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Deacon-structing WYD: The Beginning

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Last week I shared a bit of my WYD experience and how this event can (and does) change so many people’s lives. But many are not familiar with the history of World Youth Days nor with the reasons behind it.

During the pontificate of Paul VI, the Church was trying to figure out how to make this whole youth thing make sense. Someone suggested inviting youth to Rome for an “encounter” but nothing ever came of it. There is also a rumour that John Paul II, after being elected Pope, was on retreat near Assisi during a youth gathering called “Giovanni Verso Assisi,” “Youth Towards Assisi”. I was in Assisi for this same gathering in 2001 – there were some 3000 young people from all over Italy. It was like a mini-WYD. They say that this original gathering gave JPII an idea.

As it turns out, in 1984, the Holy Year of Redemption, JPII invited youth from around the world to come to Rome, to St. Peter’s Square, for Palm Sunday. Skeptics predicted that perhaps some 30 kids would show up and publicly proclaim their faith. On the contrary, some 300,000 came! On this occasion, John Paul II gave the youth of the world a simple wooden cross – the cross that has become the symbol, the Olympic torch, for World Youth Days. If we are to deacon-struct WYD, we have to start with the Cross.

For one year before each WYD, this Cross travels around the host country visiting schools, jails, malls, old-age homes, nightclubs… those places which most need the Cross.

Here in Canada, the Cross went from east coast to west coast, to north coast, travelling by car, truck, bus, plane, boat, sailboat, canoe, snowmobile and helicopter, and went into the most remote communities in the country – even those places where there are no roads. The WYD Cross brought the country together in ways that nothing else had before. For the last 40 days of the Cross’ journey, it was brought on foot, from Montrèal to Toronto. While it traveled through towns and villages, groups of young people, adults and children would join on the pilgrimage – they would take turns carrying it – praying with it. The Cross is one of the reasons for WYD. But not so much the Cross that reminds us of the suffering and passion. Instead, the Cross without which there is no redemption, no salvation and no resurrection!

1985 was declared the International Year of Youth by the United Nations. John Paul II thought that it would be appropriate to, once again invite the youth back to Rome. This time many more came. Why? What did that old man have that attracted the youth so much? John Paul II was the only living person who could gather so many people in one place – no rock star has been able to gather so many people at one time. In Toronto 800,000 came to celebrate the Closing Mass with the Holy Father. That day, Downsview Park became the 7th largest city in Canada. For WYD 2000 in Rome, during the Year of the Jubilee, 2 million people attended the Closing Mass. In the Philippines in 1995, 5 million people were with JPII for the WYD Final Mass! Popes Benedict and Francis definitely continued with this ability to gather youth: 1.5 million were with Pope Benedict at the Final Mass in Madrid and 3 million gathered in Copacabana Beach for the Final Mass with Pope Francis for Rio 2013. 2.5 million are expected at the Final Mass in Krakow.

Nowadays with Pope Francis we normally here the cheers of “Viva el Papa”. Many of us can remember the shouts of “Benedetto” but do you remember the young crowds cheering, “John Paul II, we love you”? Often he would respond, “John Paul II, he loves you.” John Paul II used to say that he loved young people. I think it was much more. JPII understood that the youth are not the Church of tomorrow: They are the Church of today. When he met them, he encountered the Church of today. At the same time, the youth, when meeting with the Pope, with any Pope, meet with the hierarchical Church and can connect with the tradition and structure of the Church. That’s another reason why young people come to WYD: to meet with the Pope and with the Church. The motto of World Youth Days since its beginning has been The Pope and Young People Together. So at WYDs we have a meeting of the Lay Church with the Hierarchical Church, under the Cross.

Next week, let’s look at the pilgrimage aspect of WYD.


Photo Credit: Young people from Brazil, left, pass on the World Youth Day cross to youths from Poland, right, at the conclusion of Pope Francis’ celebration of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 13. (Photo: Paul Haring/CNS)


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Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing WYD: The Kingdom of God

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Often, when I speak to young people, I’ll start by asking where they are from: Is there anyone here from Ottawa or Quebec? How about anyone from the States? This usually gets the groups cheering as I call out their home town. But when I ask, “who is from the Kingdom of Heaven?” not everyone puts up their hand. And that’s exactly my point: Not all of us think we are worthy to belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let me explain: If we are all sons and daughters of God, made in the image of God, then, by definition, we are members of the family of God. And if we are members of the family of God, then we belong in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Heaven. Get it?

And who lives in the Kingdom of Heaven? The Saints, right? So, if we belong to the Kingdom of Heaven, then, by logical deduction, we are saints. All of us!

