WYD Diary – Day Four

On Day Four of her World Youth Day diary, Luegi Lopes, our Digital Media Officer, experiences a spiritual eutopia at the 'beautiful and moving' Stations of the Cross.

Luegi Lopes, our Digital Media Officer, is in Lisbon experiencing her first World Youth Day. This is her diary.

Friday, 4 August 2023

Eutopia. That’s the word me, Dilina and Filomena settled on to describe our WYD experience so far. I asked the two Salford Diocese pilgrims how they were finding WYD. “Like a dream,” they said, a safe space somewhat in contrast to the UK’s secularity and how this can make it difficult to proclaim one’s faith easily without being judged. It’s like a spiritual eutopia, I said! We all nodded in agreement; yes, a eutopia. If only we could live like this forever. But, that’s the power of a gathering like WYD, it makes us think, “why can’t we live like this forever?” The tens of thousands of young people will remember this moment and take it back home with them, and, bit by bit, young Catholics will spread this feeling, creating mini-eutopias in their own communities. I have no doubt I will try to do this myself.

I began my day by heading straight to Benfica for another morning ‘Rise up’ catechesis session. This time, the session was given by Word on Fire’s Bishop Robert Barron. There had been a huge amount of anticipation to see the Bishop of Winona-Rochester in the States. The night before, Father Luke from the Diocese of East Anglia told me he had been waiting for years to be present at a Mass where Bishop Barron was preaching. Quite a build-up and Bishop Barron didn’t disappoint. He encouraged us all to “preach the real Christ” not a watered-down version. I guess this links with the theme of a eutopia. Here in Lisbon, everyone is expressing their faith to the fullest and that’s why it works – it’s why we’re all so moved. I was reflecting that back home, we don’t always express our faith to the fullest, instead presenting the world with this watered-down version. But we shouldn’t be afraid. Bishop Barron inspired me to be braver.

After Mass ended, it was lovely to spend time with the Salford group. We spoke about WYD, our lives back home. Filomena and Dilina, both medical students at university, shared with me how hard it is at times to stay strong in their faith in a university environment where we are often told that religion is not particularly cool. We also had a great chat about ethics and the way medicine is taught to students. It does not really cater for students whose faith means they would have strong views on topics like euthanasia or abortion. Portugal has a Catholic university which teaches medicine in a way that encompasses Catholic beliefs.

Travel, sharing, conversation and companionship are all key ingredients to the WYD experience sowing the seeds in the minds of the younger generations to look for and create their own faith-filled eutopia.

‘Beautiful and moving’ Stations

After lunch, I headed straight back to (you’ve guessed it) Parque Eduardo VII for the Way of the Cross with Pope Francis. I have never in my entire life seen anything as beautiful and moving.

Theatre-like performances portrayed the 14 Stations, with music that brought tears to your eyes, interpretive dance and acting. Each Station was followed by a poignant, relatable testimony. Topics such as anxiety, alcohol consumption, family issues and depression were covered. In our society as young people, almost all of us have experienced or encountered these issues. Watching the Stations, hearing Pope Francis’ message that “Jesus’ love is the greatest love of all”, I really found the strength to believe that even in periods of anxiety and sadness, I would be ok – just like Jesus was ok when he suffered so greatly and died for us on the Cross.

And so, to work… I walked around the park during the Stations to take photos and capture some reactions. There were so many smiles. You could tell that even though it was a solemn moment, people were still filled with joy and hope. They too had found their eutopia. In terms of feelings of revelation and belief, Day Four was probably my favourite day – a day which really drew me closer to God and my faith in Him.