English  ·  Français   ·   Italiano   ·   中文  

A Brand New WYD… Literally

crowd

Written by Ian Meaden

Well…this is going to be interesting. (Now I could be mean and just leave it at that and make you wonder ‘what’s going to be interesting’? But then I’d have to confess how mean I was…) So, here what’s interesting, I’ve been asked to be a blogger and submit a few entries to Salt and Light Television depicting my experiences at WYD. However (and here’s the rub) I’ve never actually “blogged” before. I mean, growing up I wrote in my journal. Blogging is kind of kind of like a 21st century journal but remember, you’re reading an entry from a guy who just recently found out what Snapchat is. I still get excited when I can use a hashtag in a sentence…it makes me feel hip.

In my life, I have had the privilege of attending two previous World Youth Days (Toronto, Ontario – 2002 and Cologne, Germany – 2005). I never expected or planned on attending another one, especially over ten years after my first WYD encounter. While I am not a WYD rookie, I almost feel like one, because this will be my very first WYD with…wait for it…a smartphone!

Ian

Why then, after all this time, am I attending WYD in Krakow, Poland? Good question. The answer is actually twofold. Firstly, I am able to attend as a group leader and do my part to guide new (and some veteran) pilgrims. My goal has always been to focus on the logistical aspect, so that my fellow pilgrims can focus on the experience both the good and the bad, and the emotional. To do my part to assist my co-leader, who is also a WYD rookie, on what to expect, I keep telling my fellow pilgrims that this is amazing pilgrimage, is an encounter with God, and it’s an opportunity and a blessing to deepen your faith, to truly experience the universality of our beautiful faith. It is a pilgrimage, not a vacation. There are no five-star resorts, or a beaches, or awesome golf courses, or lounging chairs with drinks with a little umbrellas in them. You’re staying in a school gymnasium, or church basement. You’re walking 15 plus kilometres to the vigil, you’re camping overnight OUTSIDE (please God, don’t let it rain!) Like I said, this is a pilgrimage, and an amazing one at that. The second reason why I am going, is because for my generation (Gen X or Gen Y, I can never tell), JP II was the only Pope I/we have ever known or had for most of our lives. I‘ve always felt a closeness with JP II. His love for the youth of the Church was a blessing, and the love the youth had for him was astonishing. I found no better way to honour JP II and deepen my Catholic faith then attending WYD in the city where he served as Priest, Bishop, Cardinal, until his elevation to the Papacy in 1978. While I am a little bit older then the top age of 35 (still in my 30’s, albeit barely), the strong desire I had to attend this particular WYD could not be ignored. I am grateful to my group for allowing me to not only join them but also lead them.

IanChurch

Days in the Diocese (DID) is the pre-cursor to World Youth Day. For many pilgrims, it is truly the way to experience the culture and deep history of the host nation. In fact, some would argue Days in the Diocese is the true World Youth Day experience.

For our DID (with the Archdiocese of Edmonton) we are housed in the beautiful city of Wroclaw (population: approx. 631,000), in the small St. Hedwig Parish. What a blessing this Parish has been to us, opening their homes and hearts to welcome us. Many have experienced authentic Polish cuisine, learned a few Polish word and just gathered together in common fellowship while making some long-lasting friendships in the process.

However, DID is not just about experiencing Polish culture, it is about understanding the theme of this year’s WYD, “Blessed are the Merciful”. This theme was the central focus of catechesis by Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bateman. The underlying message of his talk, which should serve as a calling to all of us, is ‘how has mercy been shown to me?’ and ‘how have I shown mercy to others?’.

Now, of course DID is not all about Mass, catechesis, prayer, or the amazing Adoration on Friday. This is all very important, but there is also the fellowship aspect of the pilgrimage – sight-seeing beautiful Wroclaw with your group. There is the historic market square with buildings dating back centuries, Cathedral Island (St. John the Baptist) housing the ‘Gate of Mercy’ (and the official Parish for the Archdiocese of Wroclaw), plus this beautiful historic Jesuit Parish (Holy Name of Jesus) where every nook and cranny takes on a whole new meeting. I’m not kidding when I say every inch was covered by wonderful Catholic art. There is also St. Mary Magdalene Parish with two VERY tall towers and a bridge across where people can climb up and see most of Wroclaw (beautiful view). I am proud to say that yours truly did in fact climb all 243 steps to the very top (to heck with my fear of heights!) Add to all of this excitement, we had “MercyFest”. I can’t tell you how awesome is was to see the Blessed Sacrament in full sight, watching everyone fall to their knees, still singing praise and worship!
I can’t end this first blog post without a shout out to “Group Zero” led by Edmonton’s own Jesse Baris who did Canada proud in their ‘Ode to Canadiana’ which included, amongst other songs, ‘Call Me Maybe’!

city

(You can be a part of the pilgrimage experience at home through the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat by following #yegwyd).


Photos Credit: Ian Meaden

WYD 2016: A public enactment of much needed mercy

YouthsHappy

The recent displays of merciless violence in France and the United States have increased social and political tensions and struck fear into ordinary citizens. Despite the flood of energy and resources into public security measures, unpredictable attacks are becoming more common. Is this the world we now live in?

Against this backdrop World Youth Day Krakow is set to begin next week. It’s difficult to ignore at least the possibility of a security breach as more than a million people gather to celebrate with Pope Francis. But there is an even greater risk for the Church to ponder: the absence of such a global witness to unity and fraternity.

