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…]
Watch the full video of John Paul II being greeted by the Youth of the World in Exhibition Place, 2002.
Watch the entire video of John Paul II’s arrival into Toronto on July 24, 2002.
By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB for The B.C. Catholic
This is an excerpt from a speech given in June by Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, called, “Is the Media Against the Catholic Church, and Why?”
The challenge and opportunity I wish to mention is what the Church has learned from the media about World Youth Days, and what the media has learned from the Church’s experience of them.
I cannot help but recall Cardinal James Francis Stafford’s stirring words spoken to the throngs of young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square and its vicinity at the opening ceremonies of the rather apocalyptic Jubilee World Youth Day Aug. 15, 2000.
Addressing a visibly moved and aging Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Stafford said, “Holy Father! These young people come as pilgrims from 157 nations. Not too long ago it was ominous when thousands of young people moved across national borders. Citizens trembled in fear. They closed and barricaded their doors. Those hosts of young men signified armies of war, instruments of destruction, plague, and darkness.
“At your initiative, Holy Father, these young men and women of Europe and of the world have formed a different kind of army. They are ‘on pilgrimage from the Lord.’ They reflect the beauty envisioned by you and the Fathers of the Council.”
In 2002 World Youth Day hit Toronto at a very low ebb of the Church’s history. The historical backdrop included the aftermath of September 11 and a world steeped in terror, fear and war; a Church enmeshed in a major sex abuse scandal in the United States with a Pontiff who was visibly aging and feeble; and a Canadian culture of religious indifference and increasing secularity… …Read More
Jesus made his own the call to holiness already addressed by God to the people of the old covenant: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy (Lev 19:2)”. He repeated it continually by word and by the example of his life. Especially in the Sermon on the Mount he left to the Church a code of Christian holiness. The history of Christian holiness is the proof that by living in the spirit of the Beatitudes proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5:3-12), Christ’s exhortation in the parable of the vine and the branches is realized: “Abide in me, and I in you…. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (Jn 15:4, 5). These words are verified in many ways in the lives of individual Christians, thereby showing, down the centuries, the manifold riches and beauty of the holiness of the Church.
Become the Saints of the New Millennium
Pope John Paul II spoke frequently to young people about the call to holiness and the vocation to be saints. Who can forget his message for World Youth Day 2000 in Rome? He wrote to his dear young friends throughout the world unforgettable words that became the rallying cry for the Jubilee’s greatest celebration: “Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! Be contemplative, love prayer; be coherent with your faith and generous in the service of your brothers and sisters, be active members of the Church and builders of peace. To succeed in this demanding project of life, continue to listen to His Word, draw strength from the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. The Lord wants you to be intrepid apostles of his Gospel and builders of a new humanity”.
Two years later for World Youth Day 2002 in Canada, John Paul II took up once again the theme of holiness and saints in The Way of the Cross on Good Friday in his Private Chapel (25 March 2005)his message to the young people of the world: “Just as salt gives flavor to food and light illumines the darkness, so too holiness gives full meaning to life and makes it reflect God’s glory. How many saints, especially young saints, can we count in the Church’s history! In their love for God their heroic virtues shone before the world, and so they became models of life which the Church has held up for imitation by all…. Through the intercession of this great host of witnesses, may God make you too, dear young people, the saints of the third millennium!”
At the concluding Mass of Canada’s World Youth Day at Downsview Park on Sunday, 28 July, 2002, Pope John Paul issued a stirring challenge that still resounds in North America, in particular, today: “And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! 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, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in America and so many other young people have done”.
In announcing the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne – an event he would not live to see, Pope John Paul II sent a letter to the young people of the world: “Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession.”
Attending his first World Youth Day as pope, Benedict XVI built on the his predecessor’s repeated invitations to young people and at the great vigil of Cologne’s World Youth Day on August 20, 2005, Benedict cried out at Marienfeld:
“It is the great multitude of the saints – both known and unknown – in whose lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us and turned over the pages; he has done this throughout history and he still does so today. In their lives, as if in a great picture-book, the riches of the Gospel are revealed. They are the shining path which God himself has traced throughout history and is still tracing today.”
“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.”
Friends of God
During his Pontificate, Pope 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. In a world that desperately seeks authentic heroes and heroines, John Paul II presented us with the real heroes and heroines of the faith who will never let us down.