It’s true. You may not like the idea that you are being created to be a saint, but you are. The calling is not to be something that we are not; the calling is to say “yes” to that for which we are created. Saint John Paul II already told us: “Do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium.”

Me too. I’m just an ordinary Catholic, from an ordinary Panamanian family. I belonged to a youth group and Church choir. Even when I left home at age 16, I continued to go to Mass on Sundays. I never really strayed from the Church. I can’t say that I understood Church teachings, but I never really doubted the Faith. Still, like many other “ordinary” Catholics, although I’d always been in the Church and I always “followed” Jesus Christ, I had never had a real close personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Well, I’d had them, I just hadn’t recognised them.

Why? Because having a personal encounter with Christ almost always leads to a calling. Yes, I’d had encounters, but none had really led to a calling, until I came to work at the National Office for the World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.

I was the Artistic Director for WYD 2002, in charge of all artistic programming for the event: all music, dance and dramatic expression. For the Youth Festival we coordinated the participation of almost 200 groups, from 35 different countries, in eight different languages, with a total of some 400 performances. I also coordinated the production of the official WYD 2002 Souvenir CD album and all the dance and music for all the main events with Pope John Paul II. It was an unforgettable experience filled with many blessings. I’ve never been so busy nor have I slept so little! But, at the same time, I never felt super stressed, nor that the whole world was caving in. I never lost hope. I always knew that this was God’s work and that He was in charge. And it was in that small detail, that something inside of me changed.

I worked 20 months for the WYD 2002 Office – for me that was a time of many challenges and frustrations, yet at the same time, of incredible peace and joy. My experience with WYD was one of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the frustrated, those who have no money, those who don’t have enough time in the day and too much work to do… Blessed are those who are hungry. Blessed are those who got lost and never made it to their Catechesis sessions – those who didn’t eat because the food ran out, those who were dirty, wet, sleepy, cold or too hot, suffering from sun stroke – Blessed are those who were dehydrated… Those who had to raise thousands of dollars to buy a plane ticket only to have their visa applications denied… Blessed are they, for the Kingdom of God is theirs.

In just about a month, hundreds of thousands of young people will be traveling to Krakow, Poland for the 30th WYD. But why? Why spend so much money and travel so far? Why go through the discomfort of crowds, only to end up so far away from the stage or a screen and not see anything – why get soaked in the rain and be hungry? Why all this suffering? Why were we called to “make the streets resound with the joy and love of Christ”? Can’t we be salt and light right here at home without going to World Youth Day?

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing with you why World Youth Day came about and why it is so important for our Church, so keep coming back. Next week, “The Beginning.”


Photo Credit: Mexican pilgrims march down Atlantic Avenue along Copacabana beach for the the opening Mass of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro July 23, 2013. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)


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Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Programme of Pope Francis’ visit to Poland for the 31st World Youth Day

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Vatican City, 9 June 2016 The programme for the Holy Father’s apostolic trip to Poland, on the occasion of the celebration of the 31st World Youth Day from 27 to 31 July this year, was published today.
 
The Pope will depart from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 2 p.m. and will arrive at the John Paul II airport of Balice-Krakow two hours later. After the welcome ceremony he will transfer to the Castle of Wawel, where he will address the civil authorities and diplomatic corps, followed by a courtesy visit to the president of the Republic. The Pope’s first day in Poland will conclude with a meeting with bishops in Krakow Cathedral.
 
In the early morning of Thursday 28 July he will visit the Convent of the Sisters of the Presentation on the way to the airport, and at 8.30 a.m. he will transfer by helicopter to Czestochowa where, in the monastery of Jasna Gora, he will pray in the chapel of the Black Virgin before celebrating Holy Mass in the Shrine of Czestochowa on the occasion of the 1,050th anniversary of the baptism of Poland. At 12.45 p.m. he will return to Krakow where he will address the young people gathered in Jordan Park.
 
On Friday 29 July he will transfer by helicopter to Oswiecim. At 9.30 he will visit Auschwitz and at 10.30 the camp of Birkenau, returning to Krakow where at 4.30 p.m. he will meet patients at the university paediatric hospital, and at 6 p.m. he will preside at the Via Crucis with young people in Jordan Park.
 
On Saturday he will visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, where he will pass through the Door of Divine Mercy and confess several young people. After, at 10.30, he will celebrate Holy Mass for Polish priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and seminarians in the St. John Paul II Shrine of Krakow. The Pope will lunch with several young people in the archiepiscopal residence and then in the evening will pass through the Holy Door in the Campus Misericordiae with various young people. There, at 7.30 p.m., he will give the opening address of the prayer vigil.
 
