I’ve been home from our World Youth Day pilgrimage for about 2 weeks now and am (mostly) caught up on sleep and back to our regular routine. I’ve also had some time to ponder my WYD experience plus the highs and lows of this pilgrimage of life.
Before leaving overseas, I listened to Switchfoot’s new album on repeat and a line of one song hit me hard. In “Heavy and Light”, Jon Foreman sings, “On my pilgrimage, I’m traveling light with the heavy heart. On my pilgrimage, I’m traveling light and heavy.”
That lyric was stuck in my head during our entire pilgrimage and I’ve realized it reflects my experience with both World Youth Days I’ve attended. Let me explain…
I went to WYD in Rio de Janeiro back in 2013. At that point, Jason and I had been struggling with infertility for about 5 years. I’d just had surgery a month prior to the trip which did a major endometriosis clean up and I had no idea what the future held in terms of being able to have children. I was holding on to hope but deep down, tried not to get those hopes too high since I’d already been disappointed over and over again. During that pilgrimage, I insist that mama Mary was stalking me (another story for another day) and by the end of our journey, I’d found incredible peace in God’s plan and will for my life, whatever that might be and according to His perfect timing. It was a huge turning point for me and I felt like most of that heavy weight on my shoulders had been lifted. Then sure enough, we were able to conceive our sweet Clare right when we returned home and went on to have no problem getting pregnant with Catherine. I’d gone to Rio with a heavy and uncertain heart but God made it light and revealed his beautiful plan with our long awaited children.
Fast forward to 2016 and our recent WYD pilgrimage to Krakow. I went into our travels with a heavy heart once again. My grandmother (the only living grandparent on my side of the family) was seemingly in her last days when we departed. Thankfully we were able to visit her before leaving and say what we thought could be our last goodbyes. Traveling overseas, knowing that your family, especially your mother, is going through such a difficult time, is tough. I honestly had a feeling that she would pass away while we were gone and sure enough, while at the airport in Rome heading to our next leg of the trip in Prague, I got the dreaded news.
Talk about a heavy heart. I shed some tears right away and got hugs and comfort from my husband, but I had my hands so full with the girls that it was hard to fully enter into the fresh grief and mourning. I only told a few people in our group and just wanted to keep the sorrow private and not make it into a huge ordeal.
While I hated being away from my family, being on pilgrimage was a pretty great second best place to be and truly helped lighten my heart. I was able to pray at countless holy sites and plus, it being the Year of Mercy and visiting the city that promulgated so much of Christ’s divine mercy was ideal for the tough situation. So while my World Youth Day experiences have certainly been fun and exciting, they’ve also been met with a heavy heart along the way. Thankfully, we have a Lord who promises to ease our burdens, carry our yoke, and turn our heavy hearts light on this pilgrimage that we call life.