This is WORLD YOUTH DAY: INSPIRING GENERATIONS Book Feature
A sample of the book can be found on Amazon
On Monday morning I looked at my iPhone and saw a message which read: ‘Have you seen the news? The Pope has resigned!’
In a split second I thought: not another one of those pranks! However I looked again, as the sender was a close friend of mine who simply would not do such a thing. At that very moment my phone rang – another friend confirming the breaking news. Immediately I got back onto my phone and flicked through my twitter account… everything I could read in my timeline was saying Pope Benedict has resigned, Pope Benedict has resigned, Pope Benedict has resigned.
My first reaction was of shock and utter disbelief.
Why is he resigning? Can he do this? These were pressing questions…Where do I begin? Looking back I understand my ignorance of Canon Law did not help but to be honest, this is probably something Catholics are not taught about in great detail at school. Also, I have only experienced two Pontificates and JP2 stayed in office until the end, so naturally my first expectation was that the job of a Pope is until death.
As the day unfolded, I came to understand the resignation of a Pope is not only part of Canon Law but also a norm promulgated by Pope JP2 in 1996 recognising that a vacancy to the office of the Bishop of Rome, i.e. the Pope, can occur as a result of death or a valid resignation. This at least put that matter to rest.
Many other questions were asked but soon my mood changed to thinking about the Pope’s amazing Pontificate of just 8 years. Many have called him a transitional Pope and even he has described himself as a small Pope, but the truth is that for those who remember the Papal visit to the UK in 2010, he is no small or transitional Pope, on the contrary, he is more like THE ROCK. Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK was a very important moment for Catholics in the UK, especially for the young people of the church.
Particularly for me, Hyde Park was a turning point. I remember vividly when the Pope said: ‘The Lord be with you’ and we all exploded: ‘and also with you’. Yes indeed, we were saying the words we say every single Sunday but *to the Pope*. If this was really what being ‘in communion’ felt like, then communion was indeed very good.
Later during the Homily, listening to his words I remember thinking that this was something special: his words resonated as being so immensely profound, relevant and clear. It was like opening a little window in the corner of my life and letting in a flood of light as in his words there was so much teaching. It truly was an experience of enlightenment which awakened my desire to get closer to God and to learn more about my faith and my church.
Towards the end of the Vigil the Pope invited us to attend World Youth Day in Madrid, an invitation accepted by myself and some 3000 other British pilgrims. This was an unprecedented numbers of young British people attending a World Youth Day event.
We left London in the middle of the riots and arrived in Madrid’s scorching summer heat where we joined 2 million others. Pope Benedict was again impeccable with his words, his teaching, wisdom and a gentleness like a loving father. I will never forget the storm and lightning we shared in the Vigil at Cuatro Vientos, which was a near biblical experience. Pope Benedict stayed put with us, like a German Shepherd, and we all got soaking wet.
B16 has undoubtedly been a tremendous gift to young people in the UK. His visit to our country and later WYD Madrid has restored the confidence in our faith. He has taught us to be true to our values amidst the increasing secularisation around us. He has always encouraged us to experience Jesus Christ like a friend through prayer but also through service to others. He has shown us the direction of how to live our faith and now, as he leaves his pontificate and reverts to being Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he shows a great testimony of humility and an example of detachment from earthly titles, teaching us that the role of a Pope is not the role of a king but that of a servant.
Coincidentally, I was thinking recently how different could Rio2013 be to Madrid2011 since it is only one World Youth Day after the other? Well now we know it will be a very different event with nothing less than a new Pope.
We will dearly miss Pope Benedict in Rio de Janeiro but we trust in the decision that he has taken.
Now we eagerly look forward to Rio2013 celebrations with a new Pope. World Youth Day Rio2013 will probably be his first international trip and – with over 2 million attendees – also the biggest.
Yes, all eyes will definitely be on Rio2013.
Where would I be without World Youth Day? I’m not sure I want to go too far down that road. But I think I can say without doubt that my first World Youth Day in Rome in 2000 was the start of something in my life: fanning into flame a faith that had lain smouldering (but not extinguished) through my adolescence.