On Sunday 31 July, Francis will celebrate Mass for World Youth Day in the Campus Misericordiae, after which, at 5 p.m., he will greet the WYD volunteers, organising committee and benefactors in the Tauron Arena in Krakow. He will depart by air at 6.30 p.m., destined for Rome’s Ciampino airport, where he is expected to arrive at 8.25 p.m.

Reflections of his Light: The Journey of His Holiness John Paul II and the World Youth Day Cross in Canada

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All proceeds from the purchase of this book are to make possible Salt + Light‘s coverage of the World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland in July of 2016.

Throughout Pope John Paul II’s papacy, youth has been a priority. When he was elected Pope in 1978, John Paul II said that young people are the future of the world and the hope for the Church.

At the end of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption in 1984, the Pope invited young people to a special gathering in Rome on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Three hundred thousand young people attended.

It was at this celebration that the Pope entrusted the Holy Year Cross to the youth of the world. This cross is now known as the World Youth Day Cross. It has visited all the countries where WYDs have been held. In 1985 – the United Nations International Year of Youth – Pope john Paul II extended a second invitation to young people. This time, 4500,000 attended on Palm Sunday in Rome.

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These events inspired the Pope to create WYD, which brings together young Catholics from around the world to celebrate their faith. WYD is an encounter of the youth of the world with the Holy Father and the Christian community of the host country. With a renewed faith in Jesus Christ, young people go out into the world to be witnesses to the Gospel.
The first WYD was held in Rome in 1985 on Palm Sunday. Since then, WYD celebrations have been held in Argentina, Spain, Poland, the United States, the Philippines, France and again in Italy.
At the conclusion of WYD 2000 in Rome, Pope John Paul II announced that Canada would host in 2002 in Toronto from July 23 to 28th.
The theme would be, “You are the salt of the Earth, You are the light of the World” (Matthew 5.13-14)
This book is about the Journey of His Holiness John Paul II and the World Youth Day Cross in Canada.
 

Pope marks World Youth Day in Palm Sunday Angelus Address

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At the conclusion of the Solemn Mass for Palm Sunday, Pope Francis led the faithful in the recitation of the Angelus. In brief remarks ahead of the Marian prayer, the Holy Father greeted all those taking part in the ceremony, including those watching and listening by means of television, radio, or other means of communication.

The Pope noted the 31st World Youth Day, commemorated on Sunday, which will culminate in the “great world Meeting in Krakow,” Poland, this summer. The theme of this year’s World Youth Day is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” “I hope that many of you can come to Krakow, the homeland of Saint John Paul II, the founder of World Youth Day,” Pope Francis said. “We entrust to his intercession the final months of preparation for this pilgrimage, in the context of the Holy Year of Mercy, will be the Jubilee of the Young People at the level of the Universal Church.”

Pope Francis also noted the many young volunteers from Krakow who were in the Square on Palm Sunday. “Returning to Poland,” he said, “they will take to the leaders of the Nation the olive branches gathered from Jerusalem, Assisi, and Montecassino” which were blessed during the ceremony, “as an invitation to cultivate proposals for peace, reconciliation, and fraternity.” He thanked them for their initiative, and encouraged them, “Go forward with courage!”

Move WYD – City of Saints

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Check the new Move WYD (Mów ?DM) video with Fr. Jonathan Kalisch O.P. Fr. Jonathan talks about how he found his vocation in Kraków, memories from previous WYD, the Knights of Columbus and their mission during WYD, St. John Paul II and the people who were healed thanks to St. Faustina.

The interview was recorded during II International Preparatory Meeting in Wadowice in November 2015.

World Youth Day Krakow 2016 Official Video

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The official video for the hymn for World Youth Day Krakow 2016 was released today. Below you will find the full song in Polish along with the English translation.

English translation of the WYD2016 hymn, “Blogoslawieni milosierni” (“Blessed are the Merciful”):

Blessed Are the Merciful
I raise my eyes to the mountains,
from where help will come
from the Lord, because He
is a merciful God!
When we are lost, He looks for us,
so as to take us in His arms,
healing our wounds with the blood of His wounds,
breathing new life into us.
Blessed are the merciful
For they shall receive mercy!
If the Lord did not forgive us our sins
who could survive alone?
But He forgives, so too
should we do as our God!
By His own Son’s blood God erased every debt
His Son rose alive from the tomb;
“Jesus is Lord” – the Spirit tells us from within.
Let the world see this!

