I have been humbled in the last couple of days to learn that for many, one of the highlights of Krakow 2016 took place on the Wednesday night at the Mercy Centre during an event which I was honoured to help organize. It was called Night of Mercy.
The night was described as "featuring XLT by Life Teen with Word on Fire's Bishop Robert Barron, Life Teen's Joel Stepanek and music by Matt Maher and Audrey Assad" - definitely a who's who in the English-speaking Catholic world. But really, it featured someone much better: Our Lord in the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Thinking about 'WYD highlights' has forced me to reflect on what it is that we do and why. Why gather hundreds of thousands of young adults from around the world? Why meet with the Holy Father and learn from our bishops? Why celebrate our Faith publicly? Why walk tirelessly (and sometimes tire-fully!), sleep little (and on the floor), get dehydrated and soaked in the rain? Why go on pilgrimage? Why do we have Catechesis? Why is there a World Youth Day Cross and Icon of Mary? Why do we spend time welcoming the Holy Father on Thursday, praying the Via Crucis with him on Friday and in Vigil on the Saturday night?
It's all because of one person: Jesus.
He is the name above all names; to Him every knee shall bow and every tongue proclaim; He is the Beginning and the End; the Way the Truth and the Life. He is the one who called us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world; the one whom we have come to adore; the one who sends His Spirit upon us and makes us firm in the Faith. He is the one who sends us to make disciples of all nations; the one who is mercy, who showers us with mercy and who calls us to be merciful. His name is Jesus.
And so it's not a surprise that for many of us, the highlight of any World Youth Day involves Jesus in the most intimate, personal and physical way possible: In the Eucharist or in the Blessed Sacrament. It's also not a surprise that for many, the highlight is not one of the main events with the Pope (although those are memorable), but a smaller event, in an unexpected place; perhaps something not planned. That is where Jesus meets us; when we least expect it. That is where we encounter Him in a very intimate and personal way.
After working for two years for World Youth Day 2002, I was privileged to be one of the group that traveled to Rome for Palm Sunday to pass on the WYD Cross to the German delegation. This occasion was also for me an unexpected one of Encounter. In the plane on the way home, Fr. Joe de Viveiros who had been the Director of Liturgies for WYD2002 made a point of speaking to everyone from our group. I don't remember much of the conversation, but I do remember him saying that when we have a personal encounter with Christ, it always leads to a calling. I have never forgotten that.
Some of us perhaps have not had a personal encounter with Christ. Some of us have but not have recognized it as an encounter. Some of us have had several; each time you are able to recognize it because it leads to a calling - even though we may ignore the call or not understand it. In fact, if you think you had a personal encounter with Christ, pay attention to where the call may be. You may be surprised.
On July 27, 2016 I was part of a beautiful evening. I was humbled to be one of the two deacons who helped Fr. Joseph Anthony Kress, OP carry the Monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. It was powerful, tiring, uncomfortable, moving, joyful, prayerful, emotional and beautiful.
It was Jesus walking among us. It was Jesus, our God, transfigured in our midst. It was a mountaintop experience. It was Jesus calling us to follow Him.
Panama's Archbishop, José Domingo Ulloa, OSA said during the press conference following the announcement of WYD 2019 that we can't speak of World Youth Day in terms of success. That word just doens't seem to work when we're speaking about our work in the Church or about our journey towards God in Heaven. We don't speak of success; We speak of fruit.
What is the fruit of World Youth Day? Thousands of young people responding to the call.
May you too be able to say yes.
If you missed any of our coverage of World Youth Day, all programs will re-air starting on Tuesday, August 16. Night of Mercy will air on S+L TV this Sunday August 28 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT. Visit http://www.saltandlighttv.org/wydcentral/ for a broadcast schedule.
If you can't wait, watch Night of Mercy right here, right now:
Photo credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann; Catholic Standard
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: firstname.lastname@example.org