Pope John Paul II reminded us that the heroes and heroines the world offers the world today are terribly flawed. They leave us so empty. The real “stars” of Pope John Paul II are the Saints and Blesseds who did not try to be regarded as heroes, or to shock or provoke. He taught us that the saints aren’t just people to turn to when something is lost or a situation seems hopeless; they are examples to follow in prayer and in efforts to reform and renew the church. If we befriend the blesseds and saints and imitate their lives, we too embark on the path of holiness.
We must honestly ask ourselves if the Holy Father’s important teaching on the Blesseds and Saints has become an integral part of our catechesis, Evangelization and formation of young people today. Have we have placed our pastoral work with young people under the heading of holiness? Have we invited them to truly desire to be saints?
When the throngs of people — so many of them the young men and women who were his spiritual sons and daughters — began chanting “Santo Subito” at the end of the Pope’s funeral mass on April 8, 2005, what were they really chanting? They were crying out that in Karol Wojtyla, they saw someone who lived with God and lived with us. He was a sinner who experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness. He looked at us, loved us, embraced us, healed us and gave us hope. He taught us not to be afraid. He showed us how to live, how to love, how to forgive and how to die. He taught us how to embrace the cross in the most excruciating moments of life, knowing that the cross was not God’s final answer.
If the Church proclaims Pope John Paul II blessed, it is because he lived with God, relying totally on God’s infinite, divine mercy, going forward with God’s strength and power, believing in the impossible, loving one’s enemies and persecutors, forgiving in the midst of evil and violence, hoping beyond all hope, and leaving the world a better place. Pope John Paul II gave flesh and blood to the Beatitudes throughout his entire lifetime. He let us catch a glimpse of the greatness and holiness to which we are all called, and showed us the face of God as we journey on our pilgrim way on earth. A great part of the success of his message is due to the fact that he was surrounded by a tremendous cloud of witnesses who stood by him and strengthened him throughout his life. Is it any wonder, then, that millions of young people throughout the world loved him and took up his invitation to become the “saints of the new millennium?”
The Church is the “home of holiness” and holiness is our most accurate image, our authentic calling card, and our greatest gift to the world. It describes best who and what we are and strive to be. In the life of Karol Wojtyla, holiness was contagious. Pope John Paul II was not only “Holy Father” but a Father who was and is Holy. On 2 April, 2005, he died a public, global death that stopped the world for several days. On 8 April, 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the world that the Holy Father was watching and blessing us ‘from the window of the Father’s House’”.
As we prepare for Sunday May 1, 2011, the Beatification of this great servant and priest, and a real hero for young people today, let us beg his intercession and blessing. May he intercede for us and give us the desire to become holy and to be saints.
Thomas Rosica, csb, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada; Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; served as National Director and CEO of World Youth Day 2002, Canada
There is this energy that is dawning upon me right now – the energy that comes mixed with anticipation, excitement, overwhelming preparation, restlessness, and gratitude. I had the same feeling when I was sixteen, nineteen and twenty-five years old. I know that it is the work of the Holy Spirit and I don’t know what to do with it but trust it. I choose to trust it like every other time before; let it work within me.
So I breathe, and smile; breathe, and smile. And all of a sudden, things start to happen before my eyes. One tangible thing I can tell you about this feeling is the joy that it brings me. My heart feels like a balloon filling with air too quickly – so much that it might burst.
World Youth Days has always been one of those things that I have jumped into with my heart, well before it begins (to be processed in my head). It has never been an identifiable moment where I can say I was on board with the planning process, but more like a perpetual YES, even before the destination was announced. Sooner or later I find myself sitting in the streets of my own city with thousands around me on their knees witnessing the Passion of our Lord; or I find myself halfway around the world shouting praises for God in 4 or 5 different languages. This time I will be leading a group of young people to Madrid, most of them for their first World Youth Days experience. And I need to trust that they are just as much in it as I am.
The Holy Spirit is a game changer. There is no way around it. All the questions, worries, anxieties, fears and misconceptions that we pack with us in our luggage when we leave Toronto is emptied, and with us we bring home a different type of fullness, a completeness that is lighter; filled with memories perspective, friendship, gratitude, love, and a greater awareness of the work of the Spirit.
Stefanie Romano is a Team Leader for the Office of Catholic Youth in Toronto.
Interview with Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, National Director and Chief Executive Officer of World Youth Day 2002, one month after the event.
TORONTO, AUG. 22, 2002 (Zenit.org)- Canada needed World Youth Day and John Paul II “to wake us up, infuse us with joy,” says a key organizer of the event.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, national director and chief executive officer of World Youth Day 2002, shared his impressions about the historic event with ZENIT.