[BRIDGE]
So throw away your fear and have faith,
confide your problems in the Lord
and trust in Him, for He is risen
and is alive, your God!

Translated by Henryk Michael Kurylewski, founder and choreographer of Obertas in Brisbane, Australia

Pope Francis’ Message for World Youth Day 2016

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7)

Dear Young People,

We have come to the last stretch of our pilgrimage to Krakow, the place where we will celebrate the 31st World Youth Day next year in the month of July. We are being guided on this long and challenging path by Jesus’ words taken from the Sermon on the Mount. We began this journey in 2014 by meditating together on the first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The theme for 2015 was: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). During the year ahead, let us allow ourselves to be inspired by the words: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).

1. The Jubilee of Mercy

With this theme, the Krakow 2016 WYD forms part of the Holy Year of Mercy and so becomes a Youth Jubilee at world level. It is not the first time that an international youth gathering has coincided with a Jubilee Year. Indeed, it was during the Holy Year of the Redemption (1983/1984) that Saint John Paul II first called on young people from around the world to come together on Palm Sunday. Then, during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, over two million young people from around 165 countries gathered in Rome for the 15th World Youth Day. I am sure that the Youth Jubilee in Krakow will be, as on those two previous occasions, one of the high points of this Holy Year!

Perhaps some of you are asking: what is this Jubilee Year that is celebrated in the Church? The scriptural text of Leviticus 5 can help us to understand the meaning of a “jubilee” for the people of Israel. Every fifty years they heard the sounding of a trumpet (jobel) calling them (jobil) to celebrate a holy year as a time of reconciliation (jobal) for everyone. During that time they had to renew their good relations with God, with their neighbours and with creation, all in a spirit of gratuitousness. This fostered, among other things, debt forgiveness, special help for those who had fallen into poverty, an improvement in interpersonal relations and the freeing of slaves.

Jesus Christ came to proclaim and bring about the Lord’s everlasting time of grace. He brought good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed (cf. Lk 4:18-19). In Jesus, and particularly in his Paschal Mystery, the deeper meaning of the jubilee is fully realized. When the Church proclaims a jubilee in the name of Christ, we are all invited to experience a wonderful time of grace. The Church must offer abundant signs of God’s presence and closeness, and reawaken in people’s hearts the ability to look to the essentials. In particular, this Holy Year of Mercy is “a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy” (Homily at First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, 11 April 2015).

2. Merciful like the Father

The motto for this Extraordinary Jubilee is “Merciful like the Father” (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 13). This fits in with the theme of the next WYD, so let us try to better understand the meaning of divine mercy.

The Old Testament uses various terms when it speaks about mercy. The most meaningful of these are hesed and rahamim. The first, when applied to God, expresses God’s unfailing fidelity to the Covenant with his people whom he loves and forgives for ever. The second, rahamim, which literally means “entrails”, can be translated as “heartfelt mercy”. This particularly brings to mind the maternal womb and helps us understand that God’s love for his people is like that of a mother for her child. That is how it is presented by the prophet Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is 49:15). Love of this kind involves making space for others within ourselves and being able to sympathize, suffer and rejoice with our neighbours.

The biblical concept of mercy also includes the tangible presence of love that is faithful, freely given and able to forgive. In the following passage from Hosea, we have a beautiful example of God’s love, which the prophet compares to that of a father for his child: “When Israel was a child I loved him; out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me… Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks… I stooped to feed my child” (Hos 11:1-4). Despite the child’s wrong attitude that deserves punishment, a father’s love is faithful. He always forgives his repentant children. We see here how forgiveness is always included in mercy. It is “not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child… It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 6).

The New Testament speaks to us of divine mercy (eleos) as a synthesis of the work that Jesus came to accomplish in the world in the name of the Father (cf. Mt 9:13). Our Lord’s mercy can be seen especially when he bends down to human misery and shows his compassion for those in need of understanding, healing and forgiveness. Everything in Jesus speaks of mercy. Indeed, he himself is mercy.

In Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel we find the three parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son. In these three parables we are struck by God’s joy, the joy that God feels when he finds and forgives a sinner. Yes, it is God’s joy to forgive! This sums up the whole of the Gospel. “Each of us, each one of us, is that little lost lamb, the coin that was mislaid; each one of us is that son who has squandered his freedom on false idols, illusions of happiness, and has lost everything. But God does not forget us; the Father never abandons us. He is a patient Father, always waiting for us! He respects our freedom, but he remains faithful forever. And when we come back to him, he welcomes us like children into his house, for he never ceases, not for one instant, to wait for us with love. And his heart rejoices over every child who returns. He is celebrating because he is joy. God has this joy, when one of us sinners goes to him and asks his forgiveness” (Angelus, 15 September 2013).

