Chances are, if you’re reading this, you have a friend or seventeen who are on pilgrimage to World Youth Day this week in Krakow, Poland. But you aren’t there, and this probably perfectly describes you having to stay home:
Well, never fear. For those of us watching the action from the sidelines this World Youth Day, there’s a few things we can do in solidarity with our pilgrim brethren.
1) Walk to your parish (preferably while wearing a giant backpack)
Nothing says pilgrimage like walking ungodly distances, so get our your best tennis shoes and walk to your local parish, even if (and especially if) it’s more than a mile away. Bonus points if you bring along 5-10 friends (the ones who also didn’t go to Poland), a priest, and/or that one person who you only kinda know and is a little weird.
2) Take a selfie in your church and post to social media
One of the tokens of a pilgrimage experience are pictures on social media of all the beautiful churches and cool places that people visit. Why not join in the fun and take a selfie in your own parish? Introduce yourself to a stranger who’s also there and get them in the selfie too, if possible.
3) Do a holy hour
A quintessential part of pilgrimage life is prayer, and prayer in copious amounts. Even though there’s probably no bishops around and you have the church all to yourself (instead of sharing it with 10,000 other pilgrims), take an hour and spend it in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Say prayers for your friends in Poland, Pope Francis and his brother priests and bishops, and for the event itself.
4) Don’t shower for a week
If there’s one thing people on pilgrimage can’t do nearly as often as they’d like, it’s bathing. Try being in solidarity with them by pretending like you can’t bathe either. Unless you have a date. Then definitely shower.
5) Gather your stuffed animals and play Praise & Worship to them
Chances are good that one of your friends will come back from Poland saying, “I swear, if I hear ‘Lord I Need You’ one more time…” After all, there are only so many ways to pass the time while hanging out with 300,000 of one’s closest friends, and P&W music is near the top of the list. Be in solidarity with your brothers and sisters by busting out your trusty guitar and playing Matt Maher to your furry friends for 4 hours straight.
6) Try speaking Polish
All of your friends are wandering around Krakow looking at signs and doing their best to pronounce all those consonants. Join in the fun by also failing miserably at pronouncingthese common Polish words and phrases. Powodzenia!
7) Put a coin jar in the bathroom
One of the interesting stories from WYD 2013 in Rio was a certain “potty problem” where many pilgrims ended up having to pay restaurants to use the Loo due to a shortage of portable toilets. You never know, some of your friends may experience the same issue while in Poland, so stay in solidarity with them by depositing some coinage every time you go.
8) Miss the bus in an unfamiliar part of town
Part of the adventure of a pilgrimage is playing roulette with the bus times, especially while lost in a sketchy part of town. Find a good bus stop in your hometown (if it has buses), then plan to be about 50 yards from the bus stop right as it’s leaving. It’s more fun that way.
9) Listen to Pope Francis speak in a foreign language
There’s something magical about not being able to understand a word someone is saying, especially when that someone is the pope. Though many sessions for pilgrims are in their native language, odds are, at some point during the trip, your friends will have to sit through a presentation where no translation is available. Be in solidarity with them by listening to a Pope Francis speech in Italian with no subtitles. It’s okay if you tear up a bit.
10) Pray for the pilgrims
Prayer is always a safe bet, but it’s especially important today. It’s what unifies, and it’s what allows us to be the most connected with our friends in Poland. Pray that the Holy Spirit works in the lives of World Youth Day pilgrims as they encounter the Lord there. Pray for their safety amidst an increasingly violent world. Pray for peace. Pray, ultimately, that their experiences will allow them to come back renewed in faith and, in the worlds of St. Teresa of Avila, set their worlds ablaze.