The World Youth Days have a lasting effect on the young people that participate from around the world. And the same is true for the host cities. In this special presentation for the ten year anniversary of WYD Toronto, former National Director and CEO of WYD Toronto, and current CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B. visits some of the memorable sites, recounts the event and shares his personal memories of Blessed John Paul II with host Sebastian Gomes.
How John Paul II was close to me in WYD 2002
We sow seeds, often unknowingly, which yield fruit and great meaning in the future. Sow generously, God gives the growth. This is the story of a little table that brought someone close to John Paul II.
In 2002, I was 16 years old and had just finished grade 10. That summer was to be my first time attending World Youth Day. My parents raised me Catholic and every Sunday we went diligently to mass. I remember often resisting going to mass, and just felt too bored by the whole experience of being Catholic. During those years of my life I had no interest in anything religious. Going to World Youth Day that summer was going to be more a trip to be with “friends” than an anticipated spiritual experience. I look back now, particularly with our celebration of World Youth Day Toronto’s 10th anniversary and recall to myself the seeds that were planted and the story that was to unexpectedly unfold.
My father is a carpenter, he works for a company that owns many apartment buildings throughout the Kitchener, Waterloo, Guelph and Cambridge area. The daughter of the owner of the company is married to Scott, who was responsible for sound system in Downsview Park. Leading up to the week of World Youth Day the Cardinal in charge of the main stage made it known that custom “furniture” was necessary for the Holy Father’s visit. Scott got wind of this need and contacted Frank, my father’s boss. My dad, known to be a Polish man who practiced his faith was asked: “Would you like to build a special table and podium for John Paul II?” [Read more...]
After thanking WYD volunteers, Benedict XVI left immediately for Madrid’s Barajas airport. In the presence of Spain’s King and Queen, he thanked the Spanish authorities and assured the country of his prayers. He specifically mentioned his concern for those suffering from the high rate of unemployment in Spain.
The Holy Father called Spain “a great nation” that is “capable of moving forward without surrendering its profoundly religious and Catholic soul.”
The Pope also congratulated pilgrims for their “joyful, enthusiastic and intense presence.” He says they will be returning home as “missionaries of the Gospel” who will help their friends “discover that loving Christ means living life to the full”.
The papal plane is expected to land at Rome’s Ciampino Airport at 9:30pm local time.
The English translation of the Pope’s farewell address is posted below.
Today is the Pope’s last day in Madrid, but he wasn’t going to leave without expressing a personal thank you. Before heading to the airport, the Holy Father met with World Youth Day volunteers at the IFEMA Fairgrounds.
In his address to volunteers, he said that their work and prayer was like “weav[ing], stitch by stitch, a magnificent, colourful tapestry”. In particular, he praised the sacrifice of those who had to miss World Youth Day events because they needed to keep working behind the scenes.
The Pope asked them to consider extending their service to the Church through priesthood, consecrated life, or marriage. In doing so, he acknowledged that even as he was thanking the volunteers, he was asking them to do something more.
“But that is the mission of the Pope, the Successor of Peter,” he explained, to call the faithful to “respond in love to the One who for love gave himself up for us.”
The English translation of the Pope’s address continues below.
Dear Young People,
In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received. Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better. They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?
The Gospel we have just heard (cf. Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing Christ. The first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion. When Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before him. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.
Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”. Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.
And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.
Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.
Jesus’ responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. What do these words mean? Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God.
The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.
Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.
Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.
Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.
Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection. I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.
- Photo Credit © M.Mazur/www.thepapalvisit.org.uk
The official World Youth Day website has published a translation of the full address that Benedict XVI intended to give at the WYD Vigil. Due to heavy wind and rain, the Pope limited his spoken remarks to the greetings to the different language groups at the end of his address. The vigil resumed following a brief delay as the weather passed.
Dear Young Friends,
I greet all of you, especially the young people who have asked me their questions, and I thank them for the sincerity with which they set forth their concerns, that express the longing which all of you have to achieve something great in life, something which can bring you fulfillment and happiness.
How can a young person be true to the faith and yet continue to aspire to high ideals in today’s society? In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus gives us an answer to this urgent question: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).
Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in his love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.
