As one of the thousands of young people preparing to make the trip to Madrid this year, my excitement continues to build. After all, I have been preparing for this for a year and a half!

When my parish made the decision to take a group to Spain, I had no idea what I was getting into. All the prep, fundraisers, steak dinners, etc. At the time, it is so far away you wonder if it will ever come.

The group I am going with is very small — only 13 people. That’s okay. This is the first time our parish has sent a group. Needless to say, there will be a lot of learning as we go. Thank God we will have a full-time guide the whole time.

Now comes the “fun” part — packing! I am counting on advice from all the experts who have made the trip in the past: comfy shoes and making sure even my flashlight is official “WYD Madrid 2011” merchandise.

Most important, we are preparing for a pilgrimage. Yes, that means traveling trials, but mostly lots of time to grow in faith! Time to leave our comfort zones and daily attachments to focus on what it means to love and serve Jesus! We will be spending a lot of time at “Love and Life,” which is the home base for English-speaking pilgrims. This center offers music, talks and areas for quiet prayer.

Because all of the days will be full of events, it will be hard to choose which ones to attend.  I am most excited for the vigil with the Pope on Aug. 20. What could be more powerful than spending the night adoring Jesus with the Holy Father and youth from all over the world?  I hope and pray that this is a fruitful time of grace for the young (and young at heart). 

Here is a prayer provided by the World Youth Day team in Madrid for WYD pilgrims. Please lift all of us up in prayer and pass on the prayer to others:

Friend and Lord Jesus Christ,

How great you are!

With your words and works you have revealed to us

Who God is, your Father and our Father,

and who you are: our Savior.

You call us to be with you.

We wish to follow you wherever you go.

We thank you for your incarnation.

You are the eternal Son of God,

but you humbled yourself and became man.

We thank you for your death and resurrection.

You obeyed the Father’s will to the extreme,

and for this reason, you are the Lord of all persons and things.

We thank you for having remained amongst us

in the Eucharist.

Your presence, your sacrifice, your banquet

invite us to remain always united to you.

You call us to work with you.

We wish to go wherever you send us:

to announce your name, to heal in your name,

to bring all of our brothers to you.

Grant us your Holy Spirit to enlighten and strengthen us.

The Virgin Mary, the Mother you gave us on the cross,

always encourages us to do what you say.

You are our life. May our thoughts,

our love and our actions

always be rooted in you!

You are our rock. May our faith in you

always be the solid foundation

of our life!

We pray for Pope Benedict XVI,

for the bishops, and for all those who

are preparing the next World Youth Day in Madrid.

We pray for our family and friends

and especially for

all the young people who will get to know you

in this encounter, thanks to the firm and joyful

testimony of the faith.

Rachel Howell, the Register’s customer-and-administrative-support representative,

is blogging about the faith-filled events of World Youth Day 2011 from Madrid.

She is traveling with a group of first-time pilgrims from her parish in Alabama.