Rome 2000 allowed me to see what a truly Catholic faith was all about. It was about seeing the millions of young people from all around the world, each with their own language and culture gathering together in one city and for one purpose. I returned home invigorated.
It was not long after that I applied to go to Seminary and through my journey to Priesthood World Youth Days played a big part in my discernment.
And now I get to lead a Pilgrimage! And not just any Pilgrimage, but a Pilgrim journey to Rio!!
As the Director of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Liverpool I will have the great privilege of taking 30 young people from all corners of the Diocese to Rio this year.
We started our preparation meetings in October last year and will continue to have regular meetings until the July departure date. In these meetings we hope to explore the great gifts WYD can bring to us – seeing the visible expression of a shared Catholic faith, experiencing a different culture, engaging in the Missionary Week, attending catechesis sessions led by different Bishops of the world, and of course being able to participate in the WYD Vigil and Mass celebrated by the Holy Father.
We will also work in smaller groups based more on local geography to discuss what we hope WYD will mean for us and how we hope to bring the WYD spirit back to our own parishes and pastoral areas.
We decided to start our preparation meetings in October as in late September myself and a fellow priest from Liverpool, Fr Colin Fealey, went to Rio for a pre- pilgrimage trip (travelling via Atlanta, Orlando and Panama – quite the trip!). Whilst in Rio we met the reps from the tour company we will be using and also met the leaders of the Birmingham contingent.
It was a great few days and really whetted the appetite for what is sure to be a fantastic expression of faith in July.
We found Rio to be a very relaxed and easy going city. Of course, the sights are spectacular. Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, the Copacabana. Strolling along the Copacabana in a morning drinking coconut milk takes some beating. Even the one hour homily at the cathedral at Sunday mass did not take the shine off those few days!
We returned full of enthusiasm for a great city and a fantastic people. To imagine upward of two million people crowding onto the Copacabana to welcome the Pope to Rio is an amazing thought. Yet in less than six months that is what we will be doing.
If you are going to Rio this year you are lucky. It truly will be a once in a lifetime affair.
If you are still thinking about it – stop thinking! You may never get the chance again.
I started by thinking about the role WYD has played in my life. I end by thinking what role it continues to play.
But more importantly I pray that this WYD in Rio will be for those who attend a grace filled pilgrimage: that they will grow in their relationship with God and so be prepared to follow His call.
Fr Simon Gore
Director of Youth Ministry, Archdiocese of Liverpool
Last Saturday and Sunday Nicole and I stood up in our parish church to share our experiences in World Youth Day. We also put up a board with pictures which you can see in the slide show. We invited all to attend next WYD Rio 2013 aswell as the Flame concert in Wembley in March 2012. We hope this post will inspire others to do the same!
and this is what Nicole said:
Helooo, I just wanted to share with my experiences from World Youth Day.
I’ll be honest, before I went to WYD I didn’t really know what to expect. I had many expectations of what it would be like, for example, I knew I would get the chance to meet many new people from across the globe but I never expected to make such close bonds with them and to get to know them as well as I have. At first, I thought WYD would just be about going to 20 different masses a day and having to listen to priest after priest, but it turned out to be so much more. Instead, we had the chance to visit different parishes and share mass with them, and attend masses in football stadiums full of thousands of young people. One of the main events I enjoyed was the catechesis as they were the most inspiring. We got to listen to American nuns and hear religious stories that not only showed the depth of our religion but the power.
One story I remember well was about a lady who was staying in a convent with nuns. She had just had a child and was leaving the hospital in an elevator when she saw another woman crying. She asked the woman what was wrong and she explained that she’d just found out she was pregnant and how she wasn’t ready for children. The lady then said ‘having children is one of the most beautiful things in life and you will regret aborting it. This time next year I’ll see you here, you will have had a baby girl and you will have called her Mary Rose after me.’ The lady then left her. The following year when the lady was in the hospital she met the same woman in the elevator. She had had twins, two girls, one named Mary, one named Rose; she was overwhelmed with gratitude to the lady who had convinced her to keep her child. This story really moved me and I could tell from the atmosphere in the stadium that it had had the same effect on us all ; it’s amazing to see how one lady’s words can have changed another person’s life so much.