Before leading the World Youth Day Vigil, Pope Benedict met with young people with physical and mental disabilities. He visited the San José Institute, which assists in their care and specializes in treating epilepsy. 120 patients and workers from several Spanish centres were present, along with the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela.
On stage, the Pope was joined by ten youth, who gave the Pope gifts that included a painting by a young person with disabilities. A welfare centre was then dedicated to Benedict XVI.
Here is the full text of the Pope’s address:
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Religious of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God,
Dear Young People, Family Members and Volunteers,
I thank you most sincerely for your kind greeting and heartfelt welcome.
This evening, just before the Prayer Vigil with the young people from throughout the world gathered in Madrid for this World Youth Day, we have this chance to spend time together as a way of showing the Pope’s closeness and esteem for each of you, for your families and for all those who help and care for you in this Foundation of Saint Joseph’s Institute.
A university education is about more than attaining technical ability or satisfying the demand for labor, says Pope Benedict. The Holy Father reflected on the role of the university during a meeting with young professors at the Basilica of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. His address followed his meeting with young women religious.
“This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread,” said the pontiff. He compared this “reductionist and curtailed vision” with what he described as “the authentic idea of the University”.
“Teaching is not just about communicating content,” he explained, “but about forming young people.” For this task, he said that young people need “authentic teachers” who are open to the “fullness of truth”. At the same time, he encouraged a humble approach to truth, reminding professors that “truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp.”
“We can seek it and draw near to it,” he said, “but we cannot completely possess it; or put better, truth possesses us and inspires us.”
Published below is the full text of the Pope’s address.
My Brother Bishops,
Dear Augustinian Fathers,
I have looked forward to this meeting with you, young professors in the universities of Spain. You provide a splendid service in the spread of truth, in circumstances that are not always easy. I greet you warmly and I thank you for your kind words of welcome and for the music which has marvelously resounded in this magnificent monastery, for centuries an eloquent witness to the life of prayer and study. In this highly symbolic place, reason and faith have harmoniously blended in the austere stone to shape one of Spain’s most renowned monuments
I also greet with particular affection those of you who took part in the recent World Congress of Catholic Universities held in Avila on the theme: “The Identity and Mission of the Catholic University”.
Special contest launched for pilgrims and would-be pilgrims
Madrid,July 29 2011.- With less than 20 days to go until the start of WYD pilgrims, and those who will be pilgrims in spirit, have a chance to win some very special prizes.
Five lucky young people could win a chance to be part of the group of pilgrims who walk with the Holy Father through Madrid’s Puerta de Alcalá during the official welcome ceremony on Thursday August 18. Puerta de Alcalá is an 18th centry gate that used to be one of the main access points to the city. It is today one of the symbols of Madrid and it is where the Holy Father will be officially received and welcomed to the city.
Even those young people who can’t make it to Madrid have a chance to participate in this contest. Ten youth from around the world will win an official WYD 2011 Madrid Pilgrim Backpack and other items from the official WYD store.
To participate youth must fill in the on-line application form on the official WYD Facebook page and then try to accumulate the most points possible. Points can be accumulated by connecting one’s Twitter profile to the official WYD twitter profile, or by “liking” the WYD app on the Facebook page.
Vatican and WYD launch an invitation system to get people to the event
If the success of recent new social media networks is any indication, there is nothing more powerful than receiving an invitation to use a new product or attend an event. The Vatican figured that out too.
Through the Vatican’s social media website pope2you.net pilgrims can publicly invite their friends to World Youth Day. The Pope2you website has a series of e-postcards that can be sent to friend’s e-mail addresses or, to make more of a splash, invitations can be sent directly to friends’ Facebook, Linkedin, and Google buzz accounts. One can also get the invitation out as a Twitter “tweet”.
If friends don’t or can’t take up the invitation to come to Madrid they can follow the events via a livestream that will be provided on the site, and read the Holy Father’s messages to youth which can be accessed through Pope2you.
The site is also preparing a feature called Book of Faces, to be launched just a few days before the start of WYD. Pilgrims will be able to send photos of themselves in Madrid to Pope2you. As well, staff from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communication will be present in Madrid, taking photos of the events and pilgrims. Those photos will be used to make up the background image on the Pope2you website.
To send invitations to friends visit pope2you.net