In this three-part series of posts, the Emmanuel Community in the Philippines share some testimonies from their pilgrimage to the World Youth Day in Poland this summer.
A Pilgrim of Mercy
I am Csherina, a 26-year old Catholic Filipina. I came from a town east of Manila named Antipolo. I grew up in a simple family – my father is a high school graduate with irregular source of income, while my mother is a business school graduate who became a full-time homemaker.
As the eldest among the four children, I lived a life of striving to be a good role model for my younger siblings. A life pressured to meet other people’s expectations. A life lived in fear of failure and frustration, especially when I commit mistakes. A life lived with confusion and without direction. And a life lived with a facade of superficial happiness but inner emptiness.
Like a lost sheep, Christ led me to Emmanuel School of Mission (Manila) in 2014 – a home where I discovered and experienced real freedom, love and joy. It was also there when I realized the essence of being a daughter of God who lives out of love and not out of fear.
The life after the mission school was more challenging than I expected.
I felt like one of the disciples in the Gospel during the Transfiguration.
I could not find the “joy” that I am looking for. And I told my Father in Heaven that the only thing which will make me happy is to join the World Youth Day (WYD) 2016. I was sure that what I am asking for is impossible (since I was unemployed and had no means to go) so I kept it in my heart while praying the Divine Mercy chaplet every day.
A year later, God answered my prayers.
I found a job as a Social Studies teacher in a Catholic School three months before WYD. My employer granted my 3-week leave of absence even if I am a new employee. I found prayer and financial support from my family, friends and the Emmanuel Community.
Indeed, He is a merciful and generous Father.
Arriving in Europe was a dream come true, not only for me but for my grandmothers and my parents who have never been outside the Philippines.
As a first time traveler abroad, I felt like stranger in a different world! The skies seemed clearer and farther. The moon was bigger. The weather was colder.
The food—there were more bread than rice!
My first week was a big adjustment.
I understood better what the word “jetlag” means. It was strange to see a bright night (8pm yet it was not dark, the sun is still shining!).
For the Days in the Diocese, we joined the Emmanuel Community Youth Forum. We spent one week living with our foster family in Czestochowa. I was surprised by the hospitality and care of our foster parents. They would wait for us and take time to have a chat even if it was already late night. They brought us to Olsztyn Castle and climbed the hill with us even if it was difficult for them to walk.
We had another week in Poland, this time in Nowa Huta, Krakow. We were hosted by a young family, serving the parish together as WYD volunteers! It was amazing to see: a couple who literally built their own home together (they were the ones who did the interior of their house); and children who are responsible and dependable at a young age (Franek, the 12-year old son prepared lunch when some of us unexpectedly went home early).
After 2 weeks that required a lot of physical energy in Poland, France was a good place to slow down. Exhausted from the WYD and worried for the days back to my country, I found comfort in the Sacred Heart Basilica in Paris. While praying in the middle and looking at the altar ceiling, I felt like the Resurrected Christ was embracing me.
All throughout our pilgrimage in Poland and during the Emmanuel Community summer session in Paray-le-Monial, I felt a deep longing. I was expecting for great joy but it seems like I still have not find it. In my head, I know that I should be happy for all the graces I have received (I could not ask for more!) but in my heart I felt empty.
With all these, I asked for prayers in a Mercy Group at the Chapel of St. Claude de la Colombière. One of them said that when I was praying, she was reminded of the icon of the Good Samaritan displayed in the Big Tent. It was a confirmation since that day, I imagined myself as the beaten man clinging his arm at the Good Samaritan’s neck. It was so strong that it even confirmed the words of Jesus to St. Faustina that I received in Krakow saying: “Rest, my daughter, I am with you always.”
Moreover, we also had the opportunity to attend night adoration at the Visitation Chapel. In front of St. Marguerite Marie, I silently read the First Consecration to the Sacred Heart Prayer that I saw in the bookstore that day (it was 6th August—the Feast of Transfiguration).
We also had the chance to visit Pierre Goursat!
I knew him as the founder of the Emmanuel Community. I discovered his story in the book “Fire and Hope.” But I felt closer to him when we visited his tomb.
Coming back home, he even helped me understand the emptiness I felt through the book “Words of Pierre”:
“The Lord had placed an emptiness in our hearts… So when He comes, He fills the emptiness. If one’s heart is full, He can’t enter.”
I still have to chew, little by little, all the graces God gave me during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, especially our Pilgrimage in Europe. I do not know where He will lead me, but I am sure of one thing… He is with me and I have nothing to be afraid of!
I am not a tourist, I am not a backpacker but I am a pilgrim of His Mercy…
Written by: Csherina (Philippines)