In the first week we had Days in the Dioceses, where we stayed in San-Sebastian, this was essentially the warm up for Madrid. Here we attended prayer vigils in cathedrals; we visited the birth place of St. Ignatius of Loyola and celebrated our religion through festivals with people from all over the world. The festivals in particular were breath taking; every country went on stage and performed their culture through song and dance. It was so inspiring as you could see how different all the cultures were, yet they were still able to unite through faith.
The second week we travelled to Madrid where we were welcomed with an open air mass with all the participating countries, there were people there from countries such as Australia, new Zealand and even china. I can’t even put into words how incredible the atmosphere was there; wherever you went there were floods of pilgrims in the streets all eager to meet and get to know you, even those from countries who struggled with our language; everyone was so friendly, it was actually amazing.
However, I would have to say the best part of World Youth Day had to be the mass with Pope Benedict, its estimated that 1.5 million pilgrims turned up at the airfield for the mass, it was so full that they had to start turning groups away! After hours of walking to get there, in temperatures around 40 degrees, pilgrims were still sociable and the atmosphere was still buzzing- despite the torrential thunderstorm we experienced during the welcoming papal mass. Maybe it was God’s way of trying to join in?!
Anyways I could go on all day telling you about World Youth Day, all I can say is it was a fantastic experience and if any of you are considering attending world youth day in Rio de Janeiro, 2013 I would encourage you to do so, to truly appreciate how good it is you have to go and experience it yourself.
If anyone wants to know anything else about Madrid then we are more than happy to tell you all about it, so feel free to come and talk to us
Finally I would like to thank you all once more for your generosity in making this experience possible for us.
and this is what Paula said:
Thank you Nicole. Instead of going through my pilgrim experience now, there is a print out that I will be handing after mass which Fr Giles has named World Youth Day ‘Report’.
Now, I would like to tell you about two upcoming events, which I think will be important for the young people of the parish to attend.
The first event is called Flame, and will be similar to the Hyde Park Vigil that we had when Pope Benedict visited the UK last year, to include great Catholic ministry such as national and international speakers, music and dancing as well as time for worship and prayer.
This will happen at Wembley Arena on Saturday 24th March 2012, and it will be a great opportunity for us all to experience the Church in a national context. Furthermore, if you are thinking about going to a WYD this is a great way to get a bit of the flavor of what it would be like to attend one.
So everyone who is in Year 10 and above is invited, but I would especially make a call for anyone who is between 18-40, as I will personally lead a group to the event but will need extra young leaders to help out with the journey to and from London.
For more information, there are posters around the church or you can visit the website. There will be also a list at the back of church so you can put your name down. Any questions pls feel free to ask me.
The second event is, of course, the next World Youth Day, which was announced at the final mass in Madrid and will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in July 2013. The theme has already been announced: Go out and make disciples (Mt 28:19).
WYD Madrid was one the the best weeks of my life and I promise you that I am not exaggerating. There were so many incredible experiences that if I had to tell you, I would not know where to begin.
However, if I had to say one thing, I would say that WYD is still – and I say still because I am still going through it in my head and in my heart – a hugely important experience which has strengthened my faith and has re-affirmed that the Catholic Church is alive, active and that it is indeed all of us. For this I am very happy that I attended and I feel very proud to be a catholic.
So following the huge success and amazing experience that was Madrid, I can’t help but invite all of you aged 16 or over to come to Rio.
And please let me tell you that age is not an obstacle. As you can see from the photos at the back, in our group we had a varied range of ages from 16 to 60, we had families, siblings, newly married couples, seminarians, older and younger priests, everything, WYD is really an inclusive event.
If you are interested do come and talk to me or Nicole for more details.
Once again, thank you all for all your support and for listening.
