After the entire plane rearranged so my family could be together, I sat down, exhaled, and finally let it sink in – I would be spending two weeks in Lebanon, visiting extended family for the first time, and one week in Poland, attending World Youth Day with two million people.
Thank you, Lord, for loving me this way
As with any good pilgrimage, both trips were filled with the tender graces of hardship and trials.
Within a few hours of being in Lebanon, we got stuck in an elevator, lost a suitcase, accidentally stole two suitcases, lost two phones, lost electricity, and momentarily lost a sister. It wasn’t until we reached my dad’s village that God reminded me of the reason for our travels. As my cousin came rushing out the door and embraced my dad with tears of joy, I understood with his gentle response of “See, I told you I’d come back.”
Two weeks later, I met my friend in Poland, and together we became true pilgrims through multiple housing arrangements and endless navigation. Although I was tired from the lack of stability, God again nudged my spirit and reminded me why I was there. During an evening concert, while the lyrics “We are here for You” echoed throughout the arena, I remembered.
With these graces, trials became fuel for a peace and joy that grew stronger with every repetition of St. JPII’s words, “Thank you, Lord, for loving me this way.”
Humanizing the Distant
Despite the flood of powerful experiences, God continually grounded me with simple and abundantly human moments.
He guided my eyes in Lebanon as I read thank you letters at the tomb of St. Charbel, watched a mother rocking her child in a Syrian refugee camp, and saw a little girl playing peek-a-boo in the Cedars of God. He brought forth rich encounters in Poland while I directed communion lines with Sr. Bethany Madonna, boarded an airplane with Bishop Robert Barron, and stood 25 feet away from Pope Francis at the corner of a coffee shop. Lives of the saints were brought into intimacy as I venerated relics of St. John Paul II, knelt before the bodies of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Therese of Liseux, and prayed in the Divine Mercy Chapel as St. Faustina did.
Each time, it was not the human significance of these experiences that struck me most, but rather the intensity of divine love radiating through the littleness of humanity.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, here, there, and everywhere
After being immersed in the life my parents grew up in and encountering people from all over the world, I found myself checking in on God’s deep whispers. I tried to understand the resiliency of His love by asking, “well what about over there, during that time, with these people, doing that, because of this? Are you still there? Are you still the same?”
On the last night of my trip, Jesus answered these questions. As I knelt before the Eucharist alongside people from 185 different countries, the gentle flicker of our candles shed light on the tender love of our God through trialing times, the humanness of things I once thought were distant, and the reminder I needed – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, here, there, and everywhere.