God’s mercy is very real and we are all called to experience it firsthand. When I was seventeen years old, it happened one day that, as I was about to go out with friends, I decided to stop into a church first. I met a priest there who inspired great confidence, and I felt the desire to open my heart in Confession. That meeting changed my life! I discovered that when we open our hearts with humility and transparency, we can contemplate God’s mercy in a very concrete way. I felt certain that, in the person of that priest, God was already waiting for me even before I took the step of entering that church. We keep looking for God, but God is there before us, always looking for us, and he finds us first. Maybe one of you feels something weighing on your heart.

You are thinking: I did this, I did that…. Do not be afraid! God is waiting for you! God is a Father and he is always waiting for us! It is so wonderful to feel the merciful embrace of the Father in the sacrament of Reconciliation, to discover that the confessional is a place of mercy, and to allow ourselves to be touched by the merciful love of the Lord who always forgives us! You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope? Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love? Saint Paul tells us that “God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Do we really understand the power of these words?

I know how much the WYD cross means to all of you. It was a gift from Saint John Paul II and has been with you at all your World Meetings since 1984. So many changes and real conversions have taken place in the lives of young people who have encountered this simple bare cross! Perhaps you have asked yourselves the question: what is the origin of the extraordinary power of the cross? Here is the answer: the cross is the most eloquent sign of God’s mercy! It tells us that the measure of God’s love for humanity is to love without measure! Through the cross we can touch God’s mercy and be touched by that mercy! Here I would recall the episode of the two thieves crucified beside Jesus. One of them is arrogant and does not admit that he is a sinner. He mocks the Lord. The other acknowledges that he has done wrong; he turns to the Lord saying: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus looks at him with infinite mercy and replies: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (cf. Lk 23:32, 39-43). With which of the two do we identify? Is it with the arrogant one who does not acknowledge his own mistakes? Or is it with the other, who accepts that he is in need of divine mercy and begs for it with all his heart? It is in the Lord, who gave his life for us on the cross, that we will always find that unconditional love which sees our lives as something good and always gives us the chance to start again.

3. The amazing joy of being instruments of God’s mercy

The Word of God teaches us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That is why the fifth Beatitude declares that the merciful are blessed. We know that the Lord loved us first. But we will be truly blessed and happy only when we enter into the divine “logic” of gift and gracious love, when we discover that God has loved us infinitely in order to make us capable of loving like Him, without measure. Saint John says: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love… In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4:7-11).

After this very brief summary of how the Lord bestows his mercy upon us, I would like to give you some suggestions on how we can be instruments of this mercy for others.

I think of the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. He said, “Jesus pays me a visit every morning in Holy Communion, and I return the visit in the meagre way I know how, visiting the poor”. Pier Giorgio was a young man who understood what it means to have a merciful heart that responds to those most in need. He gave them far more than material goods. He gave himself by giving his time, his words and his capacity to listen. He served the poor very quietly and unassumingly. He truly did what the Gospel tells us: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret” (Mt 6:3-4). Imagine that, on the day before his death when he was gravely ill, he was giving directions on how his friends in need should be helped. At his funeral, his family and friends were stunned by the presence of so many poor people unknown to them. They had been befriended and helped by the young Pier Giorgio.

I always like to link the Gospel Beatitudes with Matthew 25, where Jesus presents us with the works of mercy and tells us that we will be judged on them. I ask you, then, to rediscover the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, assist the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. Nor should we overlook the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, teach the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the sorrowful, forgive offences, patiently bear with troublesome people and pray to God for the living and the dead. As you can see, mercy does not just imply being a “good person” nor is it mere sentimentality. It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus, and of our credibility as Christians in today’s world.

If you want me to be very specific, I would suggest that for the first seven months of 2016 you choose a corporal and a spiritual work of mercy to practice each month. Find inspiration in the prayer of Saint Faustina, a humble apostle of Divine Mercy in our times:

“Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I will never be suspicious or judge by appearances, but always look for what is beautiful in my neighbours’ souls and be of help to them;

that my ears may be merciful, so that I will be attentive to my neighbours’ needs, and not indifferent to their pains and complaints;

that my tongue may be merciful, so that I will never speak badly of others, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all;

that my hands may be merciful and full of good deeds; that my feet may be merciful, so that I will hasten to help my neighbour, despite my own fatigue and weariness;

that my heart may be merciful, so that I myself will share in all the sufferings of my neighbour” (Diary, 163).

