Tibor Nagy and Alex Rock of Delaware share their experience and awe at over 2 million young Catholics coming together to worship, pray, and make merry.
As World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, is in the rear-view mirror and all the pilgrims have made their way home, two young men are reflecting on the uniquely Catholic event. Tibor Nagy and Alex Rock are two young adult parishioners at St. Patrick’s in Wilmington, Delaware, who attended the week-long Catholic youth festival, and now they’re sharing their experience on The Dialog.
Tibor and Alex were at WYD from Sunday July 30 straight through until August 7, so they got to experience every day of the festivities. The first thing the pair remarked upon was the massive crowd of 2 million young people descending on Lisbon from all over the world. With so many Catholics in one place, Alex and Tibor said they couldn’t turn a corner without seeing a church packed with young Catholics for Mass, or crowded around a stage to hear bishops speak.
They said that some of the best times they had at WYD came through their encounters with pilgrims from various countries. They recalled how cheerful a group of Polish pilgrims were as they waited to pass through the basilica at Fatima, singing the Rosary along with a guitar player. Alex and Tibor wrote of their interactions with other pilgrims:
“We met an American bishop at the airport, shared breakfast with a newly ordained Canadian priest, stood in line with a Dominican sister living in the Netherlands, and sat with young Catholics from the United Kingdom, Australia, Vietnam, the Philippines, France, Spain, India and Croatia, to name a few. It’s difficult to think of a more joyful experience than being around countless people whose love for Jesus comes out so vibrantly in conversation, especially people our own age.”
Alex and Tibor called the papal Mass, a first for both young men, the “major highlight” of World Youth Day. They reflected on seeing so many Catholics in one place and how it baffled the mind to think that 2 million is just a fraction of the estimated 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide: “It felt as if the whole living body of Christ was present to sing, pray, and celebrate together.”
Some of the most fun, however, was to be found in a 9-mile walk to a park for the Saturday night vigil, where they danced and spent the night in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, before awakening to more music on Sunday. They attended the closing ceremony on Sunday, where it was announced that WYD 2027 will be located in Seoul, South Korea, before departing for home.
In his final thoughts on World Youth Day 2023, Tibor wrote that it was an invaluable opportunity to “grow closer to the Lord:”
“I learned more about myself, and took to heart these lessons. As an incoming seminarian for our diocese, I detected in many of these homilies a subtext on vocational discernment; how what will make you happy is not money, power, pleasure or honor, but finding your mission and going in haste.”
Meanwhile, Alex said that he brought home a gratitude for the laudable faiths of so many young people all over the world. He said it was eye-opening to see the firm faiths of young people in other nations:
“I was so taken aback by the strength and vibrancy of these teenagers and young adults who just want to grow closer to Jesus. Hearing about peoples’ stories, meeting converts, cradle Christians whose faith was renewed and vitalized later in life, and even people who have always remained faithful made it obvious that the Church is alive and thriving. It is an amazing thing to recognize that you are a Catholic first, and an American second — something that I have not considered growing up. The Church is for the whole world, and it is very much alive.”