I’ve missed you all & I hope you’re all doing good 😉 It’s been a few weeks since WYD ended and since I think I’ve finally consolidated all my thoughts, I figured I’d share some of my experiences (though I’m not sure how palpable all my excitement will be, expressed in writing LOL, but ah well).
Where do I even begin?
To be honest, Magis for me was a deeper spiritual experience than WYD itself and the whole #bemagis, or ‘be more’ thing has continued to resonate with me. It started off on quite a high note with lots of super high energy worship “concerts”, which were… interesting, but gave me an opportunity to literally jump around, and dance and sing rly like cray. It helped that the songs were SUPER catchy, and not in the typical catchy pnw song sort of way- I mean we were legit dancing to Beyonce, I kid you not (this is when I wish I was home so I could show y’all and make y’all dance with me but I guess that will have to wait).
But the amazing thing for me was how down-to-earth and at times, pretty damn cool everyone was, including and especially the Jesuits themselves. A memorable moment (I think for many of us) was the when our ‘mc’, who had been hyping us up, singing and dancing, and beatboxing for like the entire day, suddenly quietened us down and went, “So actually I’m a priest and now I’m gonna give you all a blessing”. LOL, I died. (And perhaps so began Raphael’s obsession with European Jesuits, lololol)
A big source of apprehension for me going into WYD was my fear of what everyone would say about me going on a “pilgrimage”. I think I too may have judged myself a little, believing I had placed myself among these “churchy” people (with all the connotations of this you can imagine) and freaking out a little at the prospect having to be holy and pray for two weeks straight (oh, the horror!). But these beginning moments of Magis gave me a bit of hope for something more and the gathering of people from such different cultures and ways of faith made me pretty excited for the week to come. And furthermore, these were the beginnings of the joy and freedom I was to experience in my experiment.
Don’t ask me what bibliodrama is. Jk, I’ll try my best to explain but just saying- they didn’t tell us either, like up till now. But first, some context. I was in a group of nine- three Singaporeans, four Colombians and two Zambians; pretty diverse group- different ages, different backgrounds and very different ways of practising the faith. We stayed in the Jesuit house in Czestochowa, where the sanctuary of the Black Madonna was (hence why I was able to catch Jes and the rest of OYP on their visit) and also where the closing ceremony of Magis was to be 1 week later.
So bibliodrama felt like a week-long yoga retreat cum speech and drama workshop. Each day would begin with yoga, with us doing this improvised sun greeting that was put to a prayer apparently by this Indian priest. This was usually followed by some other movements as well as meditation, which, lets be real- you would have slept doing too. But all this was meant to be for us to surrender our day to God and start it in the right spirit. And after the first couple of days, I started to believe it. I was so.. not grumpy after it and I guess it just opened me to receiving whatever God had for me each day.
And this openness was important because we really did some of the strangest things. Apart from freeze frames and acting out bible scenes, we also did a lot of movement exercises- acting like fish, plants, paintbrushes. At some point we were even crossing the border to some sort of promised land free of mobile phones. It was interesting. Each day, there was some sort of theme and a reading that all the activities were related to, and even reading the day’s scripture required us to get creative. On some days we would whisper it (we did this for the Annunciation I think) and on other days we would read it to each other in our own languages (Spanish, English or Bemba (? if I’m not wrong)). But I think the most challenging day was the one when we had to beat box the reading. I mean, can you even imagine that? It was a common sharing in our Magis circle for that day that we struggled to lose our inhibitions, trust God and go for it. It really did help that everyone was so spontaneous and didn’t take themselves too seriously; this really drew me out of my shell quite a bit. But you see the sort of spiritual message behind the activities and I have to say I really experienced a lot of freedom and joy, even though oftentimes I felt very much like a kid on a sugar high.
One of the more memorable days was when we had to paint the backdrop of a picture, expressing our feelings that morning. So I drew dawn over the sea (‘cause I didn’t get the memo that it was meant to be some kind of landscape LOL). And then we were taken into the garden and told to go and choose a flower or plant that appealed to us “or let a flower or plant choose you [us]”. That last bit of the instruction really struck me because I almost couldn’t fathom it, like I was all ready to go out there and to pick the prettiest flower and be done with it. And when I was in the garden, it just didn’t feel right picking the sunflower even though I really liked it, so I don’t really know why but I went with this little purple flower, with a long and bendy stem that moved with the wind. Then we had to pretend we were painting the flower in the air, with a movement, which everyone else was then made to imitate. This was either really beautiful or really ridiculous-looking, but we went along with it and were eventually tasked to add these flowers to our actual drawings. And so since I didn’t draw any land, I decided to turn mine into a boat because I felt like my movement really mimicked that of a boat on the waves and I felt that both the flower and boat were susceptible to the movements of other forces (ie. the wind and the waves) and I likened it to myself being susceptible to the will of God- an idea which still doesn’t sit super well with me but in some sense that day, I felt physically what it was like and I saw it.