The Divine Mercy message is a very specific life plan because it involves action. One of the most obvious works of mercy, and perhaps the most difficult to put into practice, is to forgive those who have offended us, who have done us wrong or whom we consider to be enemies. “At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully” (Misericordiae Vultus, 9).

I meet so many young people who say that they are tired of this world being so divided, with clashes between supporters of different factions and so many wars, in some of which religion is being used as justification for violence. We must ask the Lord to give us the grace to be merciful to those who do us wrong. Jesus on the cross prayed for those who had crucified him: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Mercy is the only way to overcome evil. Justice is necessary, very much so, but by itself it is not enough. Justice and mercy must go together. How I wish that we could join together in a chorus of prayer, from the depths of our hearts, to implore the Lord to have mercy on us and on the whole world!

4. Krakow is expecting us!

Only a few months are left before we meet in Poland. Krakow, the city of Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina Kowalska, is waiting for us with open arms and hearts. I believe that Divine Providence led us to the decision to celebrate the Youth Jubilee in that city which was home to those two great apostles of mercy in our times. John Paul II realized that this is the time of mercy. At the start of his pontificate, he wrote the encyclical Dives in Misericordia. In the Holy Year 2000 he canonized Sister Faustina and instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, which now takes place on the Second Sunday of Easter. In 2002 he personally inaugurated the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow and entrusted the world to Divine Mercy, in the desire that this message would reach all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope: “This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness!” (Homily at the Dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, 17 August 2002).

Dear young people, at the Shrine in Krakow dedicated to the merciful Jesus, where he is depicted in the image venerated by the people of God, Jesus is waiting for you. He has confidence in you and is counting on you! He has so many things to say to each of you… Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to Him and do not be afraid! Come to him and say from the depths of your hearts: “Jesus, I trust in You!”. Let yourselves be touched by his boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair.

Carry with you the flame of Christ’s merciful love – as Saint John Paul II said – in every sphere of your daily life and to the very ends of the earth. In this mission, I am with you with my encouragement and prayers. I entrust all of you to Mary, Mother of Mercy, for this last stretch of the journey of spiritual preparation for the next WYD in Krakow. I bless all of you from my heart.

From the Vatican, 15 August 2015 Solemnity of the Assumption of the B.V. Mary 

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Thirtieth World Youth Day 2015

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5: 8)

Dear Young Friends,

We continue our spiritual pilgrimage toward Krakow, where in July 2016 the next international World Youth Day will be held. As our guide for the journey we have chosen the Beatitudes. Last year we reflected on the beatitude of the poor in spirit, within the greater context of the Sermon on the Mount. Together we discovered the revolutionary meaning of the Beatitudes and the powerful summons of Jesus to embark courageously upon the exciting quest for happiness. This year we will reflect on the sixth beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8).

1. The desire for happiness

The word “blessed”, or “happy”, occurs nine times in this, Jesus’ first great sermon (cf. Mt 5:1-12). It is like a refrain reminding us of the Lord’s call to advance together with him on a road which, for all its many challenges, leads to true happiness.

Dear young friends, this search for happiness is shared by people of all times and all ages. God has placed in the heart of every man and woman an irrepressible desire for happiness, for fulfillment. Have you not noticed that your hearts are restless, always searching for a treasure which can satisfy their thirst for the infinite?

The first chapters of the Book of Genesis show us the splendid “beatitude” to which we are called. It consists in perfect communion with God, with others, with nature, and with ourselves. To approach God freely, to see him and to be close to him, was part of his plan for us from the beginning; his divine light was meant to illumine every human relationship with truth and transparency. In the state of original purity, there was no need to put on masks, to engage in ploys or to attempt to conceal ourselves from one another. Everything was clear and pure.

When Adam and Eve yielded to temptation and broke off this relationship of trusting communion with God, sin entered into human history (cf. Gen 3). The effects were immediately evident, within themselves, in their relationship with each other and with nature. And how dramatic the effects are! Our original purity as defiled. From that time on, we were no longer capable of closeness to God. Men and women began to conceal themselves, to cover their nakedness. Lacking the light which comes from seeing the Lord, they saw everything around them in a distorted fashion, myopically. The inner compass which had guided them in their quest for happiness lost its point of reference, and the attractions of power, wealth, possessions, and a desire for pleasure at all costs, led them to the abyss of sorrow and anguish.

In the Psalms we hear the heartfelt plea which mankind makes to God: “What can bring us happiness? Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord” (Ps 4:7). The Father, in his infinite goodness, responded to this plea by sending his Son. In Jesus, God has taken on a human face. Through his Incarnation, life, death and resurrection, Jesus frees us from sin and opens new and hitherto unimaginable horizons.

