“The Church is Alive… The Church Is Young.” This is the cry of the crowd gathered in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil as they celebrate World Youth Day with Pope Francis. Roughly three million young and not so young people from allover the world cheered for the Church and for Christ. The Church is not really young if we are to look at the number of years since its institution. But it maintains its youthful spirit through its young members who jump, dance, sing and make joyful noises of praise and worship.

Fr. Ted, CRM and myself were privileged to attend the World Youth Day in Brazil as they accompany six young parishioners of Jesus Our Risen Savior in Spartanburg, SC along with others from the neighboring parish of St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville, SC and Charleston, SC. All forty-seven of us ventured on a journey that would change our lives forever. Smacked in the middle of the crowd, with people pushing their way in to get closer to the stage, we worshipped God in songs, and danced and cheered for God. I have never seen so many people in my life (apart from WYD in the Philippines). I have never heard so many different languages. But language wasn’t even a barrier for we all follow the same liturgy, the same Eucharist, the same Jesus Christ. Oh, did I mention that the food was great too?

One of the highlights of the pilgrimage is the Eucharistic celebration held at the hotel. (By the way, thank you hotel people for putting up with us.) It was intimate, sincere and solemn. The sharing of experiences and realizations proved that the spirit is moving… that the Church truly is alive. The Spirit did something to our delegation… we became one. We shared meals with each other. We shared stories. We all had fun. But most importantly, we grew together. This is simply a miniature image of the greater reality outside of our hotel. The Spirit is moving through the crowd of roughly three million young people. There, the Spirit is bringing us closer to one another and to God. There, the Oneness of the Holy Catholic Church unfolds right in front of our eyes. There, the Holiness and the Apostolicity of the Church becomes visible.

I’m sure i did not do justice in trying to tell you about our WYD experience. Forgive me. Honestly, it’s really difficult to explain and find the right words to describe it. All I know is that this has to be experienced by every person at least once in his or her lifetime.

We all went to Brazil as pilgrims and came back to the United States as missionaries.