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World Youth Day is over. Now what?

October 1, 2011
We return home on a spiritual high, confident and joyful. We’ve experienced the universal church; we know we are not alone. As we settle back into our routine, there is the temptation to live in the reverie of the moment but not do anything about it. Our response to the experience determines how receptive our hearts are to the seeds planted. Will we allow ourselves to be shaped by Christ? How will we respond to this invitation to live more closely with our Lord? Will we allow Christ to form us, to direct our paths?
And how do we stay connected to that World Youth Day experience? Pope Benedict says that World Youth Day is a beautiful opportunity to join a universal network of friends -- friendships that are beyond culture, race, and country. He talks about the opportunity to make friendships that last and ultimately will shape the destiny of humanity. That sounds lofty. But is it?
One thing that struck me as I prepared my segments on the World Youth Day saints was that they were all friends; they were connected to each other and nurtured each other's vocations. For example, St. Teresa of Avila’s spiritual director was St. John of the Cross, and it was St. Ignatius of Loyola who inspired St. Francis of Xavier to convert from living a worldly life when he spoke these words from the Gospel: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul” (Mark 8:26).
Friendships grounded in Christ have a lasting impact on us, and they will change the course of our lives. If we seek holiness, we need to stay close to those who inspire us to be better. So we should stay in touch with those friends we made in Madrid, because together we can nourish each other, and remind ourselves of whom we desire to be. I’ve found faith will die if we attempt to live it out in isolation from others, and the truth of this strikes me more and more each day. We should never underestimate how difficult it can be to remain focused on our spiritual goals, if we don't surround ourselves with people who passionately and earnestly desire to be closer to Christ.
We need to be affirmed and inspired by each other; that is why God called us to be Church, because he knew our frailties. The choices we make matter. Get involved in parish life. The Church gathers us together because our faith is not a private privilege, but a gift to the world. We are asked to share our love, our joy and our lives with each other. When Christ lives in us, we have joy. And when Christ animates our community life, there is joy. So if your parish lacks the vibrancy of World Youth Day, if things seem more routine than engaged – then they need you. They need you to share your love and enthusiasm.
Pope Benedict says to love is to serve, and service increases love. And so, if you love Christ, love the Church because she is his bride. Serve the Church. And in giving your life for her, you will find meaning and purpose.
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