Friday, August 12, 2011


Another “World Youth Day” is almost upon us. This year’s WYD in Madrid, Spain, will go from August 16 to 21 and is expected to draw the largest number of participants ever. (So far, more than 130,000 from some 137 countries have already arrived in Spain for WYD). Pope Benedict himsef will arrive in Madrid on Thursday, August 18. After being welcomed by Spain’s King and Queen, he will participate in four days of events, culminating in a Saturday night Vigil and the final Papal Mass on Sunday morning - and including during this WYD a papal consecration of the youth of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
World Youth Day is a celebration of faith and an expression of the Catholic Church’s universality. One of the week’s major elements is the catechetical sessions conducted daily in various languages. In Madrid this year, eight American bishops will each conduct three catechetical sessions: “Firm in the Faith” (Wednesday), “Established in Jesus Christ” (Thursday), and “Witnesses to Christ in the World” (Friday). On Saturday morning, U.S. pilgrims will attend a morning Mass, at the end of which the U.S. bishops will send the youth forth and ask them to return home as missionaries.
In 2005, I had the privilege of attending the 20th WYD in Cologne, Germany, with a pilgrimage group from New York. We attended two catechetical sessions – one led by American Theodore Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, DC, in a large stadium, another led by Nigerian Cardinal Arrinze in a local parish church (see attached photo). For all participants, the 3rd catechesis took the form of a pilgrimage walk along the bank of the Rhine River to the great Gothic Cathedral of Cologne with its famous shrine of the Magi, a vivid reminder of their journey to Bethlehem and a symbol of the personal search for Christ. (The Magi’s words, “We have come to worship him,” formed the official theme of that year’s event, and, throughout the week, the story of the Magi was progressively unfolded. At the end of the week-long celebration, Pope Benedict challenged us all: “Seek communion in faith, like fellow travelers who continue together to follow the path of the great pilgrimage that the Magi from the East first pointed out to us.”)
For me, attending WYD 2005 was an amazing experience, which anyone who has such an opportunity should take full advantage of. There is nothing like experiencing the Church in all is glorious universality. If nothing else, that can be a great antidote to the increasingly prevalent sense in Western countries of the Church as an embattled minority in a hostile secular society. This year, for the first time, young people unable to travel will have the opportunity to make a virtual pilgrimage and participate from homes. The US Bishops Conference's communications department has created a Facebook application and Fan Page, as well as a Web site. So the WYD experience should be even more universal this time.

1 comment:

  1. A co-worker of mine and her brother went to Cologne that year with a group from St. Paul's, I bet you were with them. It sounded like an amazing trip and she brought me some holy cards and a rosary. Despite my advanced age (53!) I would like to be part of a group that takes young people to WYD; one day, one day.

    I think that you are on target to say that the young people can expeirence such universality and that it counters so much of what our culture offers.

    Thanks for the insight.