Below is an interview with Fr. Thomas Rosica on his thoughts on World Youth Day from Love and Life: A Home for English-speaking Pilgrims
Q: How are you preparing for World Youth Day, and how would you recommend that pilgrims prepare for their upcoming journey? [singlepic id=56 w=320 h=240 float=right]
A: I am preparing for World Youth Day in three ways. I have been praying for the success of this event for the past year, and praying for the young people of the world who will be traveling to Madrid along with hundreds of bishops and priests and of course for Pope Benedict. At each World Youth Day I have attended, I have received special graces and blessings. I am praying that I be open to the Holy Spirit and receive the messages of the Lord through this great event. I encourage all those who are traveling to Madrid to pray for patience, perseverance, openness and perhaps for a specific gift you wish to receive from the Lord through this event.
Q: You are no stranger to World Youth Days. You were the National Director and CEO of the Toronto World Youth Day in 2002, the final international World Youth Day for Blessed John Paul II. What was Pope John Paul II’s vision for World Youth Day and is that vision still being carried out?
A: Blessed John Paul II once told me why he started World Youth Days. He said: “So that young people would realize that they are not alone in their faith and daily living of the Christian life.” Another time he said that World Youth Days exist for the conversion not only or young adults but also for priests and bishops! I am one of those priests who experienced a great conversion through my involvement in and work on World Youth Days… in Rome, Toronto, Cologne, Sydney and now Madrid.
John Paul’s vision and hope for World Youth Days continues. It is not the singer but the song which validates the great pastoral significance of these special moments in the life of the Church. As Cardinal Pell told us so powerfully at the end of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, “World Youth Days do not belong to one pope, or even one generation, but are now an ordinary part of the life of the Church. The John Paul II generation — young and old alike — is proud to be faithful sons and daughters of Pope Benedict.” These words are absolutely true!
Q: One year ago Pope Benedict XVI announced the formation of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. What role does World Youth Day have in promoting and carrying out the New Evangelization?
A: World Youth Days are one of the most significant instruments, agents and examples of the New Evangelization at work. The announce a church that is “alive and young” in the words of Pope Benedict XVI. They are a living witness to the vibrancy and newness of the Gospel message. They are moments of great creativity, joyful witness, courageous proclamation and missionary commitment of so many young people from around the world. They offer brilliant new ways to proclaim and live the Christian faith.
Q: When talking about World Youth Day, conversations tend to focus on, well, the youth. But what impact do you think World Youth Day has on the rest of the global Church – those above the age of 35 who don’t make the pilgrimage?
A: World Youth Days are a pretext and a lens: a pretext in that the events, though primarily for the transformation and faith formation of young people, exist for the renewal of faith of the entire Christian community. In the wake of sexual abuse scandals that have captivated the media for far too long, and presented a church wracked with controversy and scandal, World Youth Days are really an indicator of a rebirth that's taking place in the Church. It's a rebirth that is happening as the world turns upon us. World Youth Days offer us lenses of hope through which we look at the Church, the world and the future.
Q: The theme of this year’s World Youth Day is “Planted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith.” You’re a biblical scholar. What role does scripture play in helping you stay “planted,” “built up,” and “firm in the faith?”
A: The Scriptures provide us with the blueprint, the narrative, the story of our faith confirmed through the generations. They contain the living memory of God’s presence in human history. The forgetfulness of God is at the root of all of society’s problems. There is an urgent need to discover anew the primacy of God in people’s lives. Faith illumines and transforms the lives of believers because we are made for God. It is only through faith in God, through which we enter into communion with God and establish bonds of trust, that life finds fulfillment. In the Gospel, Jesus often praises the virtue of faith and invites the disciples to grow in faith. Faith is a fundamental life choice. If we believe in God’s Word, we are building our lives on solid rock. Without faith in God’s living, dynamic, active, effective word, our lives our not built on rock but on sand.
Q: For those out there who are interested in learning more about Scripture and spending more time reading and reflecting on the Bible, how would you recommend that they get started?
A: The Bible is a "user-friendly" book or library. Read the Bible as you would listen to a friend. Reading as a listener implies an openness to hear what is being said and an attitude of expectancy; listening as to a friend implies a large measure of confidence that the message will ultimately be a helpful guide for living, and sometimes for specific situations. Of course, one listens to a friend critically, that is, with the full use of one's faculties, education and experience. By the same token, in the Catholic tradition, one never undertakes Scripture studies to master or criticize the Word, but to be mastered and criticized by it. There is a way in which we must allow the Word of God to read us.
Scripture is brought to life in prayer and liturgy. Open the bible and begin reading. Along with the bible read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Celebrate the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist regularly and faithfully. Attend Lectio Divina if possible. Visit our Salt and Light Television website (www.saltandlighttv.org) and read the blog that contains so much information on Scripture.
Q: As a Scripture scholar and professor, when you think of World Youth Days, does any biblical image come to mind?
A: The image that remains engraved on my memory from all of the frenetic and dazzling activity that was part of our Toronto World Youth Day experience is the New Testament story of Zacchaeus. The media and so many curious onlookers climbed high in the trees and watched. And as Jesus and his hundreds of thousands of young disciples passed – one by one they climbed down from the branches and become part of the great pilgrimage. I shall never forget those scenes as long as I live. They continue to give me courage, hope and deep consolation. All of our efforts and hard work were worthwhile.
Photo: Screenshot of http://www.wydenglishsite.org/performers/rosica.html