I wrote in my journal on one of the days that “being in a context where people see and seek God in vastly different ways makes me feel like I can come as I am, seeking God in whatever way I can”. And this was one of my biggest takeaways from my experiment- that God doesn’t really care whether or not I lift my hands in worship or whether I dance and clap during mass (although I have to say the priest looked a little scandalised when we decided to dance LOL), He just cares about me. He gives me the freedom to come as I am and the capability to be enough by just being.
Coming out of my experiment, I felt free and somewhat different, and the priest encouraged us to live our lives differently, embracing the the new persons we had become during our experiment. And I wanted to. “But I still can’t help but think of what people will think, I think I’m somewhat embarrassed to live a life of passion in Christ. I’d probably be happy to be a good person but probably not about the perceived lack of freedom. I pray that I will come to be convicted of the greater/larger freedom promised by a life in Christ,” I wrote, hopefully, in my journal, though still apprehensive about rejoining the rest of Magis.
Mercy and Our Lady of Czestochowa
So after being in Czestochowa for a week, the other two Singaporeans and I felt some kind of strange ownership over the place, as everyone joined us there. That Sunday (I think?), we made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, where we had been prancing around for a while now, so I really wasn’t expecting to experience anything special; it was kind of like ‘been there, done that’ and we were very happy to show everyone around- to the gift shop and also where the cheaper souvenirs were HAHA.
That evening, there was to be a reconciliation service before a vigil with Our Lady. So this guy asked me if I was gonna go to confession and without giving it much thought I was like, nah I just went at CYD, probs not. So I just kinda sat there, feeling quite smug that I’d already been to confession (also cause I hate confession so mental pat on the back for actually going during CYD). But at some point during the service, I thought, you know what- it’s the year of mercy, maybe I’mma just go see what mercy I can get. And so I went, not really having thought much about my sins because, well, I was (quite) clean (I thought, LOL), so I joined this priest perched next to this rock wall, next to a massive field of sinners (HAHA, sorry just thought it was a funny image) ready to confess the root of all evil- pride, because it’s so deeply rooted that I’ve probably acted out of it without even realising, I thought. But once I started talking I just couldn’t stop and I went on describing how so many things stemmed from my pride- envy, jealousy, etc etc and once I stopped myself, I broke down. But omg I swear I got the nicest priest ever- he was so reassuring and I think that’s what made me cry more because it seemed like he knew me or something and he genuinely cared about me haha, Idk how to describe it. But anyway, he told me something that I probably would have never figured out on my own- that I needed healing. I needed to recognise the areas of insecurity in my life and seek healing.
Pride is a scary thing because, in retrospect, my instinct would have been to ask, what insecurities? But that’s how steeped in pride I was- in so deep that I was conditioned not to recognise weakness, insecurity. And so my penance was to go sit in the shrine and ask for Our Lady’s intercession in recognising my insecurities and being healed of them. I think that’s the first time I actually really experienced a vigil because for some reason I was really invested, in my tears if not in anything else. Lol, jk, it felt good- knowing and feeling like I was being healed, even if I didn’t yet know what from, but I was hopeful and I guess I now know what mercy feels like. HAHA.
Onward! To world youth day.
Okay. As I’m sure you guys have heard, WYD itself was quite a mess LOL- a fun, interesting mess. I mean I was happy to cheer and dance and stuff at Magis but this was next level. But I won’t say I was as disturbed as everyone else. In fact, I was getting frustrated that everyone was frustrated at the lack of quiet. It was frustrating at times, for sure- the crowds, the noise- but it was really quite a sight. And I was amazed at how excited everyone was about Jesus (and the Pope). I mean by this point I was pretty excited too but not this excited.
Either way, the week went on and I’m really really grateful that we were at the English speaking arena place; lots of great talks. Less on this because I’m sure people have shared and also I didn’t see Audrey Assad, even though I thought I did. But anyway, my biggest realisation during the talks was that while it is important to give mercy to others, I also need to be merciful to myself, embracing my flaws and relying on God because “the biggest sin of our times is thinking you can do things yourself” and this has been and continues to be my biggest sin. But I’m workin’ on it!! And I know God’s working with me too.
Post WYD, I spent 1 week in my house in Edin singing YOUR WORLD’S NOT FALLING APART ITS FALLING INTO PLACE to myself and being quite joyful, I had a two-week streak of daily mass which I broke recently, and I still think #bemagis is the best slogan to live by. And while the world remains the same, I guess you can say I’ve changed? It’s all a bit weird and in many ways, I’m still me (maybe even more me).
Either way, it’s still a journey and I’m still growing but for now I can say I’m rly rly grateful I went to Magis & WYD.
Many lurves to all,