Here is a recording by Paschal Uche in the Edward Stourton’s BBC program this morning.
He is around minute 5.27. I hope it brings you good memories.
Suddenly, my time at World Youth Day has drawn to a close. A week of my teenage life, spent in a country I hadn’t been to before, with food I hadn’t eaten before, and people I hadn’t met before, and yet it was the most enjoyable experience I ever had. I will remember it forever – the memories, the experiences, and the strengthening of my faith.
We (myself and my 20 year old brother) were greeted with quite a shock after flying out from a damp and dreary Gatwick on the morning of Monday 15th August, to high-30s heat reflecting off the runway at Madrid airport. Heading through the airport, it was apparent that we were about to take part in something huge. There were banners and posters up everywhere advertising ‘JMJ2011’ (JMJ are the initials of the Spanish for ‘World Youth Day’), but these were hidden from view by the hundreds of pilgrims picking up their luggage from the carousels. There were Brazilians, Americans, Canadians, Chileans, French and many others. I had never seen such a diverse mix of people, and we hadn’t even made it out of the airport terminal.
After travelling on the metro filled with excited Brazilians for half an hour, we arrived at our destination. We alighted and, after consulting my printed road map, we arrived at our accommodation, and found our room. Deciding to then walk into Madrid at 3pm was a mistake, as the temperature had reached about 38 degrees. We swiftly concluded the best course of action was to sleep under a tree in a large park in the centre of Madrid.
Meeting up with the rest of our 130-strong group of young people from the Portsmouth Diocese that evening, we went out to get dinner. Despite the fact there are hundreds and hundreds of cafes and restaurants in Madrid, we ended up in Burger King. One positive outcome of this was the pint of ice cold Coca Cola for 1 euro.
On Tuesday, our group travelled back to the park in the centre of Madrid, and met many hundreds of other pilgrims. There were various stands and marquees in which different groups of people from across the world, for example nuns and missionaries, were talking about their lives and other things. That evening our group travelled to the centre of Madrid, to watch the opening celebration hosted by the Holy Father. We ended up sitting on a large roundabout (the traffic in the city centre had mostly been stopped), and watched the celebration on a large screen. The heat in the large crowds was immense, reaching up to 40 degrees. Several ambulances were constantly passing, picking up people suffering from the heat.
The next morning, Wednesday, we travelled to a 12,000 seat arena for the first of three catechesis sessions we would be having during our time in Madrid. It was preceded by a Catholic rock concert, in which everyone sang along to the songs. The speeches in the catechesis session were extremely enlightening, as well as moving. Throughout the morning, there were priests dotted around the stairways of the stadium, to which people could go for confession. There was also an area in the basement of the stadium which had been converted to provide an area for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After the catechesis session came a mass, concelebrated by the hundreds of priests that had come from all over the world. That afternoon we had free time in Madrid, and we returned to the arena (again!) for another Catholic concert.
Thursday began with another catechesis session in the arena. The talks again were very interesting, and it was, once again, followed by a mass. That afternoon we travelled to the site outside Madrid’s town hall where all the pilgrims would be welcoming the Pope again. There was a party atmosphere, with people of all nations dancing and talking to each other. We sat waiting for about four hours, and when the Pope arrived the pilgrims erupted shouting chants. The Holy Father hosted a small celebration, and then left back to his accommodation. As we were walking out, we came up to a closed road with a few people lining it. People started running, and we realised the Popemobile was just seconds away. We ran to the road, and saw the Pope pass just a few feet in front of us.
On Friday we had the last of our catechesis sessions. It involved talks about love and relationships, and then we had our final mass in the arena. Myself and a press officer from our group then travelled towards the area of Madrid where the Stations of the Cross were being displayed. They were dotted along a major road, and finished at the Town Hall, where the Pope would, once again, be presiding. We managed to get just a couple of rows back from the very front, and were within 40 metres of the stage. As a pilgrim, the time spent waiting for events to start is as enjoyable and exciting as the event itself. This wait was no different. Despite language barriers, we managed to say evening prayers with two Swiss ladies, an Italian priest and a nun from the Democratic Republic of Congo – the prayers were in a mixture of Italian, English and Latin. As the Way of the Cross neared the Town Hall, the Pope said a few prayers and gave a Homily, regarding the hardships that young people across the world face, and telling us not to give up hope.
