Mary has been the great protagonist of this beautiful adventure of the Motus Christi and the WYD of Panama, which had as its motto “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word”. The village of Mary is called the retreat house of Capira, 75 km to the west, where we celebrate the Motus Christi, and the “let it be done to me according to your word” centered the catechesis and the words of the Holy Father during the whole WYD, besides singing it to satiety in the beautiful hymn of this 34th World Youth Day.
The miracle of bringing a large group of young people, dreamt of by our president, Fr. Jesús Fernández, and by our superiors general, Fr. Luis Casasús and María del Carmen García, took place. There were 75 young people from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, the United States, France and Mexico, accompanied by eleven women and men missionaries.
The international Motus took place in the town of Capira, 75 km (about two hours by bus) east of Panama City, with the arrival of all the groups on the evening of January 16. Already from the joyful meeting at the airport of Tocumen one could perceive the beautiful family atmosphere that we would live from the first day at the Motus.
Not only was the house of the Magnificat community a place of recollection and silence, but the very structure and spirit of the Motus introduced all the young people in that environment, even the most unaccustomed to it. They discovered with surprise that holiness is possible and that living it in community is the most beautiful and fruitful way. In this sense, the testimonies of several brothers and sisters, professed and probantes, were moments of great emotion for the young people when they saw how there is no prototype of saint, nor ideal circumstances, but Christ calls us all in the most unsuspected situations.
It has been a moment of grace, of much grace, which has touched everyone. Five days that seemed to us like a little bit of eternal life, of heaven in this world. In their different moments: talks, personal prayer, communities, meals, the athenaeum, we breathed an atmosphere of communion and service that invited us to fly much higher and to feel the presence of God in each one of us.
This atmosphere of family and fraternal life has surprised them so much, that it has helped even the most reserved, to open up and to look for us brothers and sisters to talk about their life, their dreams and their love for Christ.
The charismatic touch, where many expressed their decision to follow Christ with all the consequences, was a beautiful finishing touch. As an example, one of the young people said something that illustrates the common feeling of the participants: “Before coming to WYD I had certain projects, ideas, intentions of how to pass this experience, but now, after having lived these days of the Motus, I think that the trip was worthwhile only for the Motus.
With a certain sadness for leaving the place and for finishing such an intense experience, on Monday the 21st in the morning we left for the city of Panama, since the following day the WYD was already beginning. The WYD organization had recently informed us that our group would be housed in the Parish of Christ the Son of God, in the neighborhood of Samaria, where each pilgrim would be living in a family. Although at the beginning we thought it would have been better to have the whole group together, housed in a school or in the halls of the parish, we soon realized that living with families was a beautiful opportunity to get to know the Panamanian people from within, and to understand their profound religiosity and their spontaneous kindness and joy.
On the other hand, Providence wanted us to be in a neighborhood, Samaria, with many needs and deficiencies, to know not only the tourist side of the city, but the reality in which many Panamanians live. The poverty, the lack of health in the streets and in the houses, and the marginalization were evident, but it was compensated by the great joy and affection with which each family welcomed us. They gave us what they did not have, in the purest evangelical style. We could not be less: we decided to assume these circumstances as a moment of mission, and to share with our adoptive families all the richness received in the Motus.
The fruits were not long in coming. The generosity and faith of the Panamanians made us feel like one more of their families, creating strong bonds that we all yearn to remain. And all this in spite of the fact that we spent most of the day outside and the moments of living together were limited to nights and mornings at breakfast.
One of the young participants said that for him it had been a formative experience, because he had seen the kindness and attention of the host families and because he had learned to value more what he had, to be more helpful and more attentive to the needs of those at home.
From the 23rd to the 28th the day was full with the activities programmed by WYD, in the morning and in the afternoon. Apart from the participation in the different acts of WYD and the attention to the stand of the ‘vocational fair’, the day went by moving between the stages of the acts, in a week of intense humid heat, more than normal according to the Panamanians themselves. In short, hours of walking almost always in the sun, hours of waiting before the beginning of the acts also in the sun, hours of transport and waiting in the subway…
We were truly pilgrims within the city, living everything with supernatural joy, like the rest of the thousands of young people who were there. It was also surprising how Pope Francis, in his demanding and tender words to the young people, said several things that had somehow appeared in the Motus: overcoming comfort and conformism; living the unconditional love of the Father; living the now of God and not the meantime; and walking after Christ without stopping, risking everything like Mary.
After the Mass celebrated by the Pope on Sunday 28th, the afternoon was left free so that each one could share with the family that welcomed him, and also this time was very beautiful for everyone.
Contemplating now this strong human and spiritual experience, it is evident that the participation in WYD was certainly not to ‘see the Pope’, as a spectacle, which we would surely have seen better from the television at home, but to live together with Peter, the Vicar of Christ, a pilgrimage to Christ, with Mary, to live this great Pentecost together with the whole universal church, gathered around its pastor.
Another gift from Providence was the ‘casual’ meeting at the airport with Archbishop of Panama, José Domingo Ulloa. It was the same day that we all went home, on Tuesday, January 29, thus fulfilling the wish of our president, Fr. Jesus Fernandez, that we could greet him, something really difficult during the days with the Pope. It is clear that for Christ nothing is impossible. As we approached him, Monsignor Ulloa immediately identified us by the t-shirt we were wearing, with the word “identes” in large, and he transmitted to us the great need that Panamanian university students have for our charism.
Now in each place the women and men missionaries must be attentive to the young people who participated in WYD so that the fire that shone there does not go out, but, as Pope Francis said, the young people make decisions ‘now’, not for later, and that they say ‘yes’ like Mary to the will of God.