Vatican Radio reported that some 2 million young people attended World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. Spain became the first country to host WYD twice. In 1989, WYD was held in Santiago de Compostela.

Our Register staffer, Rachel Howell, who is our customer-service-and-administrative representative, was blessed to participate in the faith-filled events and chronicle her adventures at (Search “World Youth Day” to read more.)

When the Pope arrived, she wrote: “What an incredible day! Tears start dripping down my face and onto my keyboard as I sit here and type this. It is a day where memories and feelings will be forever in my heart.

“I got to see the Holy Father! Not just see him: He was within a few feet of us, and he blessed us! One hardly knows how to describe the peace and joy of that moment. There is an amazing feeling of unity with the whole Church here and a power that is above normal circumstances. …

“When he finally came, there was calmness in the midst of the cheering crowds. We looked up at our smiling Holy Father, and he looked back on all of his children, blessing us.”

As she recounted about the prayer vigil, “Then he [the Pope] led all of us in Benediction, and the vast crowd knelt in the rain to adore Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It was a night I will never forget.”

Sharing about the closing Mass, she wrote, “There is nothing like the experience — youth of the whole world praying together. Even though we all speak different languages, we are all united in the sacrifice of the Mass.”

About the whole experience, she noted: “We have experienced so much, made so many new friends, and been introduced to our faith in a totally new light. Despite the hardships of WYD, and the difficulties any city has in hosting such a gigantic event, it remains an amazing testament of faith to the whole world.”

The encouragement of the Pope resonated with the youth. “Do not be content with anything less than Christ,” he told them at the prayer vigil.

At the closing Mass, he said, “Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith; it surely needs God.”