Dear young men and women, in Christ you find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness. He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises. As Saint John Paul II said: “He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives” (cf. Discourse at the Prayer Vigil at Tor Vergata, 19 August 2000: Insegnamenti XXIII/2, [2000], 212).

2. Blessed are the pure in heart…

Let us now try to understand more fully how this blessedness comes about through purity of heart. First of all, we need to appreciate the biblical meaning of the word heart. In Hebrew thought, the heart is the centre of the emotions, thoughts and intentions of the human person. Since the Bible teaches us that God does not look to appearances, but to the heart (cf. 1 Sam16:7), we can also say that it is from the heart that we see God. This is because the heart is really the human being in his or her totality as a unity of body and soul, in his or her ability to love and to be loved.

As for the definition of the word pure, however, the Greek word used by the evangelist Matthew is katharos, which basically means clean, pure, undefiled. In the Gospel we see Jesus reject a certain conception of ritual purity bound to exterior practices, one which forbade all contact with things and people (including lepers and strangers) considered impure. To the Pharisees who, like so many Jews of their time, ate nothing without first performing ritual ablutions and observing the many traditions associated with cleansing vessels, Jesus responds categorically: “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mk 7:15, 21-22).

In what, then, does the happiness born of a pure heart consist? From Jesus’ list of the evils which make someone impure, we see that the question has to do above all with the area of our relationships. Each one of us must learn to discern what can “defile” his or her heart and to form his or her conscience rightly and sensibly, so as to be capable of “discerning the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). We need to show a healthy concern for creation, for the purity of our air, water and food, but how much more do we need to protect the purity of what is most precious of all: our heart and our relationships. This “human ecology” will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beauty, from true love, and from holiness.

Once I asked you the question: “Where is your treasure? In what does your heart find its rest?” (cf. Interview with Young People from Belgium, 31 March 2014). Our hearts can be attached to true or false treasures, they can find genuine rest or they can simply slumber, becoming lazy and lethargic. The greatest good we can have in life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Do you realize how much you are worth in the eyes of God? Do you know that you are loved and welcomed by him unconditionally, as indeed you are? Once we lose our sense of this, we human beings become an incomprehensible enigma, for it is the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives. Do you remember the conversation that Jesus had with the rich young man (cf. Mk 10:17-22)? The evangelist Mark observes that the Lord looked upon him and loved him (v. 21), and invited him to follow him and thus to find true riches. I hope, dear young friends, that this loving gaze of Christ will accompany each of you throughout life.

Youth is a time of life when your desire for a love which is genuine, beautiful and expansive begins to blossom in your hearts. How powerful is this ability to love and to be loved! Do not let this precious treasure be debased, destroyed or spoiled. That is what happens when we start to use our neighbours for our own selfish ends, even as objects of pleasure. Hearts are broken and sadness follows upon these negative experiences. I urge you: Do not be afraid of true love, the love that Jesus teaches us and which Saint Paul describes as “patient and kind”. Paul says: “Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-8).

In encouraging you to rediscover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone, deprived of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility. Dear young friends, “in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage to ‘swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy” (Meeting with the Volunteers of the XXVIII Word Youth Day, 28 July 2013).

You young people are brave adventurers! If you allow yourselves to discover the rich teachings of the Church on love, you will discover that Christianity does not consist of a series of prohibitions which stifle our desire for happiness, but rather a project for life capable of captivating our hearts.

3. …for they shall see God

In the heart of each man and woman, the Lord’s invitation constantly resounds: “Seek my face!” (Ps 27:8). At the same time, we must always realize that we are poor sinners. For example, we read in the Book of Psalms: “Who can climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24:3-4). But we must never be afraid or discouraged: throughout the Bible and in the history of each one of us we see that it is always God who takes the first step. He purifies us so that we can come into his presence.

When the prophet Isaiah heard the Lord’s call to speak in his name, he was terrified and said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Is 6:5). And yet the Lord purified him, sending to him an angel who touched his lips, saying: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven” (v. 7). In the New Testament, when on the shores of lake Genessaret Jesus called his first disciples and performed the sign of the miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter fell at his feet, exclaiming: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Jesus’ reply was immediate: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be fishers of men” (v. 10). And when one of the disciples of Jesus asked him: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”, the Master replied: “He who has seen me has seen the Father (Jn 14:8-9).

