World Youth Day — despite the rain — was a great success. Three million people joined the Holy Father at Copacabana Beach, to praise and worship God and witness to their faith.
I imagine every pilgrim can tell a story worth telling, and I’ll hear some of those myself from friends who went. But few stories could rival that of Facundo, a nineteen year old Argentine whose pilgrimage evoked the penance and prayer and supernatural risk of mediaeval practice.
Facundo touched on the angst he felt months ago when he felt called to go to World Youth Day but was afraid of traveling alone.
“No, I can’t because I don’t have enough money,” he remembers saying aloud.
However, on March 19, “I entered in a Church to pray on my birthday,” he said. A “priest was there and I began crying a lot but I didn’t know why.”
After the priest asked Facundo why he was crying, Facundo did not know what to reply so he said he wanted to confess.
“After confession he asked me if I wanted to go to World Youth Day and I looked up and saw a picture of Pope Francis with his arms extended and I said ‘yes, I’m going.’”
Warning him of the dangers, the priest said that strangers could rob him. “I replied ‘I don’t care,’” Facundo recalls.
The priest was reluctant because he did not know where the boy would sleep or what he would eat, and his mother told him he was crazy. Facundo said he left Jujuy “very excited” on July 1, telling his family just the day before.
“My family asked me why I was leaving so early and who would be traveling with me and I said I would be traveling with Jesus,” he stated.
“My family began crying because they were very scared, especially my grandmother who got sick because of this.”
His mother, however, gave him 600 pesos ($110 U.S. dollars) and he began his walk to Rio de Janeiro.
“A backpacker depends on money, but I became a real pilgrim because a pilgrim just depends on faith,” remarked Facundo.
“I would go into churches to pray and everyone would look at me, but I didn’t care because I just wanted to fill myself up with more faith.”
This is a great story. Read it all. And pray for Facundo. I’m sure God will accomplish great things through one so generous and trusting!
If Facundo’s experience reads like something out of the life of St Francis, Nathan’s evokes St Thérèse: “Your Holiness, I want to be a priest of Christ.”