This World Youth Day is infused with the theme of mercy: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” from the Gospel of Matthew. Krakow is the city of mercy, the home of Saint Faustina, the “prophet of mercy”, and Saint John Paul II, the “apostle of mercy.” The city will welcome Pope Francis, now considered the “pope of mercy” for his closeness to those on the margins and his relentless insistence on the absolute and unconditional mercy of God toward all people.

In preparing for our coverage of World Youth Day Krakow, I spent some time reading about mercy in the Gospels and in the Church’s long tradition. And I found that mercy has a singular, foundational significance for Christianity. I realized that what Francis, John Paul and Faustina have said about mercy, each in their own way, is essentially the same thing. In John Paul’s words, mercy is, “the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer.”

That statement comes from his 1980 encyclical dedicated entirely to the topic of mercy, Dives in Misericordia. Devotees of now-Saint John Paul have pointed out that this encyclical resembles theologically Saint Faustina’s famous diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul. In fact, it was John Paul who, as pope, promoted Faustina’s cause and devotion to the Divine Mercy, eventually canonizing Poland’s most beloved nun in 2000. Since then Divine Mercy has become the fastest growing devotion in the Catholic Church.

PopeMercy

When Pope Francis burst onto the scene in 2013, we all wondered what the leitmotif of his pontificate would be. The immediate signs pointed to something new for the modern papacy, something revolutionary. Clearly he wanted to bring the poor and those on the peripheries back into the center of the Church’s life. He spoke about the “globalization of indifference” and the need for structural and spiritual reform in the Vatican’s bureaucracy. But more than three years later, if we were to ask what the central theme of Francis’ pontificate is, who could refute the argument for mercy, “the greatest of all the virtues,” as Francis calls it?

What is somewhat perplexing about this whole development is the paradox at the center of it. It has to do with this lingering question of continuity and discontinuity around Francis. How is it that we have a Pope who, on the one hand, is often labelled a deviant from the pontifical path of his predecessors—especially John Paul and Benedict—and on the other hand, is preaching precisely the same foundational message of mercy that was at the heart of John Paul’s life and pontificate?

It’s not as if mercy were some peripheral theme of John Paul’s and Francis’ ministries. On the contrary, mercy is at the core of both of them. There must be something missing in that analysis. And, as is often the case, a biblical precedence can shed some light on the matter.

Both John Paul (in Dives in Misericordia) and Francis (in Misericordiae Vultus) astutely pointed out that the concept of mercy is integral to the relationship between God and the Jewish people articulated in the Old Testament. And in that historical framework Jesus arrived, “on ground already prepared,” as John Paul put it (DM, 4). But, the Pope continued, Christ’s mercy is simultaneously “simpler and more profound.” (DM, 5) After a penetrating exegesis of the parable of the Prodigal Son, John Paul concluded that:

“The true and proper meaning of mercy does not consist only in looking, however penetratingly and compassionately, at moral, physical or material evil: mercy is manifested in its true and proper aspect when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man.” (DM, 6)

This “more profound” articulation of mercy experienced in Jesus is not only difficult to grasp, but can be unsettling. It subverts our human conception of justice, often understood in a legalistic sense based on the OT law and image of God as “judge”. Both John Paul and Francis address this issue directly. Francis writes:

“For his part, Jesus speaks several times of the importance of faith over and above the observance of the law. It is in this sense that we must understand his words when, reclining at table with Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners, he says to the Pharisees raising objections to him, “Go and learn the meaning of ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). Faced with a vision of justice as the mere observance of the law that judges people simply by dividing them into two groups—the just and sinners—Jesus is bent on revealing the great gift of mercy that searches out sinners and offers them pardon and salvation. One can see why, on the basis of such a liberating vision of mercy as a source of new life, Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees and the other teachers of the law.” (MV, 20)

Though John Paul did not write so candidly on the subject, he drew the same conclusion, namely that, “The primacy and superiority of love vis-à-vis justice—this is the mark of the whole of revelation—are revealed precisely through mercy.” (DM, 4)

WYDMosaic

The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were people of the law; they were religiously formed and considered among the guardians of the tradition. From that tradition they knew God as “merciful.” Still, the “liberating vision of mercy” that Jesus embodied was deemed unorthodox, even heretical. Such was the primacy and potency of mercy revealed in Jesus’ life and teaching. His public displays of mercy changed individual lives and eventually the whole world. Think of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15)—a favorite of John Paul II—or the woman caught in adultery (John 8). Think of the story of the sinful woman who washed the feet of Jesus in Simon the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7). Think of Jesus’ instantaneous promise of eternal salvation to the criminal crucified next to him (Luke 23). Jesus never tempered his mercy in public for fear of confusion or undermining God’s established laws.  His mercy was the fulfillment of the whole of the law.

I remember one of the press briefings during the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family when Mark Coleridge, a very astute, pastoral bishop from Brisbane, Australia, spoke about practicing mercy in the Church. He made the argument that the old distinction of speaking the truth in public but practicing mercy in private no longer works:

“I think what we need now—and this is what I’d like to see emerge from this synod—are public enactments of mercy, not just doing mercy in private behind closed doors or in a confessional. And it’s the sort of public enactment of mercy that we see I think in Pope Francis, who in a sense is modelling what the whole church has to ponder. But when you’ve been used to centuries of thinking about “mercy in private, truth in public,” it’s not always easy to even imagine what the public enactment of mercy might look like. And when you do see it, it can even be unsettling.”

Ahead of World Youth Day Krakow, where mercy will be discussed, prayed for, reflected upon, and put into practice, it’s worth recalling the “simple yet profound” development in our understanding of mercy that Jesus embodied.  In his day, the old understanding of mercy was not enough.  In our time, what’s needed are public enactments that unequivocally communicate the absolute mercy of God for people in their particular circumstances, whatever they may be.