The Lord’s invitation to encounter him is made to each of you, in whatever place or situation you find yourself. It suffices to have the desire for “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter you; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 3). We are all sinners, needing to be purified by the Lord. But it is enough to take a small step towards Jesus to realize that he awaits us always with open arms, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation, a privileged opportunity to encounter that divine mercy which purifies us and renews our hearts.

Dear young people, the Lord wants to meet us, to let himself “be seen” by us. “And how?”, you might ask me. Saint Teresa of Avila, born in Spain five hundred years ago, even as a young girl, said to her parents, “I want to see God”. She subsequently discovered the way of prayer as “an intimate friendship with the One who makes us feel loved” (Autobiography, 8,5). So my question to you is this: “Are you praying?” Do you know that you can speak with Jesus, with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, as you speak to a friend? And not just any friend, but the greatest and most trusted of your friends! You will discover what one of his parishioners told the Curé of Ars: “When I pray before the tabernacle, ‘I look at him, and he looks at me’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2715).

Once again I invite you to encounter the Lord by frequently reading sacred Scripture. If you are not already in the habit of doing so, begin with the Gospels. Read a line or two each day. Let God’s word speak to your heart and enlighten your path (cf. Ps119:105). You will discover that God can be “seen” also in the face of your brothers and sisters, especially those who are most forgotten: the poor, the hungry, those who thirst, strangers, the sick, those imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Have you ever had this experience? Dear young people, in order to enter into the logic of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must recognize that we are poor with the poor. A pure heart is necessarily one which has been stripped bare, a heart that knows how to bend down and share its life with those most in need.

Encountering God in prayer, the reading of the Bible and in the fraternal life will help you better to know the Lord and yourselves. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35), the Lord’s voice will make your hearts burn within you. He will open your eyes to recognize his presence and to discover the loving plan he has for your life.

Some of you feel, or will soon feel, the Lord’s call to married life, to forming a family. Many people today think that this vocation is “outdated”, but that is not true! For this very reason, the ecclesial community has been engaged in a special period of reflection on the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world. I also ask you to consider whether you are being called to the consecrated life or the priesthood. How beautiful it is to see young people who embrace the call to dedicate themselves fully to Christ and to the service of his Church! Challenge yourselves, and with a pure heart do not be afraid of what God is asking of you! From your “yes” to the Lord’s call, you will become new seeds of hope in the Church and in society. Never forget: God’s will is our happiness!

4. On the way to Krakow

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Dear young men and women, as you see, this beatitude speaks directly to your lives and is a guarantee of your happiness. So once more I urge you: Have the courage to be happy!

This year’s World Youth Day begins the final stage of preparations for the great gathering of young people from around the world in Krakow in 2016. Thirty years ago Saint John Paul II instituted World Youth Days in the Church. This pilgrimage of young people from every continent under the guidance of the Successor of Peter has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative. Together let us thank the Lord for the precious fruits which these World Youth Days have produced in the lives of countless young people in every part of the globe! How many amazing discoveries have been made, especially the discovery that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life! How many people have realized that the Church is a big and welcoming family! How many conversions, how many vocations have these gatherings produced! May the saintly Pope, the Patron of World Youth Day, intercede on behalf of our pilgrimage toward his beloved Krakow. And may the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, all-beautiful and all-pure, accompany us at every step along the way.

From the Vatican, 31 January 2015
Memorial of Saint John Bosco

Official Hymn of World Youth Day Krakow 2016

WYDKrakow

On Tuesday, January 6, the official hymn for World Youth Day 2016 was released in Krakow, Poland, at the end of an Epiphany of the Lord celebration. The hymn, titled “Blessed the merciful,” was inspired by the theme of the WYD Krakow 2016, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Mt, 5,7).

The anthem was performed by Katarzyna Bogusz, Aleksandra Maciejewska and Przemek Kleczkowski, along with a mixed choir of approximately 50 people and an orchestra conducted by Hubert Kowalski.

Jakub Blycharz, a Cracovian composer, lawyer, husband and father, wrote the music and lyrics of the anthem. Additionally he has authored several liturgical pieces of music such as: Dobry jest Pan (Good is the Lord), Bonum est praestolari (lat. It is Good to Wait), Uczta Baranka (The Feast of the Lamb)” or ?wi?ta Dziewico (Oh, Holy Virgin), as well as “Amen”, Godzien (Worthy) ” and “Nie umr?” (I Will Not Die). He and his family are involved in the life of a Cracovian community called G?os na Pustyni (A Voice in the Desert).

Listen to the official hymn below.

The English translation to the lyrics of the hymn have not been made available yet, but will be posted here shortly after its release.

Check out the Official Promo and Official Prayer for World Youth Day Krakow 2016.