1. Great saints — and a Marian apparition.
World Youth Day 2023 will be held in the beautiful city of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. It’s a mere 79 and a half miles from Fatima, where Our Lady famously appeared to three shepherd children (Sts. Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia) in 1917, urging them and all of us to repent and pray the Rosary.
2. Great weather.
With its breathtaking beaches, lovely greenery, and quaint architecture, Lisbon boasts a refreshing climate year-round, with the best weather occurring in late July and early August. You’re likely going to enjoy little chance of rain, comfortable humidity, and average day temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (60 or higher in the evenings).
3. People everywhere.
Lisbon’s peak tourist season is June through August, so the city will already be crowded. Top it off with potentially millions of young people and their pilgrim companions flooding the streets, and you’ve got quite a crowd. Expect to be surrounded at every moment at events and on any public transportation. It may be overwhelming at first, but it’s also a unique opportunity to soak up every minute of the closeness and connection.
4. Joyful noise.
The excitement of World Youth Day is especially palpable when you take a moment to close your eyes and listen to all the joyful noise around you. It’ll be surreal — voices crying out in praise and song, in every language; shouting in eager anticipation as the Popemobile passes by; heartfelt weeping during the Stations of the Cross. This powerful merge of languages expressing one love of Christ and the Church is undoubtedly one of the most special aspects of this global gathering.
5. Cultural immersion.
One of the world’s oldest cities, Lisbon boasts a rich history and culture. You’ll see iconic yellow trams, expressive street art, and glorious churches. You may hear lively fado music being played in the streets. But you won’t just experience Portuguese culture. You’ll be surrounded by cultures from all over the world. You’ll hear the local language of Portuguese as well as English, and you’ll hear a mix of other languages (spoken and sung) from your pilgrim companions. It’s all part of the beauty of the event.
6. Sleep under the stars…and other interesting places.
After an evening prayer vigil with the Pope, you’ll spend a night sleeping under the stars. You may not actually get much sleep as you gaze up at the heavens and listen to the voices of different cultures praying and singing into the early morning hours. During the busy days of your trip you may snag a nap at the foot of a bench or find yourself sleeping with your group in a classroom or gym floor. Think of it as an incredible adventure and accept any sufferings or inconveniences with the joy of Christ in your heart, turning to him in prayer and praise through it all.
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4
7. Make the world a little greener.
When people from around the globe gather in one place, all that travel is sure to leave a carbon footprint. Pilgrims at World Youth Day primarily walk or take public transportation everywhere they go. At home before the trip, you can start taking walks, riding your bike, or taking the bus to get used to this…and to make your corner of the world a little bit greener.
8. A variety of activities.
World Youth Day is actually a series of days crowned with a prayer vigil, Stations of the Cross, and Mass with the pope. The days leading up to this are filled with a variety of faith-filled activities: catechetical sessions, prayer, sacraments, music, performances, and fellowship with your group and the new young people you’ll meet.
9. See (or at least hear) the Pope.
With the sizable crowd, you may not be in a position to actually see the Holy Father, but you’ll certainly hear his voice echoing over the assembly and feel his presence with you during Mass, Stations, and prayer time.
10. A lot of walking (on mosaics)!
All pilgrimages involve a decent amount of walking, and this one is no different. There will be times when you take public transportation, but primarily you will be moving from event to event on foot. So first of all, be sure to walk several miles at a time before the pilgrimage. Second, bring comfortable, durable shoes with good traction. Many of Portugal’s streets are made of colored cobblestone artistically placed to form beautiful mosaics right on the ground. While they are quite stunning, these surfaces are uneven, so a good pair of shoes will help prevent you from slipping.
11. The unexpected.
All travel carries a certain level of unpredictability. A flight is delayed, a bus is missed, plans don’t go…well, as planned. It’s normal to want everything to go smoothly especially when you are so far from home. Try entering this experience with the mindset that things are not going to go as planned. Things will change, and that’s okay. God is ultimately in control of everything, and he will bless you greatly through all the experiences you have on this pilgrimage, expected or unexpected.
12. To be inspired.
What made you decide to take this pilgrimage to Lisbon? What was it that appealed to you about World Youth Day? What were you hoping to experience in your heart? Perhaps the theme spoke to you on a personal level: Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39). Whatever your reasons for going, you will certainly come back a changed person. God works powerfully through pilgrimages. So open up your heart and expect to be inspired!