For his part, Pope Francis promised to do one public act of mercy every month during the Year of Mercy, and he’s encouraged all Catholics to do the same. The World Youth Day in Krakow is poised to be the grandest of these public acts of mercy. It’s not so much what will be done as what will be seen: “a mosaic of different faces, from many races, languages, peoples and cultures, but all united in the name of Jesus, who is the Face of Mercy,” as Francis called it. In light of all the division, hatred and violence manifesting itself around the globe, such an authentic mosaic is sorely needed. In spite of everything, the young people at World Youth Day will take a stand for humanity and proclaim that the name of God is mercy.

SebbyJeun

In the run-up to World Youth Day Krakow, Sebastian has been working on a story on mercy in the modern papacy entitled, “Mercy in Continuity.” You can watch it as part of S+L’s daily show World Youth Day Central, airing July 25-30 at 7:00pm ET. 


Photos courtesy of Bill Wittman and Catholic News Service

Pope Francis’ Video Message to Poland

Several days before his Apostolic Journey to Poland on the occasion of the XXXI World Youth Day, Pope Francis has sent a video in Italian to young people of Poland that was broadcast this evening at 8:00 p.m. across the Polish nation. Below is the English translation of the Holy Father’s Message that was sent from the Vatican to Poland.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The 31st World Youth Day is fast approaching. I look forward to meeting the young people from throughout the world gathered in Kraków and having the opportunity to meet the beloved Polish nation. My entire visit will be inspired by Mercy during this Jubilee Year, and by the grateful and blessed memory of Saint John Paul II, who instituted the World Youth Days and was the guide of the Polish people in its recent historic journey towards freedom.

Dear young people of Poland, I know that for some time now you have been preparing, especially with your prayers, for this great encounter in Kraków. I thank you heartily for everything that you have done, and for the love with which you have done it. Even now I embrace you and I bless you.

Dear young people from throughout Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Oceania! I also bless your countries, your hopes and your journey to Kraków, praying that it will be a pilgrimage of faith and fraternity. May the Lord Jesus grant you the grace to experience personally his words: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7).

I am very anxious to meet you and to offer the world a new sign of harmony, from many races, languages, peoples and cultures, but all united in the name of Jesus, who is the Face of Mercy. 

I now turn to you, dear sons and daughters of the Polish nation! For me, it is a great gift of the Lord to visit you. You are a nation that throughout its history has experienced so many trials, some particularly difficult, and has persevered through the power of faith, upheld by the maternal hands of the Virgin Mary. I am certain that my pilgrimage to the shrine of Czestochowa will immerse me in this proven faith and do me so much good. I thank you for your prayers in preparation for my visit. I thank the bishops and priests, the men and women religious, and the lay faithful, especially families, to whom I will symbolically bring the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The moral and spiritual “health” of a nation is seen in its families. That is why Saint John Paul II showed such great concern for engaged couples, young married couples and families. Continue along this road!

Dear brothers and sisters, I send you this message as a pledge of my affection. Let us keep close to one another in prayer. I look forward to seeing you in Poland!

&nbsp343

St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II: Patron Saints of World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow

JPIIFaustina

Pope John Paul II’s interest in Divine Mercy goes back to the days of his youth in Krakow when Karol Wojtyla was an eyewitness to so much evil and suffering during World War II in occupied Poland. He witnessed the round ups of many people who were sent to concentration camps and slave labor. In his hometown of Wadowice, he had many Jewish friends who would later die in the Holocaust. During that time of terror and fear, Karol Wojtyla decided to enter Cardinal Sapieha’s clandestine seminary in Krakow. He experienced the need for God’s mercy and humanity’s need to be merciful to one another. While in the seminary, he met another seminarian, Andrew Deskur (who would later become Cardinal), who introduced Karol to the message of the Divine Mercy, as revealed to the Polish mystic nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, who died at the age of 33 in 1938.

The Pope of Divine Mercy

At the beginning of his pontificate in 1981, Pope John Paul II wrote an entire encyclical dedicated to Divine Mercy – “Dives in Misericordia” (Rich in Mercy) illustrating that the heart of the mission of Jesus Christ was to reveal the merciful love of the Father. In 1993 when Pope John Paul II beatified Sr. Faustina Kowalska, he stated in the homily for her beatification mass: “Her mission continues and is yielding astonishing fruit. It is truly marvelous how her devotion to the merciful Jesus is spreading in our contemporary world, and gaining so many human hearts!”

Four years later in 1997, the Holy Father visited Blessed Faustina’s tomb in Lagiewniki, Poland, and preached powerful words: “There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy…. From here went out the message of Mercy that Christ Himself chose to pass on to our generation through Blessed Faustina.”

In the Jubilee year 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina – making her the first canonized saint of the new millennium – and established “Divine Mercy Sunday” as a special title for the Second Sunday of Easter for the universal Church. Pope John Paul II spoke these words in the homily: “Jesus shows His hands and His side [to the Apostles]. He points, that is, to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in His Heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity.”

One year later, in his homily for Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001, the Pope called the message of mercy entrusted to St. Faustina: “The appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies…. Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium.”

Again in Lagiewniki, Poland in 2002, at the dedication of the new Shrine of Divine Mercy, the Holy Father consecrated the whole world to Divine Mercy, saying: “I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth, and fill their hearts with hope.”

In his Regina Caeli address of April 23, 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “The mystery of God’s merciful love was at the centre of the pontificate of my venerated predecessor.” Now that same Providence has desired that this year, on Divine Mercy Sunday, three years after he was beatified on this same feast, Pope John Paul II, the great apostle and ambassador of Divine Mercy, will be proclaimed a saint.

