Faith Inspirations Travelling

My adventure in Portugal- WYD 2023

Today I want to share with you a post which topic is connected to travelling, my new spiritual discoveries and a general reflection of what the World Youth Days 2023 have actually been to me.

How did my adventure start?

I think that first of all it is important to mention how I decided to embark on my way to Lisbon. This topic had already been in my life since the summer 2022 but ever since I had been postponing my decision whether to go or not mostly because of high prices.

At the beginning of July 2023 during my evening prayer I asked myself: “Why on earth I am not going there? I love international communities, travelling and meeting new people. What’s more, I feel that I need an event which could bring me back my faith in the real, living Church!”

But it was the beginning of July… And in many places the lists of participants had been closed in December 2022. Being resigned I wanted at least to find any concurrent events taking place in Poland. When I was scrolling through websites of archdioceses od Cracow and Katowice, I came across a link “WYD Lisbon- last minute bookings”.

So I wrote an email, the following day I received a response, a contact number to a priest and this way I got the last place in one of the groups in Cracow!

Conclusion: fill until the end, it is never too late 🙂

Days in the Dioceses- Porto

In the very early morning of the 25th of July we caught our direct flight to Porto- the second largest city in Portugal which stole my heart immediately. During the first week of WYD (“Days in the Dioceses”) young pilgrims from all over the globe are spread across the hosting country and usually sleep in families that want to participate in the event and share their time, warmth and love with others.

Here again I had great luck- the family I got was really wonderful! Extremely open elderly marriage who speaks very good English. And what is the most surprising, Jose and Maria live in a huge house with 5 floors and a swimming pool with the panoramic view of Porto! God really likes surprising me 🙂

During the first week our time was mostly organized by the volunteers from the parish of Fânzeres: prayers, games and sightseeing of Porto. Our days were packed up with many activities but there was one thing impossible to hide: some things were pretty unorganised. WYD in Lisbon taught me many things and patience and empathy for others are definitely one of them 🙂

I will remember this time as an amazing experience of other culture thanks to all the hours spent by the table with Portuguese people, discovering the Iberian “city of 6 bridges” and trying new tastes (among which of course I had some of the famous Porto wine!).

But when it comes to the spiritual part, initially I could not feel fulfilled enough. Our daily plan was packed with numerous activities so we had only 5 or 6 hours of sleep and because of that I didn’t have time to stop and really think of what was happening in my soul. I found it hard to cope with these feelings because going on such a big religious event I had had different expectations.

After a couple of days I thought that there was no use losing energy for irritation (at that time my energy levels had already been very low :)). But maybe this was a lesson I needed at that moment:

  1. How to approach people with love and kindness even if I feel extremely tired?
  2. How to manage long distance relationships? What is the best way to show love and gratitude to the ones that are far away from me?

So often our expectations does not meet the reality, this time I also had this feeling. But such moments when many things does not look like we have expected might be a great opportunity to learn how to be led by the Holy Spirit. If we trust Him in the moments when we don’t know what to do, He leads us and calms our anxious mind.

Having this in my mind, day by day I felt that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Travelling alone (not knowing anyone from the group I was with) has many advantages- one of them is the opportunity to be “free” in terms of social life. I could have “travelled” between groups of friends and this way I made many new friends and had nice talks with almost everyone!

As I have already mentioned before, Porto stole my heart even more than Lisbon! Here are some of the places I enjoyed the most:

  1. Porto-São Bento train station

Known for beautiful Portuguese azulejo tiles that cover the vestibule of the building.

2. A view from the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar

    Here you can admire the breathtaking panorama of Ribeira- the old part of the city. Truly worth it! The first picture shows the view from the top while to second one- how the monastery looks from the other side of the river.

    3. Palácio da Bolsa

      To enter the palace first you need to buy a ticket- when I travel I have a mindset that sometimes it is worth spending some money on the things that (probably) we have a possibility to experience only once in a lifetime!

      The most impressive part of it is the Arab Hall (Salão Árabe)- as many people say: ‘Lovely rooms and then you see the “Salao Arabe”‘

      The palace is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

      Spending my money on the ticket was one of the best decisions while sightseeing in Porto!

      4. Sé do Porto cathedral

        A “must see” of every tourist in Porto! In front of the cathedral there is a viewpoint where You can admire the Ribeira (one of the districts of Porto placed by the Douro river). If You feel like taking a break from the city’s rumor, You can enter the cathedral and pray surrounded by the beauty of Portuguese sacral art. For those who love taking photos, I highly recommend the ambulatory full of azulejo tiles.

        5. Miradouro of Sta. Catarina viewpoint

          This magical spot was shown to me by my Portuguese “dad” from the host family 🙂 The place is really special because most of the tourist have no idea that it exists! Really worth Your attention- from the hill You can admire the Douro river entering the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from this place because the weather on that day wasn’t good enough 🙁 that’s why You should go and see this captivating place on Your own!

          After the emotional last moments with our families we got into our bus and headed to the capital of Portugal, where the central events of WYD were held. As we were warned, Lisbon’s climate turned out to be so different to Porto’s. Temperatures up to 40* and burning sun were a big challenge but (just to clarify) it suits me better that the cloudy months in Poland 🙂 Each of us came back sun-kissed (or rather sunburnt if not aware of the importance of suncreams ;)).

