A World Youth Day Experience—Jesus is the Way
Deacon Francis Coyne

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Greetings! My name is Deacon Francis Coyne. Originally from Reno, I graduated from Bishop Manogue High School in 1998 and earned a BA in psychology and theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio in 2002. My work experience includes roofing, construction, and cabinetry. I spent twelve years in religious life: six as a missionary, and six as a monk. I completed seminary formation at St Patrick’s in Menlo Park, and was ordained a transitional deacon on August 8, 2020. I was recently accepted as a ‘seminarian’ for the Diocese of Reno and currently work as parish administrator of Our Lady of Wisdom Newman Center and reside at Thomas Aquinas Cathedral. My main interest is spirituality. I aspire to become a priest for the Diocese of Reno. I am grateful for this opportunity to share a lesson I learned at World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. I hope it will speak to you.

The lesson is this: Jesus is the Way.

Before we were called ‘Christians’ or ‘Catholics’ we were followers of “The Way” (see Acts 9:2).

The way we live from moment to moment, how present we are to God, to ourselves, to others, and to creation, how much in union we are, how awake, how free to be in the present, makes all the difference. Indeed, it seems like this is the goal of spirituality and of pilgrimage – to arrive at the present moment. It is only in the present that God is giving himself, in, to, and through us, others, and creation.

This became clearer to me on Saturday August 5th when Bishop took us seminarians to Fatima. There, the 100-degree temperature, the pain in my knees from walking on them across the pavement, and praying the Rosary all combined to catapult me into the present moment where I found myself in sweet communion with God and all creation. From that moment forward, God was a rock within me, stable, unshakeable, present. Centered and resting in him, I then engaged with others and with my surroundings and circumstances with equanimity, freedom, and wonder, with appreciation, creativity, and joy.

In this way, I returned to Lisbon and entered perhaps the most demanding part of World Youth Day – the walking pilgrimage, the vigil, the overnight camp out under the stars, and the closing Mass all held in a dusty rock-strewn field, with 1.5 million other participants all competing for space and resources.

The only personal space I had was my own person, but because God was in me, that personal space seemed infinite. Experiencing myself as one with everyone and everything, I also felt no lack, need, or want. There was no struggle for the limited resources of food, water, sani-huts, ground space, or position. There was simply contentment and communion.

Maybe the goal of pilgrimage and spirituality alike is the realization of the kingdom of God in our midst – in us and among us. Such a realization would determine the way we live.