Mercy is our hallmark

We must ask ourselves: what is new about this message of Divine Mercy? Why did Pope John Paul II insist so much on this aspect of God’s love in our time? Is this not the same devotion as that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Mercy is an important Christian virtue, much different from justice and retribution. While recognizing the real pain of injury and the rationale for the justification of punishment, mercy takes a different approach in redressing the injury. Mercy strives to radically change the condition and the soul of the perpetrator to resist doing evil, often by revealing love and one’s true beauty. If any punishment is enforced, it must be for salvation, not for vengeance or retribution. This is very messy business in our day and a very complex message… but it is the only way if we wish to go forward and be leaven for the world today; if we truly wish to be salt and light in a culture that has lost the flavor of the Gospel and the light of Christ.

Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate, where war brings suffering and death to the innocent, abuse has destroyed countless innocent lives, the grace of mercy is needed in order to settle human minds and hearts and to bring about healing and peace. Wherever respect for human life and dignity are lacking, there is need of God’s merciful love, in whose light we see the inexpressible value of every human being. Mercy is needed to insure that every injustice in the world will come to an end. The message of mercy is that God loves us – all of us – no matter how great our sins. God’s mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Essentially, mercy means the understanding of weakness, the capacity to forgive.

Apostle of Divine Mercy

Throughout his priestly and Episcopal ministry, and especially during his entire Pontificate, Pope John Paul II preached God’s mercy, wrote about it, and most of all lived it. He offered forgiveness to the man who was destined to kill him in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope who witnessed the scandal of divisions among Christians and the atrocities against the Jewish people as he grew up did everything in his power to heal the wounds caused by the historic conflicts between Catholics and other Christian churches, and especially with the Jewish people.

I shall never forget the stirring words of St. John Paul II spoke at the concluding mass of World Youth Day at Downsview Park in Toronto on July 28, 2002. These words keep us focused on the importance and necessity of mercy in the Church today.

“…At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit…”

“…Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”

Let us pray with joy and gratitude:

O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that Saint John Paul II
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.


 

Photo WYD Krakow

I can’t wait to see you there!

 

chris cant wait sharpen

Dear friends and all of you who will join me in Krakow for World Youth Day, especially those of you who will remain in your respective homes and countries. I cannot wait to bring you the experience of World Youth Day; this year it is taking place in my homeland: Poland. I was born here in Canada, and my parents raised me to speak Polish and to appreciate my heritage and the wealth of faith that has passed on in our ancestry. So already, being a part of this World Youth Day is very special to me. I also cannot wait to experience Pope Francis’ joy of meeting us at the momentous occasion – his papacy is a message of mercy, and I believe the message Mercy desperately need to be heard in our culture.

During World Youth Day, I am Salt + Light’s Marketing presence in the middle of the action. I will be photographing, videographing, sending content for posting directly for social media, filming stand ups, and I will even put together a few stories of some of the major attractions and sites. In particular, the site where the remains of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati will be present for veneration, the energy of the English speaking gathering, and The Spirit of the Streets with the youth of the world in the heart of Krakow, Poland.
This would be my third time attending a World Youth Day. My first was WYD 2002 in Toronto, Canada, from which was born Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation. A story I carry that I always share with beaming pride is that my father was the carpenter who built the little podium that sat on the arm rests of John Paul II chair and held his homily while address the great crowds in Downsview park.
JPII Tiny Table
I then attended WYD 2005 in Cologne, Germany. Cologne was beautiful and I was little older by this time to absorb more of the meaning of what it meant to be part of the greater Catholic community of youth in the world, and the mission I have in the Church. A memorable moment for me was when I saw Pope Benedict way off in the distance on the stage of the closing mass with my own eyes. I was reminded of a short article I read: “Where there is Peter, there is the Church”. I felt that powerfully and closely, even though I would have needed binoculars to see the Holy Father.
My friends, please tune in to our coverage, we will be there on the ground working and praying very hard that you experience World Youth Day as intensely as we will be experiencing it. The best place to know what is happening, what to read, what to watch, and immediate access to the everything World Youth Day, is Salt + Light’s very own: World Youth Day Central. Don’t go more then a few hours without checking in on this page for the last of whats happening: saltandlighttv.org/wydcentral
 
Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to follow all our coverage as it happens!
Blessings to you, and I can’t wait to see you there!
Photo: Salt + Light

My World Youth Days

blog_1459523691-640x340[1]

There are many ways to live a World Youth Day. Of these, the classic one is to be a faithful attendant of the special occurrence. Another one is to tell what’s happening, instead, and bring others into the event. This is the role I’ll be covering in 360 degrees over the next few days, and further I’ll be able to explain what attending a WYD has been like for me. It’s something more intimate and those memories and emotions I can bring to you by just closing my eyes for a second…

My WYD can only be that of 2000, in Rome, on the occasion of the Jubilee. A Holy Year, obviously not like the others, that not only marked the end of a century but even the beginning of a new millennium.

Living in Rome offers many privileges and endless opportunities when it comes to Catholic celebrations, but having the WYD in front of one’s house, literally, is really something that happens to a very few. My family and I, during that sultry summer of 2000, found ourselves living that event in a unique way.

I remember the human tide that filled the vast plain of Tor Vergata, as well as the steady stream of young people who passed along my way to get to the Pope for the evening vigil.

Since living in that area, a few days before, we had received a special pass from the mayor Francesco Rutelli, a coupon that allowed us to move freely in our district despite the checks and the engaged areas for young faithfuls.

I remember the long night of August 19, 2000, sitting on the lawn of Tor Vergata with my father and my aunt and the smiling and amused face of Pope John Paul II, dragged by the contagious enthusiasm of the young people, the music and the incredible festive atmosphere we breathed.

I was 13 years old that summer, and last year, filming an episode of Perspectives at Tor Vergata for the 15th anniversary of that WYD and remembering what had happened in 2000, I found myself seized with a great emotion. Never would I thought of going back there, after so many years, to tell those childhood memories as a journalist.

And the memories of those days bring me right back to today, to Krakow and to this next impending appointment. To speak about moments like these implies patience and flexibility, because, sometimes, just passion and faith are not enough to cope with the impressive amount of work. Great events require a maximum effort, but at the same time offer unique reasons that are a boost of rare power. Being able to tell what will happen in Poland remains an undoubted privilege because to explain what’s going on somewhere in wich one million of people are gathered does not happen every day. This numerical data by itself, for example, gives the idea of what regards appointments like this one. And when they’re young people involved, who, setting rhetoric aside, are actually the future, then attention and curiosity inevitably increase.

It will be another story to tell, with the memory of Tor Vergata that is within me but which will make room for this new version of this special event. A WYD to live in a different way, accompanying people from home to experience the emotions that Pope Francis and Krakow will certainly give.


photo by Corriere Del Sud

World Youth Days: The Moments of Catechesis

YouthCatechesis

During his Angelus address on July 28, 2002 at the conclusion of the 17th World Youth Day in Toronto, Pope John Paul II said: “This World Youth Day must mark a re-awakening of pastoral attention to the young in Canada. May the enthusiasm of this moment be the spark that is needed to launch a new era of powerful witness to the gospel!… My wish for all of you who are here is that the commitments you have made during these days of faith and celebration will bring forth abundant fruits of dedication and witness. May you always treasure the memory of Toronto!”

The experiences of young people during World Youth Days leave a deep and lasting impression upon them and also serve as a catalyst and impulse for new commitments and initiatives. What do young people experience during World Youth Days? Who do they encounter? The principal elements of World Youth Days contribute greatly to an effective pastoral ministry with young people and with them. These elements – Christ, Sacred Scripture, catechesis, the sacraments (especially Reconciliation and Eucharist), piety, devotion, the World Youth Day Cross, the saints, together with the moments of pilgrimage, the Youth Festival, social service projects, vocations – hopefully find a central place in our pastoral efforts with young people.

Dolan1
A very positive fruit of World Youth Days is the Scriptural theme assigned to each event. The theme of 31st World Youth Day, Krakow 2016 is “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).

During the major international World Youth Days in various countries of the world, hundreds of Bishops and Cardinals also attend as catechists. Each day during the World Youth Day week, thousands of young people gather around their bishops and cardinals to hear teachings, “catecheses”, reflections based on the Word of God. This novel invention has taken on a life of its own, and become an intrinsic part of the international celebrations of faith and youth culture.

Here is a look at how this year’s theme of this year’s international celebration in Krakow as well as how that theme will be developed through the daily catecheses or teachings of the bishops of the world chosen to be bishop catechists. Catechesis will generally be given in the bishop’s first language. Each of the three catecheses will be held in a different venue.

On July 27, 28 and 29 July catechesis will be given in different languages for the young people present in Krakow. About three hundred bishops from around the world will serve as catechists. Each bishop catechist will give three catecheses on the topics below. I share them here not only for those attending World Youth Day in Krakow but for the many groups who are unable to travel to Poland and will celebrate World Youth Days at home, gathered around their bishops and pastors.

OMalley1

Wednesday 27 July – 1st catechesis
Topic: Now is the time of mercy!

References:
“Many question in their hearts: why a Jubilee of Mercy today? Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness. This 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 (cf. Jn 20:21-23). A year in which to be touched by the Lord Jesus and to be transformed by his mercy, so that we may become witnesses to mercy” (Pope Francis, Homily during First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, 11 April 2015).
Scripture: Lk 4:1-21?

Thursday 28 July – 2nd catechesis ?
Topic: Let us allow ourselves to be touched by Christ’s mercy

References:
“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?” (Pope Francis, WYD Message 2016).
Scripture: Lk 15: 1-10?

Friday 29 July – 3rd catechesis ?
Topic: Lord, make me an instrument of your mercy!

References:
“Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbours’ souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbours’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbour, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbour, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbour” (St. Faustina Kowalska Diary, 163).
Scripture – Mt 25: 31-46

Bishops are encouraged to give extemporaneous teachings that offer examples and significant anecdotes. Young people appreciate simple authoritative replies to their questions. That is why bishops are strongly encouraged to bring their own stories and witness into the catechesis, and to present the young people with examples of positive role-models (lives of saints; young “heroes” like Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Blessed Chiara Luce Badano; the patrons of WYD 2016 St. John Paul II and St. Faustina).

Bishop catechists are asked to develop the day’s topic in a talk of around 20 minutes. This is followed by adequate time for questions by the young people and answers by the bishop. Each day, catechesis will conclude with Holy Mass presided by the bishop catechist who will give a short homily. The Mass readings are as follows:

Wednesday 27 July
Catechesis topic: Now is the time of mercy!
Votive Mass of the Divine Mercy – Eucharistic prayer V/C
Eph 2: 4-10
Ps 135 (136) ?(R/ His mercy endures forever) ?
Jn 8:1-11

Thursday 28 July ?
Catechesis topic: Let us allow ourselves to be touched by Christ’s mercy ?
Mass for reconciliation – Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I
2Cor 5:17-21
Ps 50 (51) ?(R/ Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness) ?
Lk 15:1-3.11-32

Friday 29 July ?
Catechesis topic: Lord, make me an instrument of your mercy! ?
Votive Mass Mary, Queen & Mother of Mercy – Preface of Blessed Virgin Mary II
Col 3:12-17
Ps 102 (103) ?(R/ The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting) ?
Lk 1: 39-55

During the three days of catechesis, all the groups of young people will be invited, in turn, to take part in the Pilgrimage of Mercy that will go from the John Paul II Shrine to the Divine Mercy Shrine.

Bishop catechists, pastors and youth leaders are invited to use Pope Francis’ Message to the Youth of the World for the 31st World Youth Day for their catechesis preparation. It is available in various languages on the Vatican website.


Photos: World Youth Day Archives

World Youth Days: Retrospect and Prospect

WYD 2000 San Pietro copy

What we learned from World Youth Day 2002 in Canada
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

In preparation for World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland later this month, I have prepared a series of reflections that I will share with you in the coming weeks. I write these thoughts from Canada, especially today on our country’s national day: “Canada Day.” I had the privilege of serving as the National Director and Chief Executive Officer of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, Canada. It was a unique, unforgettable experience that changed my life and the lives of the hundreds of young adults who world closely with me in preparation of that blessed event. Fourteen years after the great event of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, we are still reaping the benefits of those blessed days when joy and hope invaded our nation, from sea to sea to sea! One of the first fruits of Canada’s international event in 2002 was the birth of Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in 2003 – a unique media platform which now enters its fourteenth year.

As we prepare for the next edition of World Youth Day in Krakow later this month, let us ask how the vision and hope of St. John Paul II have impacted our own efforts in pastoral ministry with young people. The experiences of World Youth Days in recent years have brought much new life to each of the countries where the great events have taken place. One of the important goals of World Youth Day is to instill hope and vibrancy in the church – to differ with the cynicism, despair, and meaninglessness so prevalent in the world today. Pope John Paul II knew well that our world today offers fragmentation, loneliness, alienation, and rampant globalization that exploit the poor.

What have the joy, exuberance, and creativity surrounding World Youth Days in Canada (2002), Cologne (2005), Sydney (2008), Madrid (2011) and Rio de Janiero (2013) taught us, and how have they transformed youth and young adult ministry in our local churches and dioceses? How have we initiated a “preferential option” for young people in the church today? How can we give the flavor of the gospel and the light of Christ to the world today? Let us consider seven aspects of World Youth Days. I will use our own Toronto experience as a mirror or backdrop but know that these aspects apply to each World Youth Day, no matter where it took place.

1. Pope John Paul’s biblical theme for WYD 2002 in Canada was providential and highly appropriate for our Canadian society and a world steeped in mediocrity and darkness. “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). During World Youth Days, bishops and cardinals serve as teachers and catechists. Thousands of young people gather around them to hear reflections based on the Word of God, and in particular on the theme of the event. This novel invention has taken on a life of its own, becoming an intrinsic part of the celebrations. How many times was this evoked at the 2008 Synod of Bishops in Rome, that focused on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church!” The catechetical teaching sessions on Scripture have become not only a unique encounter between generations, but also an opportunity to proclaim and preach the Word of God across cultures, offering to young people concrete possibilities for living a biblically rooted life.

Does the bible play a significant part in our ministry with young people? What biblical stories and images animate our pastoral initiatives with young people? How often have we turned elsewhere to find “themes”, “ideas”, “fillers” for our work with young people, rather than drawing our deepest inspiration from biblical stories, biblical language, biblical themes that no consulting agency, pop-jargon or fleeting trend can offer?

2. World Youth Days offer deeply prayerful celebrations of the Eucharist, and opportunities to experience the Eucharistic Lord in moments of quiet prayer, adoration, communal and individual worship. Liturgies of World Youth Day are prepared and planned with great diligence, care, precision and tremendous beauty. Through these moments young people are offered privileged moments of encounter with Jesus himself. These moments are enhanced by the careful selection of liturgical music that is not in competition with the world of theatre, spectacle and the surrounding din of noise and emptiness. And yet what do we do when the young people who have experienced such tremendous moments “come down from the mountain” and return to our parish communities?

WYDCross

3. During WYD 2002 in Toronto, over 100,000 young people celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Through this sacrament Christ lets us meet him and brings out the best in us. In our pastoral work with young people, do we present this sacrament as a privileged encounter with Christ who heals, forgives and liberates us?

4. World Youth Days offer the Church profound moments to deepen our Christian piety and devotion. In Canada during 2001-2002, the historic, 43,000-km pilgrimage of the WYD Cross and the powerful presentation of the Stations of the Cross were a provocative, profound witness of the Christian story in the heart of a modern city. Many of us in Canada were convinced that if, for some reason, the World Youth Day event itself would have to be cancelled because of the horrendous results of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the pilgrimage of the Cross had already worked its miracles across our vast land and united the Church in ways that nothing was ever able to do previously.

5. During his pontificate, John Paul II proclaimed 1,338 Blesseds and 482 Saints. Young adults need heroes and heroines today, and the Pope gave us outstanding models of holiness and humanity. Nine young blesseds and saints were patrons of WYD 2002; several more were patrons for WYD 2005. Pope Benedict XVI spoke to that great assembly of over one million young people gathered in prayer at Marienfeld in 2005, exclaiming: “The saints…are the true reformers. Now I want to express this in an even more radical way: only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.”

Is the teaching of the Blesseds and Saints an integral part of our catechesis, Evangelization, formation of young people? In a world that desperately seeks authentic heroes and heroines, how often do we present the Blesseds and Saints as the real role models for young people today?

