I was in the car with my boyfriend, Justin, heading towards our destination, and I bluntly asked if I could interview him about his World Youth Day trip. He was kind of hesitant. He questioned what it was for, and I told him it was for my essay, and sure enough, he said yes. He’s used to sharing his faith journey with others in our church, so it was something we were both comfortable talking about. A couple days later, I went over to his house and interviewed him in his garage. I decided to not interview him in the house because I knew that if I did, he would try to have his mom vouch for him, or his mom and siblings would try to interrupt. I didn’t want that. I just wanted to interview him and him alone. The garage was the perfect place to have the interview. It was quiet and relaxing. With a peaceful environment Justin was comfortable and ready to get started, but before I could ask him about his World Youth day trip, I wanted to know more about his relationship with God before he’d gone on the trip.
I began by asking him what his relationship was like with God, beginning with elementary up until high school. He explained that for the first two years, he was going to private school, but after that he went to public school. While he attended public school he took Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) class, also known as religious class, every Sunday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish. He explained that he was just going through the motions. He went to religious class because he had to go, not because he wanted to. But around fifth grade, he finally told his parents he didn’t want to go to religious education anymore. From then on, until high school, he didn’t want anything to do with church. Then, he explained, he started to have a relationship with God. He thought that God was there, but he wasn’t too sure. He would pray before a meal and during mass, but that was it. There wasn’t a deeper meaning to their relationship. Back then, he explained, he didn’t know what God’s love really meant.
After getting a bit of understanding of his childhood and his faith, I asked him to explain to me what World Youth Day was. I honestly didn’t know what it was. He replied:
“It was made up by Pope John Paul II, and he had a vision that the youth is the future of the church. The youth is very important because if we [the older generation] don’t take care of them [the younger generation], who’s going to take care of us and the church in the future? The older generations serve and serve so much, but sometimes they can’t be serving themselves too much. The older generation needs to pass down the traditions of the church to the younger generation. We’re going to have to learn to serve the youth because of course the youth is the future. We’re going to die when we get old, but if we have the youth then, the ways of the church won’t die. Catholic youth from all over the world got together; Catholics from the Philippines, China, or India, anywhere you can think of. They meet in one area and have mass together, fellowship with one another, and break bread with one another.”
Having a better understanding of what World Youth Day was, I wondered what he did during his trip. He explained:
“The trip was a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place to ask for heavenly aid, and ultimately get to know God better. The route for our journey was from Hawaii to Los Angeles, to Rome, Italy, to France, to Switzerland, and lastly to Cologne, Germany. We visited many churches throughout Europe. I got to spend time taking tours of the many tourist attractions, but we spent the most of our time in Cologne, Germany. We hiked 8 miles to a camping ground that consisted of over 1 million people from all around the world. We met people from Japan, China, Korea, Samoa, New Zealand, Africa, etc. We got to have mass together with Pope Benedict XVI [in 2005].”
He attended the 20th World Youth Day in 2005 (German: XX. Weltjugendtag Köln). It was a Catholic youth festival that started on August 16 and continued until August 21 in Cologne. It was the first World Youth Day (WYD) and foreign trip of Pope Benedict XVI, who joined the festival on August 18. This meeting was decided on by the previous pope, John Paul II, during the Toronto World Youth Day of 2002. The theme was “We have come to worship Him (from the Bible: Matthew 2:2)
I was in awe to hear that he had had the chance to travel to Italy. I told him that he was really blessed to have traveled in Europe and, of course, see the Pope. Hearing what he had experienced, I got a better grasp of why the WYD trip impacted him so much. I have heard before from Justin that the WYD trip was the turning point in his life. During his trip he got a chance to go into Vatican City in Italy, and as he was describing it, he seemed to be in such awe. He said, “It was magnificent. The art work in the Vatican and looking at the different sculptures and paintings — this is the catholic religion. I believe that was my turning point.” I asked, “Why?” He explained with a lot of passion:
“Going on this trip really changed my perspective in life. It wanted to do better and be better. Being a rebel you have that ‘I-don’t-care’ mentality, but going on this trip broadened my horizon in life. God opened up my eyes to what he has in store for me. I guess what really got me was thinking about where I want to go when I die. Do I want to go to heaven or hell? Of course I wanted to go to heaven, but in order for that to happen I needed to know Jesus.”
Justin continued to explain that in high school a lot of young guys liked to be rebels and do whatever they wanted and liked. Justin admitted that before attending the trip, he himself was sort of a rebel. I believe that it had to with his father being away. He admitted that his father being away for deployments in Afghanistan made him feel as if he was “boss.” He didn’t really listen to adults. Justin felt like he was better than them, and didn’t need them. They kept telling him how he was supposed to live, and how ignorant he was. During this phase he didn’t go to church that often. He only went during special occasions, such as Easter and Christmas, but he is a changed man now. The Justin that I know and love attends mass every Sunday and on all the different occasions because he wants to. He also serves during 5pm mass. He either distributes the body of Christ or the blood of Christ. When his father came back, he kept Justin in line, which caused Justin’s attitude towards adults to change. Justin no longer looks down upon them. He will give adults the upmost respect. Most of all he loves God. He puts God first, before family and even me.
I was in awe. I had heard from him when we were dating that he had had the chance to go to Italy, but I didn’t know that being in the Vatican was his turning point. I just didn’t know how he had been transformed by God. I also didn’t know his rebel phase had to do with his father being away, but now I see how he has changed. His heart changed. He found God and his love, and that changed his whole personality and lifestyle in many ways. I just wish that Justin could have mentioned the actual things that made him a rebel, so I could have a clearer understanding of how he really changed. He has mentioned to me before that he used to smoke weed and drink, but I guess he was holding back that type of information. I also wish that Justin went into more depth about why Pope John Paul II created World Youth Day other than his vision. Despite that, I still found out new and interesting things about Justin.
Written for Cara Chang’s ENG 200: Composition II