By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, August 15, 2011

We are "Canazuelanias." A Message from WYD.

As I write this particular blog post I'm traveling with about three hundred of our pilgrims by train from Malaga to Madrid for World Youth Days. We have just spent some incredible days in the south of Spain for that immediate preparatory period called Days in the Diocese. We are overwhelmed with the wonderfully warm and joyous welcome we have received from the local people here. During this time our pilgrims were dispersed throughout the region of Andalusia, in the city of Malaga as well as in the towns of Antequerra, Marbella, Velez-Malaga, Torre del Mar and Nerja. I stayed at the local seminary in Malaga, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the Bishops living in the Diocese, and from there I went out each day to visit the pilgrims in their various locales.

I am finding it particularly moving to visit with the pilgrims who are experiencing WYD for the first time. To meet so many young people from other countries (about 30 countries had pilgrims in Malaga with us) is for them very encouraging, because they have confirmed in a very tangible way that they are not alone in their love for the Lord, for the Church and in their desire to live a Christian life. Wait till they get to Madrid! There will be hundreds of thousands of their peers joyously celebrating their faith.

And wait till Madrid meets us! I'm sure the city won't know what hit it. Typically, pilgrims run and dance through the streets, waving their national flags, and making very visible their joy in the Lord. This is my fourth WYD, and I can tell you that the youth's enthusiasm is contagious. I have seen first hand that many who are critical of the faith or of the Church are moved and changed by the witness of our young people. It is clear that the Christian life, joyously and visibly lived, has the power to change lives.

The bonds the pilgrims form with one another are lasting. Speaking with me about their experiences, some of the pilgrims taught me a new word they created to express the bond that they now feel with the Spaniards and the Venezuelans with whom they have spent the last few days. Together they are Canazuelanias, which is their attempt to unite Canada, Spain and Venezuela. They don't know how to spell it, and neither do I, but I think you get the idea.

Our pilgrims (I am so proud of them!!) are really serious about growing in the faith. Some told me of spending time with others reflecting upon their hopes for WYD. They spoke of faith, hope, renewal of the world, and then agreed that the grace they seek from this experience is renewal in the faith with the hope of a united world. Beautiful. After coming up with this theme they visited some churches whose art reflected the same hope and they knew within their hearts that this was a confirmation of the Holy Spirit with them and guiding them. They are completely convinced that their presence in Spain in WYD is the result of the Lord working in their lives to bring them closer to him and to one another. I share that conviction.

Speaking of churches, there are so many here! And all beautiful. The small village of Antequerra, with a population of 50,000 has 32 churches. Particularly striking for us is how each city or town has Our Lady as patron under one of her titles. Malaga, for example, has a sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Victory (Nuestra SeƱora dell Vittoria). It was very fitting, therefore, for us to leave for Madrid on the 15th of August, when the Church throughout the world celebrates the Assumption of our Lady. Signs of her maternal protection surrounded us during Days in the Diocese. This morning we celebrated Mass together prior to boarding the train, and asked for her intercession that our time in Madrid will bring us all to a new encounter with Jesus. I ask for your prayers as well, as I promise you mine.

The technically savvy young people have set up a Facebook site where they will be uploading their pictures. If you want to get a taste of what's been happening, feel free to check us out at If there are no pictures there yet, stay tuned. I'm sure there will be as soon as our folks have Internet access!

Hasta pronto!