was the unpredictability and improvisation that was needed every step of the way. I honestly loved that about World Youth Day - I loved that about my role with the Salt + Light team - each day was a new adventure and a new set of challenges. So when later in the week Pope Francis talked about a "paralysis" common to young people today I asked myself: what does this mean? What does HE mean? Could he really mean "paralysis"?
It is easy for us to wait for things until we are ready. It is easy to say, I won't do this or that until such things are in order. Or until so and so talks to me about this. It is easy to make your own efforts conditional on the success and the strengths of another. But these thoughts, are symptoms of that paralysis.
Now is the time to act, the Lord has given YOU particular gifts to begin, to serve him and to find joy and meaning. It is never too late to start over, it is never to late to let mercy find a way within your heart.
Take up the challenges before you, the things that make you feel weak. And say to the Lord, I trust in you. Our efforts don't need to be a long winded prayer, or several hours of reflection. It needs to be sincere, and it needs to come from you. Jesus looks upon our smallest littleness with great love. Trust in that love. And small things, will become great things!
I often looked at all the big cameras and lenses around me and thought, who am I to contribute anything? Who am I to offer any sort of experience beyond what people might experience elsewhere? But the reality was, the little I did, was far beyond anything we had done before. Everyday I uploaded a few hundred photos and several videos... and those videos and photos were seen by thousands. What was little to me, was of great worth to others.
At the Vigil, Pope Francis spoke about the ease in which we can live in another world. Where life is not difficult, where we think happiness is the haze of a life lived on sofa. Each step of each of day at World Youth Day Krakow, was one big step forward in me saying YES to trusting the Lord. Saying yes to the fact that life is full of challenges, but we are worse off to never face them.
True joy is not a gift that comes easy. We need to fight for it, and defend it. Not with words and positions, or debates and ideas. But with actions. With courageous choices, and with merciful trust. In others, in ourselves. Don't miss the opportunity given to you, "to make a mark", to change the world for the better. Because if you don't take the chances given to you to make a difference, someone else will.
These thoughts I write, are simply my interpretation and my experience of what Pope Francis said to the young people at the Saturday Vigil. I strongly encourage you to read it for yourself.
Especially a few paragraphs in. These are words we all need to hear – take courage, and be not afraid.
Photos: Chris Adamczyk/Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation