• Steph Unger

To Go One Step Beyond - reflection by Tom Kirby.

*This reflection is by pilgrim Tom Kirby written for his school St Oliver Plunkett’s – A Presentation Sister School founded by Blessed Nano Nagle.*

The lantern, the guiding light, the light that allows us to go one step beyond. That theme ‘to go one step beyond’ was central to my experience of World Youth Day 2019. This matched seamlessly to the official theme of World Youth Day ‘Dare to Say Yes’ both themes are calls to action. The lantern guided me physically, mentally and spiritually.

Physically, by waking up early, going to bed late, sleeping on rocks, no escaping the heat and sun and walking, walking, walking. This wasn’t a regular trip; it was a pilgrimage and no pilgrimage is done in comfort. To truly appreciate the experience, the uncomfortable physical environments was a challenge to be met head on. Each environment, be it rainforest, ancient tribes, festivals, crowded metro, hour long lunch lines, vigil masses, adoration and prayer offered that challenge. I was constantly guided by the lantern in a direction that shone light on the meaning of each experience.

Mentally, overcoming jet lag, coupled with a lack of sleep and the waiting, waiting, waiting for lunch amongst thousands of others, transportation to arrive or for various events to begin. How did we mentally take this all in and not crack under it all? This was not a trip that could be done alone, it required the support and guidance of each pilgrim to lead and share the load through the unfamiliar terrain and crowds. We supported each other by sharing stories, experiences and encouragement in order to get to the next event. The lantern acted as mental image in my mind that I needed to remember to share the load, be open and at times, be guided by others to achieve our goals on the pilgrimage.

Spirituality, seeing how easily the World Youth Day message ‘Dare to say Yes’, married with Blessed Nano Nagle’s lantern in guiding us all to go ‘one step beyond’, allowed the Holy Spirit to enter my life in new ways. When I was exhausted, it reinvigorated me, when I was feeling irritable, compassion entered my life and when I felt like I couldn’t go on, it pulled me to my feet. This allowed me to experience firsthand the uniqueness of each countries culture to the Church. It showed that we should not be stuck in our ways but to open our hearts to let Christ in.

This pilgrimage has left me with lifelong friends, connection to a global community and spiritual guidance. The pilgrimage is a living experience, by sharing it with you I want to continue to breathe new life into it. Ask yourself, will I dare to say ‘Yes’ to God’s own unique call in my life, will I open my heart to others and experience how Christ has called them to action or am I waiting, stagnating, expecting a call? The only question you can answer is ‘What will I do when I pick up my own lantern?' Will you dare to say yes and go one step beyond? That is a decision I will leave to you.

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