Father Rosica: The entire event in Canada spoke of joy, reflected joy, offered joy to so many people. Upon his arrival among us on July 23, Pope John Paul II set the tone for what would take place throughout the week.
He told us that “the young people from all parts of the world … gathering for the World Youth Day bear the marks of a humanity that too often does not know peace, or justice…. Too many lives begin and end without joy, without hope. That is one of the principal reasons for the World Youth Day. Young people are coming together to commit themselves, in the strength of their faith in Jesus Christ, to the great cause of peace and human solidarity.”
Q: What lasting images remain with you from World Youth Day?
Father Rosica: I will never forget the Holy Father’s arrival. It was a splendid, sun-drenched day as the Alitalia plane came to a halt on the runway of Pearson International Airport. I was in a line headed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien of Canada and leaders of government of all levels, followed by officials of the Canadian Church. [Read more…]
Pilgrims from World Youth Day’s past remember living up to get meal packages to feed four to six people. The organizers in Madrid are using a different system based on meal vouchers that are redeemable at participating restaurants. That means the menu at this WYD will be decidedly Spanish. This raises the question, what are typical meals in Spain?
The first thing one will notice in Spain is breakfast, or the seeming lack thereof. Spaniards tend to grab a cup of “Café con Leche” and then run out the door. This works fine for Spaniards because at 11:00am they’ll be at the neighbourhood coffee bar ordering a second coffee and a snack. The average North American, however, will find that their tummy will begin to rumble about 20 minutes after said “Café con Leche”. When a Spaniard does eat in the morning, what does that meal consist of?
A typical breakfast can consists of “toast” with “jamón” or even crushed tomato. A word to wise, “toast” in Spain usually means a half baguette toasted, or similar. It is rare to find whole wheat bread slices being served up as toast. Jamón Iberico is a cured ham, much like Italian prosciutto. Toast with jamón is such a typical breakfast dish that it often isn’t listed on restaurant menus. It is taken for granted that it is on the menu. Another common variation on the toast theme is the same toasted baguette, this time you drizzle it with olive oil, and spread crushed tomato on the bread, and follow that with a light sprinkling of salt. Often listen on menus as “tostada con tomate” it is a dish typical of Catalunya that is enjoyed throughout the country. Then, of course, there’s always croissants and similar “bolleria” or pastries that are often served alongside café con leche.
Lunch is another challenge for North Americans in Spain. It happens between 2pm and 4pm. The structure of a Spanish lunch can vary from the typical store-bought sandwich or salad to a full three-course meal. Self service restaurants will have a full range of choices while smaller restaurants will have a “pilgrim menu” that most likely consists of a first course vegetable dish of some sort, a second course meat or fish or sandwich, and a final course of either a dessert, fruit, or coffee. Gazpacho is a very common first course dish during the summer. It is a cold, tomato-based, raw veggie soup. Other typical first course dishes are “judeas verdes” which are green beans, and of course a range of different mixed salads.
Now for the second course. While North Americans are used to the idea of hamburger and fries, it can be a bit of shock when that hamburger turns up with a fried egg on top. Sometimes the egg comes next to sausages instead of a hamburger. Because Spain is a peninsula, fish also plays a key role in the Spanish culinary landscape. Aside from fillets of various fish on menus it is also common to find Calamari or Sepia “a la plancha” (grilled) or “a la Romana” (battered and fried). Dessert might be a sweet treat like Flan (cream custard topped with caramel sauce), Cuajada, a compact pudding made of fresh cheese and topped with honey or berries. Natillas, custard with a cookie in the middle, is a common dessert as is Arroz con Leche or rice with milk. The dessert course can also be replaced with coffee. A note about Lunch: if you want to try Paella, do it at Lunch. You won’t find it on dinner menus.
That brings us to dinner. With a three course lunch at 3pm Spaniards don’t feel the need to graze again until about 9:30 or 10pm. The key word here is graze. Dinner doesn’t have to be much more than a bowl of Gazpacho and a toast of some sort or a platter of jamón and cheese to share, followed by some fruit. At first the thought of dinner at 10pm can be daunting, but the upside is by then the suffocating heat has dissipated and it’s incredibly pleasant to sit on a patio sipping gazpacho or nibbling at a fresh bread, cheese and olives.
And now a word on coffee. Compared to other European countries, Spanish coffee is quite mild. The international volunteers who come from nearby coffee-fueled nations lament that it requires double the number of cups a day to keep all systems going as normal. If you know you need a certain amount of coffee to stay happy, I recommend bringing packets of instant coffee mix.