That said, if you'd like to take a "virtual pilgrimage" it won't be hard to spend countless hours following the excitement of one of the largest Catholic events you'll see in your lifetime. So for those looking for their WYD 2011 "fix" here's how you can stay on top of the proceedings:
Official World Youth Day 2011 Site - the official spot for the latest info as the event unfolds and plenty of background information for journalists, Catholic youth or the young at heart interested in following the action. Fun features include an interactive world map where you can zoom in to your country of choice to see how many are registered. You can also check out the multimedia archive that includes downloads of official theme songs for WYD past and present along with lyric pages in case you want to sing along.Salt & Light Television - World Youth Day Central - Canada's Catholic television station has a full docket of coverage planned both through their television channel and a special portal set up for WYD, complete with blogging, multi-media and pilgrim reflections. A special section of the site WYDTV will allow online visitors the chance to "sit in" on celebrations with up to 15,000 Canadian pilgrims, hear lectures (Religious Freedom and the Media), listen to concerts and, of course, witness footage from the Papal events in Spain.
Toronto pilgrim blogs:
With almost 100 pilgrims participating in the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Catholic Youth pilgrimage to World Youth Day and hundreds more traveling with their own parish groups, you'll want to capture a flavour of what it's like for these young people as WYD unfolds before their eyes. Two blogs worth following will help you stay connected to the pilgrim experience in Spain:
1) Vanessa Santilli - Youth Speak News Editor and journalist for the Catholic Register, Vanessa is participating in her first pilgrim experience, traveling with the Youth Office and its contingent. Vanessa will be blogging and tweeting from Madrid so be sure to follow her on twitter or track her blog throughout the week. A special website from the Register has been created so you can follow all of Vanessa's reflections on WYD. You can follow her tweets here.
2) Stefanie Romano - A 3 time WYD veteran from Woodbridge, Stefanie is keeping an online journal/blog of her experiences in Madrid as one of the leaders of the Office of Catholic Youth pilgrimage. A young adult passionate about her Catholic faith, she's already included some challenging experiences faced by the delegation, delays, long travel days and moments of inspiration, elation and deflation. You can find Stefanie's blog here.
Of course, we'll do our best to tweet or update highlights from the event in this blog space as well. Suffice it to say, we're in good hands with the many resources at our disposal to highlight this celebration of faith for the global church.
Let's not forget in addition to the half million pilgrims in attendance, it will be most interesting to hear what the Pontiff has to say to the youth of the world and, by default, the rest of us listening in. His talks at recent WYD's have been insightful, inspiring and thought-provoking.
Don't forget if you're staying in the city, the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Youth is holding its annual youth rally up at the Martyrs' Shrine to coincide with WYD weekend, August 19-21. The weekend will mirror the WYD experience with catechesis for high school aged and young adult pilgrims, evening prayer, adoration, fun activities and a Sunday morning Mass at the Shrine. You can find more details here.
There's every reason we should all be engaged in this unique event. No doubt many parishioners contributed to fundraising efforts, others offering prayers for a safe and rewarding pilgrimage. I can still recall my first WYD in Rome 2000, about to arrive in St. Peter's Square for opening ceremonies with a million people.
The heat was blistering and as we approached the square we moved through a residential area. An elderly lady of about 80 appeared on her balcony and when the pilgrims chanted "acqua" for water, she disappeared into her tiny apartment, only to appear moments later with what had to be a dixie cup. She proceeded to pour it from her fourth floor balcony onto thousands of pilgrims below, with maybe 10 of them catching any drops at all.
Yet she returned to her apartment at least half a dozen times before I walked past, gently dousing pilgrims with each baptism.
Yes, that's what WYD's are all about. Whether you're a pilgrim, senior watching on the tube, riding the subway with a chorus of off-key pilgrims, we're all a part of WYD. So to all who will participate, baptize, pray and contribute to the week's festivities, celebrate every moment and bless each other along the way. You may even find a dixie cup along the way...
Photo: Tim Lee Loy, WYD 2011