In 2005 World Youth Day went back to Europe, to Cologne, Germany. This was Pope Benedict’s first World Youth Day. By now, WYDs are an establishment. For me Toronto was very much the WYD that brought it all together. The service component was the key ingredient, but something was missing.
In Toronto we also added something else. Traditionally the Saturday night Vigil was a celebration, a rally, an opportunity for the young people to be with the Holy Father. In Toronto we kept this idea, but made the core of the celebration Evening Prayer. I don’t know about you, but before this, I had never even heard of Evening Prayer. There is so much about our Faith that we don’t know. How many of us don’t know about these “prayers of the Church?” Why are these prayers not taught in Catholic Schools? But I digress…
In Cologne, they kept the Vigil as Evening Prayer, but added Adoration. Of course, this made sense because the theme for that WYD was “We have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2). But it also makes sense because that is the real reason why we gather: to adore. That’s why we go and do service: to adore. Worship is the reason why we respond to the call to being Saints.
And of course, Sydney 2008 was in many ways the WYD of WYDs. All these components came together beautifully. We travelled as pilgrims, together with Mary and the Saints, under the Cross, in a spirit of reconciliation and service to meet with the Holy Father, the institutional Church, to learn about our Faith, to connect with and celebrate our Faith and to worship. For Sydney, we literally went to “ends of the earth,” to the farthest reaches of the planet, to the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit to do so. And we are able to do so, be Saints because of the Holy Spirit.
Being a saint is not hard. Being a saint doesn’t mean that you don’t make mistakes or that you don’t sin. Being a saint simply means following Jesus, trying to get to heaven and helping others make it to heaven. Jesus already told us how to do that: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to those who are thirsty, visit the sick and those in prison. And pray. This is something that you and I can do very easily. And if we do, or try to live this way, we will realise that we are no longer just disciples who merely follow Jesus, but apostles whom Jesus sends.
This is what happens at WYD – one arrives as a disciple and having a personal encounter with Christ, we return home sent, as apostles – to share the experience with our families, our friends and all those whom we encounter on a daily basis.
But the good news is that we don’t have to go to a WYD to have a personal encounter with Christ. You didn’t need to go to Sydney in order to “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” and be Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:8) . You don’t need to go to Madrid in 2011 to be “rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf Col 2:7). This is something that all of us can do right here at home.
You may not be able to go to WYD, but are you willing to let Jesus call you to be an apostle?
Are you willing to live as a saint?
Do not be afraid!
Photos WYD08/Getty Images