I came down to Krakow for World Youth Day to see what the fuss was all about. Immediately I hit huge mobs of people – both those young and those young at heart. As I walked around the City Square, I saw groups waving flags, cheering, and spontaneously breaking out into song. They needed not drugs nor alcohol to leave behind their inhibitions, but rather companionship and a common purpose and identity.
Beyond the city center, things were calmer. However public transportation all over the city was completely jammed, the city had been warning. Even if I managed to snag an empty tram, by the next station massive singing and dancing groups boarded.
Accordingly, many Krakowians had left for vacation in order to avoid the madness. In their places – and sometimes in their apartments – came the pilgrims!
World Youth Day (In Polish: Światowe Dni Młodzieży) is a gathering geared toward young Christians, for their enjoyment as well as religious reflection. Even so, it’s an extraordinary event for the layperson as well due to the enthusiasm and energy of participants from over 187 countries.
Pilgrims came from as far as Australia, Brazil, and South Africa. While some arrived in substantial groups, there were others whose entire families had saved up so that one of them would be able to attend. Overall, they were animated, open-minded, and satisfied with the rewarding adventure that they had undertaken.
To find out exactly what people thought about World Youth Day, my friend and I ambushed the festivities. We talked with the revelers in order to ask their opinions of the event, why they had come, what they enjoyed, and of course…to get some high fives!
The main attractions for the week were the events over which the Pope presided.
Pope Francis came to the Papal Window (In Polish: Okno Papieskie) on Franciszkańska Street, in a tradition started by Pope John Paul (Jan Pawel) II during the first World Youth Day in 1985, to speak to the gathered masses. Though Pope John Paul had spoken for extended lengths of time, this time the talks were more concise.
On the second day during which he spoke at the window, the Pope spoke to the married couples in the audience. He shared with everyone the three most important words for a successful marriage, and in my eyes, to any lasting relationship with friends and family.
Those words were:
- Permission – Check that your partner is okay with what you want to do.
- Thanks – Show your partner you’re grateful, either for something they did or for always being with you.
- Forgiveness – If you wronged them, ask for forgiveness. If they wronged you, forgive them.
Stations of the Cross on Błonia
Błonia is a gigantic grassy field just outside of the city on which over 1 million pilgrims gathered to greet the Pope during the opening ceremony on the first day. Citizens of 187 countries cheered as their representative flags made their way across the stage.
The next day was relatively subdued, as were guided through the Stations of the Cross, an event which remembers and honors the final day of Jesus. Each station was accompanied with a short yet majestic performance with musical accompaniment. This was the first Stations of the Cross I’d ever experienced, however I was pleased that a lesson was tied into each station.
For example, during one station, the question of righteous treatment of prisoners was explored. In short it was said that prisoners – those behind bars as well as prisoners of addiction to drugs, to games, consumed with lust or any other vice – share the same human and divine qualities as us. Each of the lessons were ones which could be applied to our own lives.
It was incredible to see the city which I’d visited so many times contain this amount of people and energy. World Youth Day was an amazing experience. Luckily, it’s not a once in a lifetime event! Panama 2019!