It kind of strange being a pilgrim in your own country. Everything’s familiar, but something in your heart is different. You’re looking for different things amongst what you see every day. But there’s no mistaking that the pilgrimage has begun now.
I remember travelling to Cologne three years ago. We were travelling for seemingly endless hours, and finally got off the plane looking dishevelled with crumpled clothes and bed hair, some of us about to have a back spasm from sleeping at an odd angle in the plane chairs. But we loved it! We knew we were on our way. And when Pope Benedict announced at the final Mass that the next WYD was going to be in Sydney, I was at the same time excited that our nation would get a badly needed chance to revive the true faith, and a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t really be a pilgrim.
But I was wrong to feel the latter. Yesterday (Thursday the 10th of July), we had our first event of Days in the Diocese, and again the old pilgrim feeling crept back into my bones. There was all sorts of languages buzzing about my ears. Lots of blonde people walking around (they turned out to be Swiss pilgrims). I could hear the jubilant laughter from a group of Ugandans. The Neocats started up their own shindig in the middle of everything, and people just joined in. Oh yeah … we’re on our way to World Youth Day, and my city gets to welcome people as part of their pilgrim experience. What a gift for us.
There was music, and my own friends were up there entertaining the crowds. Lights flashing all sorts of colours everywhere. People were singing the name of Jesus with such gusto, you couldn’t help but join them! This morning I woke up feeling like someone had glued my eyelids together and needed a few cups of tea to wake me up. But my spirit is flying like a kite with its string cut.
And I’m so glad that I’m an Aussie pilgrim in Australia.