World Youth Day 2016: A Lesson in Trust

In the aftermath of World Youth Day 2016, we realized that we had learned a very staggering lesson from Our Lord.  

Again.    

You see, that’s how God is with us — repetitive. He knows that we need repetitive lessons, repetitive discipline, repetitive mercy, repetitive love. I believe this is one reason why there are only four gospels that highlight the most important aspects of Christ’s life on earth, so that we may hear these passages during the Mass, again and again and again. This year, for us and for our kids, World Youth Day was all about trust, particularly in the direct aftermath of two terrorist attacks (and many previous), and countless threats to the Pope. Trust, of course — in the days before two of our children departed for this massive event — was difficult to say the least.  

Just over a week before our adult son (chaperone) and teenage daughter, both pilgrims, headed to Poland with over 30 other pilgrims and chaperones, Patrick Madrid brought up on his radio show what no one wanted to hear, suggesting that the Vatican consider canceling World Youth Day. With all good intentions, and especially to spark debate on the show, Patrick took the hard stance that the Church may be better off canceling the event for fear of placing two million+ youth into the near danger of terrorism. For our family, this was particularly hard. My husband and I had spent the past twenty-some years performing background checks for school districts, prudently insuring the safety of children. We understand prudence. However, after spending 16 months praying, preparing, fundraising and packing for the amazing pilgrimage before them, you don’t just suddenly pull the WYD plug on your kids.   

The Vatican didn’t think this was a good idea either.  

At home, the conversation was frank: “Okay, guys, the possibility of a terrorist attack is real. It’s better to know that going in and to be prudent and prepared. What’s the worst that can happen? Martyrdom. What better place to be martyred than at World Youth Day? With two million+ pilgrims, what are the actual chances it will be you? Be smart. Don’t walk in the middle of the street. And we all must agree, help others and keep the eyes in the back of your head wide open.”  

Inside, I was still frightened, at least a little. But, we knew that no matter what might happen, God would make the best of it. We knew we had to trust.

The next Saturday night, our family attended Mass since we would be saying goodbye the following  morning to our kids. First reading, Abraham’s lament to the Lord:  

What if there are five less than fifty innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?" He answered, "I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there." But Abraham persisted, saying "What if only forty are found there?" He replied, "I will forbear doing it for the sake of the forty." 

Bam! This is my favorite reading for prayer! My go-to scripture passage when begging the Lord for mercy and protection upon our world, especially with regards to terrorist activity! My eyes and ears perked up, and my heart raced. God was speaking to me and He got my attention. Next, the psalm reading:    

R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
Though I walk amid distress, you preserve me;
against the anger of my enemies you raise your hand.

Wait, what was that, Lord? “Though I walk amid distress, you preserve me; against the anger of my enemies you raise your hand.”

“… against the anger of my enemies you raise your hand.”

My eyes widened, and I shook my head, right there in Mass. Lord God, you are so good to me! You speak directly to me! You promise to protect our children from terrorists!

When the gospel reading began, and as if I didn’t have enough to go on, God floored me.  

And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 

The ultimate teaching on persistence in prayer . . . .  From that moment on, I smiled. I couldn’t stop smiling. I knew all of World Youth Day would be protected, and my nerves never even flinched in the days to come. When the thirty-some pilgrims finally arrived safely home on August 2, 2016, my heart was overjoyed to see so many changed and filled with God’s love, joy and mercy. I wanted to shout to the world all we had experienced about trust, of the enormous effects God’s love has upon our youth, and of God’s great hand of protection over this phenomenal event.  

Next up, Part II: World Youth Day, was it worth it?

April Yeager