Saturday was the eve of the World Youth Day itself. After having a small mass in our accommodation, we began our journey to Cuatro Vientos (Four Winds), an airfield on the outskirts of Madrid. We travelled by metro and then had an hour walk, all the time being joined by hundreds and thousands more pilgrims. It was at least 42 degrees, and there were people on their balconies throwing water onto us all to cool us down. By the time we reached the airfield there were literally hundreds of thousands of people heading through security. We arrived at our designated area and set up ‘camp’, as that was where we were staying for the next 24 hours. The heat was reaching unbearable levels, and as we were on an airfield there was no shade apart from umbrellas and other sun protection that we had brought with us. There were at least four fire engines driving round spraying water over the hot pilgrims. Like on Tuesday, ambulances were constantly travelling around with their sirens blaring, picking up people severely suffering from the heat.
As evening drew near, clouds started gathering. At first these were a blessing, as they provided shade, and thousands of people cheered when they covered the sun. However, it soon became apparent that a storm was brewing. The Pope arrived and began his welcoming celebration, but in the distance we could see thunder and lightning. As the Pope began his homily, the heavens opened. The winds also picked up and blew his skullcap off. The Pope had to retire to an area behind the stage while the storm raged. People were sheltering under plastic sheeting that had been used earlier in the day for shade. Everyone’s sleeping bags and other things were soaked through. However, after ten minutes or so, as suddenly as the rains had started, they stopped. Thanks to the constant heat, even during the night, everyone dried off quickly. The Pope came back out and finished his Homily, and then explained how he would return to his accommodation that night, and celebrate mass with us in the morning. Throughout the night, there were areas around the airfield where people could worship the Blessed Sacrament, and groups of people were walking round singing and dancing all night. I had heard that so many people had tried to come to the airfield that they had had to turn many people away due to capacity issues – there was in excess of 1.8 million people at the airfield.
The morning of the actual World Youth Day, Sunday, we awoke to a clear blue sky. The Pope returned at about 9 o’clock, and mass followed. In it he explained how he had not stopped thinking about us all night, and he was truly grateful for us all coming to Madrid. After mass, another speech followed, and during this he announced the venue of the next World Youth Day: Rio Di Janeiro, Brazil, in the summer of 2013. Following this, all the pilgrims began filtering out of the airfield, and we began our 26 hour coach journey back to Reading. This was a perfect time to reflect on the week’s events – as well as catch up on sleep!
I would strongly recommend all young people to participate in World Youth Day. It was an absolutely amazing experience, and, despite what major news networks would lead you to believe, we saw no protestors. All the Spanish people were very welcoming, and the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world were very friendly. It was a remarkable journey in faith united with so many others from around the world, and we are grateful to the people of St Francis Parish for making it possible for us to experience it.
Here is the link for the outstanding and inspirational talk by Archbishop Timothy Dolan about Mission and Evangelisation, given to ukpilgrims and another 16,000 pilgrims at the Love and Life centre.
And since it has been a few weeks from WYD and life is swimming back into normality for many of us, it is important to ask ourselves: will I let WYD become part of history? Or am I ready to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and share my experiences lived at World Youth Day with my friends, family and parish?
There is lots that can be done but personally, I will start this weekend by telling my parish congregation (in all 3 masses) about what a wonderful experience World Youth Day was – a life experience not to be missed by anyone! And I will formally invite anyone who is interested in WYD Rio 2013 to join me and start fundraising. All I had to do was approach my parish priest and ask to do this – I don’t particularly like to speak in public but I figure that if I want to spread the good news of Jesus and WYD, I really have to get out of my comfort zone as well as give a little of my time for it.
