WYD in a Wheechair – A Reflection on World Youth Day

Continuing our series on World Youth Day, we want to make this a place where people can tell their stories of the big event. My name is Simone Finaldi, (I’m the one in the wheelchair in the picture below) and I look after this blog, so I thought I would begin.Me being interviewd by Spanish paper ABC at WYD

I’m 25, and Madrid 2011 will be my fourth World Youth Day.

I go for three reasons: firstly because as a young person I have been invited by the Holy Father, and his invites really should be answered, secondly because World Youth Days are an opportunity to pray and to take a spiritual as well as physical journey in search of my vocation and thirdly to show the world at large that the Catholic Church is neither dead nor dying.

Paris 1997

For me, there are similarities between my first World Youth Day in Paris and the upcoming one in Madrid, then as now, some said that Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular had nothing to say to the youth of a secular European country.

But the youth themselves thought otherwise and over a million of them flocked to the mass with the Holy Father. In this account however, I do not intend to sentimentalize these meetings.

The tougher side

I have cerebral palsy and spending hours on coaches, going without a good amount of sleep and food is no easy task, for me especially.

And it’s not just me who has extra trouble, those who make it possible for me to go by aiding me, pushing my chair, sometimes across impressively inhospitable terrain, and generally putting up with the foul moods I get into when under physical stress, carry more than just the extra weight of my wheelchair.

What it has meant for me

Yet God bless them for it, with their help, I have not only been at the centre of some of the most emotional and important moments of recent history, (I can remember like it was yesterday, John Paul II’s words, “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life,” (John 6:68) spoken to two million young people in Rome in 2000) but I have also become convinced that young people desire the real truth that I have heard in these moments.

They do not want compromise, or a watered-down, sanitized version of the Christian message, I can testify that they want to change the world, and Jesus, with his call to “turn the other cheek,” is the only true revolutionary.

Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have presented Jesus to me as God’s answer to my problems, questions and desires, as well as those of the wider world.

Why another Journey?

I am going to Madrid, knowing how uncomfortable I am likely to be and still having a fear of huge crowds, hoping to meet Jesus yet again. I hope to support the Church in Spain, as she battles against a regime with frighteningly Stalinist tendencies (the re-writing of history and eradication of that country’s religious heritage are two examples,) and because I wish to understand how Jesus’ statement in last week’s Gospel about another man with a physical impairment, might apply to me:

‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.   (John 9: 3)

Do you have any World Youth Day memories you want to share? Let us know by leaving your comment!

Of related interest:

DO774 Way of Life for Young Catholics – Written for young Catholics who want to live their faith more deeply but are not sure what steps to take, this booklet contains practical, down-to-earth advice on many aspects of daily life.
You will be my Witnesses – During World Youth day 2008 in Australia, Pope Benedict not only raised challenging questions but gave the young people inspired and convincing answers rooted in Christ.
SP12 Union With God – St Athanasius famously said that “the Son of God became man so that we might become God”. This booklet delves into what it means for a Christian to not only have a relationship with God but become so united with Him that we take part in his divinity.

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One comment on “WYD in a Wheechair – A Reflection on World Youth Day

  1. God bless you, Simone. Just strolling through the CTS blog while taking a break from some work.


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