World Youth Day

The saintly madness of WYD pilgrims

They each went way out on limbs in order to get there

The saintly madness of WYD pilgrims

The World Youth Day was to be in Sydney. Ania knew that she just had to be there. She didn’t have a penny to her name, yet she made it. In a sense she bought her ticket with…trash.

The World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, or wandering across Tibet in search of meaning; this was Dominik’s choice. What happened was, he believes, miraculous. It completely transformed his life.

The World Youth Day in Kraków. Ola’s family home is only 60 kilometres away yet she herself lived over a thousand kilometres from here. Work or a pilgrimage? The choice was obvious and she made it.

ANIA’S STORY:

Ania: The year is 2008. I am on a plane; destination Australia. I am crying like a baby because I was actually living the biggest dream of my life! Well, nothing came about of itself; I sort of helped it.

Aleteia: Right. This was a tall order really. One of your parents was on the dole, and you were paying for college yourself. Did anyone know of your dream?

Everyone knew! (laughter) I bent over backwards thinking of how to raise the unimaginable money for the trip. I had a mere 100 zloty for a rainy day.

What did you spend it on?

This was my widow’s penny. I resorted to bribery. The word “contract” sounds better, though (laughter). I entered into a contract with Saint Anthony. I learned that this saint is a bit of a businessman: you give him cash and he asks for a hundred times more for you. So I promised to give him my last penny for the poor, if he would help me raise money for the airfare.

What was the first sign confirming that your collaboration really had taken off?

The first sign was a telephone call from a priest I knew, who offered money for the [savings] pool. This was a real incentive, especially since no one knew of my tacit agreement with Anthony. Later I was selling recyclables: used paper and scrap metal. And then, suddenly, I landed some lucrative jobs; these were the signs from God.

We can safely say, then, that you bought your plane ticket for the WYD for selling trash?

Precisely! I am not embarrassed at all! This was a time when I was extremely determined, a time of faith and the discovery of small miracles in everyday reality, the discovery of the good-naturedness of people. My family and friends chipped in to give me a birthday present and this was a nice experience of a larger community. Later on, I got an unexpected bonus from my boss and …

And step by step you made it: you actually landed on a far-off continent. Do you remember the first thought or emotion when your plane touched down in Australia?

I vividly remember that I was in tears all the time. I knew that my parents cried at home because they were happy for me. And I knew that St. Anthony is, on the contrary, in stiches because of my tears (laughter). This was a wonderful feeling!

dkessl

Anna Sosnowska

Anna Sosnowska is Editor-in-Chief of Aleteia's Polish language edition