In August of 2011, I spent three incredible weeks in Spain at World Youth Day Madrid 2011 on pilgrimage with focusmissions.org.
The short of it all..
Traveling to Spain, I was part of a delegation of young adults that represented the University of St. Thomas, Houston and the US at the first ever International FOCUS Conference.
The conference convened in a small village named Samos, Galicia in northwestern Spain at the Monastery of San Julian de Samos, a 15th century Benedictine monastery.
Here I met with over 140 other young adults from 12 countries from throughout Europe and Asia. We realized a beautiful conference based on love and solidarity as young people and frankly addressed the most controversial topics of our Catholic faith. Over cups of coffee, wine and sangria, my conversations with my new friends easily reached many depths and heights. I also got to share meals with several renowned Catholic speakers. The sign of peace is still just as awkward in London and Kuala Lumpur as it is in Texas! Going deeper, my experience was strengthened by an emphasis on prayer and the Sacraments, with daily Holy Hours and Mass.
Prior to the World Youth Day gathering, I made a pilgrimage to several holy sites in Spain: a short 15k from Samos to Sarria on the Camino, a pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (the final pilgrimage destination for all pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago – Way of St. James) and home of the the tomb of St. James the Apostle, and the birthplace of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus in Ávila. I walked the ancient medieval walls, and nearly tripped several times.
During this time, I was inspired to reflect on how the same God who worked in so many holy people throughout history has and continues to work in my life today. After this International Conference, I then united with the millions of other Catholic young people for all of the papal masses and events that surround World Youth Day.