Blazing Trails of Joy

“My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, of the eternal ‘more.’” Pope Francis said on a sweltering field outside Krakow, Poland in July. “Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths.”

Thirteen members of the Gannon Family, including nine students, put on their walking shoes and joined nearly 2 million pilgrims in that field, called Campus Misericordiae, for World Youth Day 2016.

Peter Conley, a junior mathematics major from Grove City, Pennsylvania, was one of them. “It was a rejuvenation of faith for me,” he said. “It was God telling me, ‘This is what is true.’” 

“Being amazed by what I was seeing brought into light how important my faith is. Being able to participate in it gave me a chance to re-examine my faith and to experience it it hands-on, away from the day-to-day detachment that can sometimes happen.”

There was little room for detachment on the nearly two-week journey that began with a Mass in Erie and took the group to sacred sites in Lisieux, France and Paris before reaching the immense gathering in Krakow.

The size of the event was impossible to discount, but Waylon Duncan, a junior philosophy major and seminarian, found unanimity in it, too. “Catholic means universal, and [World Youth Day is] the universal church gathered in one place- people of different countries, languages, backgrounds and cultures gathered to receive teachings (catechesis) from the pope.”

Among the teachings at the vigil and Mass, delivered in his deeply personal and compelling manner, Pope Francis urged the pilgrims at Campus Misericordiae “To take the path of the ‘craziness’ of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbors who feel abandoned. To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy.”

Just like the 13 members of the Gannon Family did this summer.