6. One of the significant contributions of World Youth Day 2002 to the universal Church and to young people throughout the world was the highly successful Vocations Pavilion at Exhibition Place in Toronto. The security personnel informed us that 50-55,000 young people visited the pavilion each day for the week of World Youth Day 2002. Subsequent World Youth Days in various countries followed the example of Toronto in offering very visible and participatory vocation centres at their celebrations or World Youth Day.

The phenomenon of World Youth Days has become a powerful seedbed for vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and lay ecclesial ministries. Whether it is because those who have already sensed a call choose to attend World Youth Days out of their strong faith life, or because World Youth Day awakens young adults for the first time to the special call of God, World Youth Days can be a moment of life-changing discernment.

Over the past fourteen years, I have received hundreds of letters, testimonies, witnesses from young people speak convincingly that their vocations were born at large vigil ceremonies with John Paul II, during the Sacrament of Reconciliation at World Youth Days and in the midst of catechesis sessions. A whole new generation of young adults identifies the World Youth Day experiences to be critical in their discernment process. In working with Catholic young adults, we have the responsibility and obligation to raise the subject of priestly, religious, and lay ministry vocations with openness, conviction, pastoral sensitivity and common sense.

7. I would like to refer to this point as “overcoming the crisis of ideologies” that has plagued my generation and several other generations. Excessive tensions arising from church politics, gender issues, liturgical practices, language, false interpretations of the Second Vatican Council – all of these influence today’s candidates for ordained ministry, religious life, and pastoral involvement in the Church. The grumblings, discontent, cynicism, fatigue, unfair labeling and pigeonholing of others, the lack of charity and hope of my generation and older generations rise to fever pitch, and keep us blinded to a new generation of young people who might be much more serious about Church, God and discipleship of Jesus than we are! Many of my generation do not wish to admit this fact.

How many times have I heard university chaplains, vocation directors, formation directors and youth ministers express fears and even disdain over the pious and devotional practices of today’s generation of young people. Such piety and devotion are not to be downplayed or dismissed in vocational and priestly formation work. They can indeed become a creative foundation upon which we can build for the future. Piety and devotion can be springboards to mature faith.

JP II WYD 2002 flags Wittman copy

World Youth Day does not belong to one Pope

In remarks at the concluding Mass of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, Cardinal George Pell thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his presence at Australia’s great event. Sydney’s Archibshop said that World Youth Day acts as an antidote to images of Catholicism as in decline or wracked by controversy. “It shows the church as it really is, alive with evangelical energy.” Your Cardinal, George Pell concluded his address to Pope Benedict XVI at Randwick Race Course with these prophetic and affirming words:

“Your Holiness, the World Youth Days were the invention of Pope John Paul the Great. The World Youth Day in Cologne was already announced before your election. You decided to continue the World Youth Days and to hold this one in Sydney. We are profoundly grateful for this decision, indicating that the World Youth Days do not belong to one pope, or even one generation, but are now an ordinary part of the life of the Church. The John Paul II generation – young and old alike – is proud to be faithful sons and daughters of Pope Benedict.”

World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto was not a show, a rave party, a protest, or photo opportunity. It was an invitation and a proposal for something new. Against a global background of terror and fear, economic collapse in many countries, and ecclesial scandals, World Youth Day 2002 presented a bold, alternative vision of compelling beauty, hope, and joy… a vision and energy.

We may choose to speak of our World Youth Days as something in the past – that brightened the shadows and monotony of our lives at one shining moment in history in 2002 or in 2005, 2008, 2011 or 2013. Some may wish to call those golden days of July 2002 or subsequent summers “Camelot” moments. That is one way to consider the WYD – fading memories of extraordinary moments in national histories.

There is, however, another way: the Gospel way. The Gospel story is not about “Camelot” but about “Magnificat”, constantly inviting Christians to take up Mary’s hymn of praise and thanksgiving for the ways that Almighty God breaks through human history here and now. This way is not only nourished by memories, however good and beautiful they may be. The resurrection of Jesus is not a memory of a distant, past event, but it is Good News that continues to be fulfilled today – here and now. The Christian story is neither folklore nor nostalgia – a trip down triumphal church lane. JPII TR AIrport [MS] copy

As we in Canada continue to bask in the glorious light of the summer of 2002 in Canada, we must be honest and admit that World Youth Days offer no panacea or quick fix to the problems and challenges of our times, or the challenges facing the Church today as we reach out to younger generations. Instead, World Youth Days offer a new framework and new lenses through which we look at the Church and the world, and build our common future. One thing is clear: no one could go away from Toronto 2002 thinking that it is possible to compartmentalize the faith or reduce it to a few rules and regulations and Sunday observances.

World Youth Day 2002 and the visit of St. John Paul II brought Toronto not gold, silver and bronze medals, but something even greater: it gave Canada its soul. Through those blessed days, we experienced once again the fulfillment of the Second Vatican Council’s desires: together we were witnesses to the Council’s hopes and dreams for the Church and for humanity, when every nation, every tribe, came together to worship the Lord. Now let us pray together that the Generations of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, will truly become the Spirit’s joyful witnesses to the ends of the earth… that they may be truly become Catholic, universal, open to the world.

PRAYER FOR WYD KRAKOW 2016

“God, merciful Father,
in your Son, Jesus Christ, you have revealed your love
and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,
We entrust to you today the destiny of the world
and of every man and woman”.
We entrust to you in a special way
young people of every language, people and nation:
guide and protect them as they walk the complex paths
of the world today
and give them the grace to reap abundant fruits
from their experience of the Krakow World Youth Day.

