Note: this article was written by Pat Csinos for Plug Into Christ the Edmonton-Toronto Redemptorist Young Adult Newsletter.
Pictured at left: Father General Michael Brehl and past Father General Lasso in Granada at the Alhambra Palace
I didn’t attend World Youth Day 2012 in Madrid but Fr. Michael Brehl, Superior General of the Redemptorists, sent me pictures of his experience of this incredible event. The heat, emotions, joys, frustrations and blessings of the two World Youth Days that I did have the opportunity to experience, all came flooding back to me. My experiences of WYD were Rome in 2000 and Toronto in 2002. It is obvious to me that the gift of this event inspired by the late Pope John Paul II has taken on a life of its own. It has been 26 years since the first World Youth Days and since then millions of young people have followed in the footsteps of those first pilgrims in search of being touched by the grace of God and to witness first-hand the faith, joy and exuberance of such a journey.
Pictured at right: Archbishop Gerry Pettipas at the route for the Stations of the Cross
Pope John Paul II described World Youth Days as “wonderful occasions to celebrate and proclaim the faith of the Church”. This is very true. Beyond the complex logistics, the enormous gathering of people, the abounding emotions, the heat and exhaustion, the incredible catechetical opportunities, it is an opportunity to fall in love with Jesus Christ. It is Christ that the young people seek. Christ in prayer, in each other, in themselves and in the world. It is through Christ that these young pilgrims are invited to accept a newness and fullness of life only he can give them. It demands the use of their gifts for others and the good of the world. It demands self-giving and directing one’s life towards the Cross of Jesus Christ. This is the path to true life and true happiness in life.
L to R: Jacek Zdrzalek from Poland (Coordinator for Europe), Manolo Cabello from Spain, Fr. General Michael Brehl, Alberto Eseverri from the General Government, Gustavo from Central America (Panama)
Participating in World Youth Days challenges one to reach out to others in ways that stretch one’s abilities. Our Lord gifts us in unexpected ways so that we can evangelize in new ways that at one time we thought impossible. Father General Brehl discovered this when he found himself at World Youth Day in Madrid. Preaching and presiding the Mass in Spanish, a language that he is familiar with but one that requires some effort, was one of those challenges that stretches a person. Father General Brehl described World Youth Day and the immense crowds as a “wonderful experience”. Young people were calling out to him by name in the streets as a result of recognizing him from having seen his picture on the walls of our Redemptorist houses. I can only imagine the conversations he had with these young people. Their presence together in those moments of recognition could only have emphasized their understanding that we are all one Church regardless of where we are. He was able to meet people from Grande Prairie/Sexsmith and a group from Vancouver. The catechesis sessions, prayer events and other such organized experiences no doubt provided the participants with concrete opportunities to meet Christ in so many ways but often it is in the chance encounters with random people (or are they so random?) that we meet Christ face to face and are Christ to others as his disciples in our world today.
This is what we try to do as a Redemptorist Province when we bring young adults and Redemptorists together in our local ministries through Dialogues, Symposiums, and even the S.E.R.V.E. program. Yes, these events are on a much smaller scale than World Youth Day but the goal is very similar: to provide young people with the opportunity to experience their faith with other like-minded young people. These environments encourage them to ask important questions and search out a deeper meaning of discipleship in their lives. These too are “wonderful occasions to celebrate and proclaim the faith of the Church” (Pope John Paul II).
“Rooted, built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the Faith” (Col. 2:7) was the theme of this World Youth Day that has impacted in people’s lives and faith in so many ways. It is a challenging theme because it requires commitment to prayer and ongoing conversion. The tough stuff starts now that the pilgrims have returned home away from the excitement of the event, the energy of the crowds and the newness of the conversions. This is where we come in as their faith community. When you get a chance, listen to their stories. We have much to learn from them.
The crowd at the concluding Mass
I pray that these energetic, passionate young World Youth Day pilgrims continue to have the courage to live the Good News of the Gospel in the midst of our world and the business and challenges of their daily lives.
Thank you Fr. Brehl, for sharing with me the photos that brought back to mind the many blessings that I received, through my experiences of World Youth Days. I am once again reminded that we are all pilgrims in a life long journey together, a pilgrim people who need to be constantly reminded of God’s love and how we are called to live this love out in our daily lives.