However WYD Madrid is not the only thing I want to speak about as I will be making the most of the opportunity and inviting young people to attend the Flame Congress to be held in March – this will be a great opportunity to re-unite all of us ukpilgrims for a catch up as well as a spiritual warm up for the next WYD.
As you can see, there is lots that can be done! Madrid wasn’t a dream, the dream starts now in our homes and parishes, now that we’ve been ‘planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith‘ (St Paul) it’s time to ‘go out and make disciples‘ (Mt 28:19) with those around us.
Let’s do it! By getting our inspiration by praying to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – who are the everlasting source of energy – listen to the talk by archbishop Dolan again, remind yourself of Madrid and the wonderful experience it was, reflect how it touched your heart and build up your faith with other Catholics like you.
We all agree the English language is somehow peculiar both in the written as well as the spoken word. I canstill remember one of my English friends who’s mother is from the US telling me: tomatoes and tomaytoes, potatos and potatoes (you know what I mean!) as a classic example of English as a non-phonetic language.
How about using different words for the same thing? Fingers and thumbs (a thumb is a finger), jam and marmalade (marmalade is a particular flavour of jam). What about different names for the same things in different quantities: tooth and teeth… But keys can’t be keyses! Or the same word for different things! Such as polish and Polish or turkey and Turkey.
After 16 years living in this country, I’ve just learnt the hard way that Youth does not mean ‘Juventud‘. When I spoke to my parish priest and said I wanted to go to World Youth Day, various members of my parish took the time to tell me: are you going to World Youth Day?… but you are not a youth? (but I am not old either! – I wanted to say)
This terminology in the English language was kind of stuck in my head since last year until I actually went to WYD two weeks ago (I needed to see the evidence you see…) and finally I have the courage to come out of the closet and say: Are we British “lost in translation” with this language?
Jornada Mundial de la ‘Juventud’ or World Youth Day as it is better known in English, refers to the term ‘Juventud‘. This in the vast majority of countries outside the UK, is the age group starting at 18. Under 18′s are officially considered to be children. The big change comes at 18 when people leave school and start university, driving, voting and legal drinking. When you can do all these, that’s when you start being young or ‘joven‘.
And so it seems to me that in England, this is a problematic terminology at many levels, not only becuase it makes our children grow far too fast, but because in Church terms, the congregation have, as a result of the language, a huge mental barrier. This is what I personally experienced in my parish whilst trying to invite people to come to WYD last year after the papal visit: many young people already considered themselves too old to attend even when their age fell into the 18-35 bracket!
Surely, this is not good for the Church. If anybody over 18 is not considered ‘juventud‘ instantly we have an ageing Church population. Furthermore, there is always talk about the hope that the youth or ‘juventud‘ will take on the Church and bring new breath, but being truthful and honest, is it fair to put the future of the Church in the hands of under 18′s who are really still children?
After the Papal Visit and WYD Madrid, many of us have experienced a more youthful church – una iglesia mas joven – maybe the Church we would like it to be and the Church where many of us feel we belong. We have come and gone to Madrid but at least in my parish, there was missing exactly that age bracket between 18-35 and therefore as a consequence, we will miss out on the opportunity of having young people fresh out from WYD. This age bracket is tremendously important for the church because in my experience these are more willing to commit to parish life, as their faith is usually just a little bit more mature than those who are under 18.
Therefore, I plead! The run up to Rio de Janeiro should be taken seriously across all English Parishes and the point made that such an event is not confined only for the ‘youth’ but to all those who are willing to contribute, especially the 18-35 years old. Also, please remember, those pre-WYD events bring so much life to parishes whatever they are: from youth Masses to fundraising events, the important thing is that young people feel and become part of the parish.
So as the English Church is getting ready to change the whole translation of the Mass, maybe the opportunity should also be taken to change this ‘youth’ term in order to represent us all. I thoroughly refuse to be called ‘Young adult’ (it sounds ambiguous as ‘little adult’) but on the other hand I am not old yet… I am who I am! Young! Youth! Joven! …but I am not 15….