          Between the 1st and the 6th of August our group was accommodated in one of the Lisbon’s school which were specially prepared for the pilgrims from all over the world. Sleeping on the sleeping pads and cold water in the showers were a lesson to appreciate things we are so used to in our daily lives! But being totally honest, for some time I have needed a motivation to start taking cold showers and… here it was! Be careful- our desires very often become reality so be mindful of what you want in Your life 🙂

          Most of the timetable of our stay in Lisbon was filled with activities prepared specially for groups from Poland. Catechesis, concerts and integration meetings in Polish gave us an opportunity to feel like home. Generally all the city was filled with Poles to such extend that you could feel like in a much warmer version of Poland 😉

          Clearly we also had a chance to participate in the international events that were led by Pope Francis. The ceremonial welcome, the Way of the Cross and the evening vigil finished by the Holy Mass on Sunday gave us a possibility to pass this time together with the pilgrims from all over the globe.

          The evening vigil in Parque Tejo

          During these days an event I had been looking forward to the most was the Saturdays’s evening vigil in Parque Tejo. The event venue was far away from the city centre so we needed to take off very early to have any space for our sleeping pads in our sector. The way to Campo da Graça is one of the memories that will remain with me for very long – about 2 ***million people walking for hours in full sun at 40 C. I know, it seems extremely hard to survive in such conditions but this is the very magic of the WYD: impossible becomes possible!

          At the arrival to the park we had time to unpack our stuff (not so much because of the necessity of carrying all the things on our backs; here the idea of ‘light travelling’ comes in really handy). After some time it turned out that our sector is full of Spanish guys- I was happy to hear that because being after the first year of Spanish philology I could practice a bit with the natives!). Interestingly, there is a WYD’s custom to swap gadgets from the countries the pilgrims come from so this time I received a Spanish flag and a lovely yellow-red bracelet.

          In the evening there was an artistic part, an adoration and the Pope’s speech that truly moved me (some more about that in a few seconds). Tired after the entire day, my group fell asleep immediately but I have decided to stay awake a little more. On the big screen there was a film projection which I found interesting. “The Letter” is a movie capturing stories of people from different continents that have been affected by climate changes. It focuses on a key role that Church plays in the endeavor to keep our planet alive. We all need to take action and care about the great gift we have been given- the Earth.

          Official Trailer | The Letter: Laudato Si Film

          A few hours of sleep that we needed so much were suddenly interrupted just after the sunrise in a very uncommon way for the WYD (some may say :)) A young priest in a clerical collar took the role of a DJ and from the very first minutes of a new day he filled up the atmosphere with some techno sounds to wake us all up 😀 Those who think that in Church there is no room for fun and craziness is definitely not right!

          The last event that all pilgrims took part in was a Holy Mass in Portuguese. I am very happy to know some Roman languages- this skill enabled me to understand quite a bit of the mass. I was lucky because most of the Poles found it hard to rely only on the radio translation which sometimes didn’t work well.

          After the official end of the mass we packed our backpacks and headed back to the school we had slept in. Walking in the crowd of thousands of people I was thinking that I would miss this country- burning sun, ocean breeze and the open-minded Portuguese. All the details made me deeply fall in love with this place!

          Some of my thoughts

          Probably You are wandering why a post about such a big religious event contains only little information about my inner experiences and thoughts. The answer is simple: I wanted to share the best part for the very end! 🙂

          During the take off of the plane Lisbon-Katowice, admiring the spectacular view of the Portuguese capital at night, I wanted to summarize all my experiences in order to use them to make “a step forward” in my life. Here I want to share with You some of the most important:

          • Church should be a place for everyone. Experiencing the variety of nations, languages, experiences and viewpoints I know that Jesus loves and accepts us all, without exceptions. It is us who make a barrier of egoism, prejudices, fear for the “different”. One of our main tasks here on Earth is to renew our mind (Romans 12:2). Let’s change our perspective and learn how to love the varieties of the world, not limiting ourselves to our ego.
          • “That is the only time, the only time that we are allowed to look down upon others, when we are offering to help them up.”- Pope Francis
          • More and more people nowadays live in a “lockdown”. It is getting harder and harder to go out into the world which may be caused by the fears and anxieties that remain with us after the pandemic. In this situation Mary is a great inspiration: she took initiative, went out of her comfort zone with rush but with no fear. By ourselves we are unable to achieve this- open ourselves to the extend God created us for. We need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. To free our lives from chaos, His presence is needed.
          • You cannot be saint without recognizing what kind of spirits lead You. It is about constantly asking yourself: “Am I led by the Holy Spirit of Heaven or maybe by the spirits of this world, fear, comparison, impurity?”. A great deal of evil is hidden under the mask of goodness- in many institutions, powerful speeches or even in the Church. We need to be mindful in all our choices we make and recognize if we are truly led by the power of Jesus Christ.
          • In the times of many scandals among people who theoretically should be our role models in terms of living according to God’s plan, we can’t lose our faith in the good. The beauty of God and His work can still be present in our daily lives. We just need to make an effort to reach it. Only a person who constantly struggle to see the good underneath all the layers of satan, truly loves. When You finally reach this good, You will become an apostle because a real relationship with Christ cannot be hidden.
          • The all-powerful God is powerless if we are not open to His guidance.
          • Words of one of the young people who shared his testimony during the Way of the Cross: “After going through everything that this life has to offer, Jesus is the only one that can satisfy me.”
          • Jesus offers us a calm life, focusing on the pace He wants us to live in. Let’s fight against the sickness of excessive productivity that destroys joy and dreams.

          That’s all I have for You today. I hope that this post will inspire You to rethink my ideas and consider visiting the beautiful country of Portugal. The next World Youth Days in Seul in 2027, who is planning to go? 😀

          With love,


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