Dear Magdala Family,
During these weeks, I am traveling through Mexico, but my heart and mind are still fresh with the Youthfest experience, the event in the Holy Land from 21 July to 31. Days after the end of the pilgrimage, a young pilgrim wrote to me and described the event as an “ocean of love.” I think this is a beautiful and sharp description. By meeting our Lord for ten days in His precious Holy Land, the minimum experience you can get is feeling Love because God is Love.
But let’s rewind step by step.
We received 450 pilgrims from 25 countries. They started to arrive on July 19 and 20, even though the majority came on the 21st, as it was established. Most pilgrims were hosted at the Magdala Hotel. And a group, corresponding to a bus, was hosted at the Leonardo Hotel, just a few miles from Magdala in Tiberias City.
The group was divided by buses; each one had a designated priest or spiritual leader, a tour guide, and a musician, so the atmosphere and experience were centered by groups of buses, as little pilgrim “families.” Each bus was named after a Saint for easier identification and spiritual edification.
I don’t need to explain the detailed itinerary here, but you can watch this recap video.
In just a few days, you could see the wonders of the atmosphere created and filled with motivation, kindness, joy, and family. It was fully centered on singing, walking, celebrating, and sharing.
Each person had “their” moment during the pilgrimage, that moment when the experience becomes wholly unforgettable and inalienable. For some, it was on the optional all-night Eucharistic Adoration, accompanied by the musicians; for others, it was at the sunrise Eucharistic Celebration in Magdala; for others, it was touching the Star of Bethlehem or experiencing a Sacrament.
There were pleasant surprises like the First Communion of two little girls accompanied by their families, or conquering the climb up to the top of Mount Tabor, something unforgettable and filled with satisfaction for the least prepared.
The concluding event was in the Amphitheater of Caesarea Maritima. There, we meditated on the three “Duc In Altum” callings. The first was Peter’s; the second was the Apostles that sailed from the same place to bring the Good News to the Roman Empire; and the third was our own personal calling.
Yes, Jesus has told each of us, once again: “Duc In Altum”… “Go out into the deep”… In your life, in your companies, in your dreams. “I am with you.” What a wonderful way to end this experience with our heads held high, filled with hope and holy bravery to announce to the world that we can change and be better; a better future depends on each of us if we make it with God.
We hope that this experience was enjoyed by all participants. In Magdala, we still contemplate the facts, the people, and everything we have lived… Because 2024 is around the corner, we are already preparing for Youthfest Magdala 2024 for youth and those young of heart. This year, World Youth was the protagonist, as expected; we thank God for gathering youth and giving us the testimony of a living Church… Next year, we will meet at Magdala: friends, college classmates, parish and church groups… The priest from the youth pastoral ministries… We await you at the Youthfest Encounter Magdala 2024: a great party of faith, joy, family, and hope.
Once again, we need your support in our crowdfunding campaign for a new house for our volunteers; as I have mentioned, they need a better place to live. We will start sharing with you the testimonies from our volunteers so you can know firsthand the graces of the Lord through them and in them in Magdala. You can watch the first testimony here.
I want to end this letter by thanking you for your prayers and support for the following projects. I will be giving you more detailed news in the upcoming newsletters.
May the beginning of this new course be a personal Duc In Altum for all of us!
Blessings from Magdala,
Fr. Juan María Solana, L.C. and the Magdala team.