Krakow, Poland, Jul 28, 2016 / 03:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pilgrims from across the globe travel to World Youth Day by plane, train and automobile.
But not Victor Jacquemont, Antoine Lescuyer, and Humbert Canot.
The three young men, all in their early twenties, traveled from Paris to Krakow by biking 1,134 miles. Their 18-day journey — starting on July 4 — took them across France, Germany, Czech Republic, and Prague. The men told CNA they had a small tent in tow but also asked for “hospitality” from local churches and met many people along the way.
Originally from Cergy, a suburb of Paris, the men said the idea was to bike from their school’s chapel to the international youth gathering in Poland. The three attend ESSEC, an international business school in Europe. One of the reasons they chose to bike was because, “it’s not just a trip. It was kind of a pilgrimage,” Canot said. He explained that they wanted to make some effort, “some physical effort,” and have time to think about their faith. “The bike was kind of an ideal way of traveling for that.”
The men also mentioned that Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si had an impact on them. Because it talked about “having an ecological way of living,” the men said, “we thought that traveling on bicycle would be a nice way to put that in practice.”
The pilgrims believe that the Virgin Mary protected them during the whole journey. A woman who saw their journey on Facebook gave the men a small icon of Mary, just before their trip began. They said they “introduced it to (everyone) that we met on the way.” The men also handed out small miraculous medals from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, where the devotion originated. “We gave it as a memory and as a token of friendship.”
Now that they have arrived in Krakow, the young men are marveling in the “very good atmosphere.” Between people praying in their own languages and singing songs, the men said it is nice to see that “we are all united in Jesus, despite all of the political divisions there might be,” Jacquemont said.
“The language barrier doesn’t exist anymore,” he added, “it doesn’t matter.” This marks the first World Youth Day for Canot and Jacquemont, but Lescuyer said he attended the event when it was in Madrid in 2011. The men said they will be meeting up with other pilgrims from their diocese and they plan on living this week to the fullest with Pope Francis. “If we make enough noise, we might even meet him!”