Heavenly Father,
grant that we may bear witness to your mercy.
Teach us how to convey the faith to those in doubt,
hope to those who are discouraged,
love to those who feel indifferent,
forgiveness to those who have done wrong
and joy to those who are unhappy.
Allow the spark of merciful love
that you have enkindled within us
become a fire that can transform hearts
and renew the face of the earth.

Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us.
Saint John Paul II, pray for us.
Saint Faustina, pray for us.


Credit: Bill Witman and World Youth Day 2002 Archives.

Two Eyes & a Smile, Innocence & Goodness

TomBlog1

Photo credit: Salt + Light


Remembering Cardinal Loris Capovilla & the Saint he served so well…

St. John XXIII’s personal secretary, Cardinal Loris Capovilla died Thursday at the age of 100. It is not possible to speak of him without speaking of Pope John XIII, and to speak of them both is to speak of the Second Vatican Council. Shortly after the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II two years ago, Sebastian Gomes and I had the great privilege of spending a day in Sotto il Monte and visiting with Cardinal Capovilla. I shall never forget our lively conversation that day, as well as the day I spent last year after the October 2014 Synod of Bishops at the Vatican when I returned to Sotto il Monte to film a long interview with the Cardinal who was then 99 and still going strong.

TomBlog2

Photo credit: Salt + Light

During our first visit with the Cardinal in 2014, he shared with us his memories of the Second Vatican Council and where the whole idea started. A few weeks after the conclave which elected Cardinal Angelo Roncalli as Pope in 1958, Pope John XXIII called his faithful young secretary, Monsignor Capovilla, to his office in the Apostolic Palace. The Pope told him, “My desk is piling up with problems: with questions, requests, hopes. What is really necessary is a Council.”

“I kept quiet,” said Capovilla.

The Pope responded, “I have asked myself why my secretary, when I confide in him says nothing! But I know why,” he continued, “You think I’m old. You worry! You mean well, but you think I’ll make a mess out of this enormous task; that I don’t have time! Because you think like a commander, like a bank director! But that’s not the way you reason with faith. To receive a great inspiration, and regard it with admiration, and imagine your pleasure in it, is already of great merit. If God allows one to carry on with collaborators, who encourage one to move ahead, even better! And if one begins only with the first preparatory commission, that is of great merit. If one dies, another will come. It is a great honor just to begin!”

04 Capovilla Cardinal Loris

Photo credit: CNS

Cardinal Loris continued to tell us story after story about the behind the scenes activities that led to the opening of the historic Council on October 11, 1962. The time spent with this holy, little man has left a deep and lasting impression on me, on Sebastian, and on some friends who were with us.

Capovilla also spoke with much emotion about the death of the ailing pontiff on June 3, 1963, only a few months after the Council began. On that warm, Roman June evening, only a few people were gathered around the Pope’s death bed in the Papal apartment. Capovilla told us: “I said to him, Holy Father there are only a few of us here in this room, but if you were to look out of your window onto the piazza you would see crowds of people. I thought he’d reply in his usual reserved manner, but instead he responded: “naturally that’s the way it should be because the Pope is dying, I love them, they love me.”

Cardinal Capovilla also told us the story of when he was kneeling at the bedside of the dying Pope. The Pope called him over and whispered, “When this is all over, be sure and go see your mother.”

To the end, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was a human being, more concerned with his faithfulness than his image, more concerned with those around him than with his own desires.

Pope John’s personal secretary has often highlighted how rather than cultivate nostalgia, Papa Giovanni, the new saint proclaimed by Pope Francis, look towards the future. Capovilla told me last year in our final meeting and interview:

“We are not custodians of a shrine, a reliquary or a museum. As Pope John himself said we are called to cultivate a garden where the seed of the Word, of the Word Incarnate is set in an effort to foster the Advent of a New Pentecost, a new Easter, a new Spring. Not just for our personal happiness but for the happiness of all of humanity. It’s a long journey, we are far from our final destination, one that is not there merely to safeguard but to share with the people of the world”.

St. John XXIII has gone down in history as the ordinary man who astonished the world, by launching the Catholic Church into one of its most momentous epochs by calling the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. With an infectious warmth and vision, John stressed the relevance of the church in a rapidly changing society and made the church’s deepest truths stand out in the modern world. But according to Cardinal Capovilla, his faithful and loyal secretary and friend, to describe Pope John all that one need to say is: “Two eyes and a smile, innocence and goodness”.

02 Roncalli Capovilla

Photo credit: Archives in Sotto il Monte

Cardinal Capovilla also had high praise for Pope Francis, who created him a cardinal in February 2014. Speaking to me last year about Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Cardinal Capovilla reiterated to us how much the Gospel is the good news. But he also stressed this point to us: “What is this good news? It’s that I am a son of God and God does not abandon me. It’s wonderful to hear Pope Francis say almost every day that God does not reject anyone but accepts everyone”.

Now that Loris is united with his former boss and friend, John, may the two of them intercede for us and help us to keep alive the spirit and messages of the Second Vatican Council, and may they teach us to never forget that if we wish to change the world and the Church, what is required above is a smile, innocence and goodness.

Cardinal Capovilla’s funeral will take place on Monday morning, May 30 in the parish church of Sotto il Monte, near Bergamo.  He will be laid to rest in the cemetery of the ancient Abbey of Fontanella of Sotto il Monte, close to his priest friend Fr. David Maria Turoldo.

Loris and St. John, pray for us!

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

reflections-of-his-light-book-blog

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.

WYDCross

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.