This blog post is part of a 6-part series on World Youth Day. Read them all: Deacon-structing WYD: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
we saw how WYD is an opportunity to "proclaim it from the rooftops
." Today, we have some models that we can follow when we gather to live and celebrate our faith.
In the year 2000 WYD returned to Rome for the Year of the Jubilee. On the Holy Father’s message to the youth of the world on the occasion of this World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II wrote
“Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium.” We are created to be saints, JPII told us we can be, and to help us understand this, every WYD has Patron Saint. One of the Patron Saints for WYD2000 was Pier Giorgio Frassati. This is very exciting because Pier Giorgio was not a priest or a monk. Pier Giorgio was a regular young lay man, someone to whom I can relate.
When we think of Saints, normally we think of “holy” and religious Europeans who lived hundreds of years ago – people who levitated, or who had the stigmata; people like Saint Francis of Assisi. But there is little in common between St. Francis and me.
But Pier Giorgio lived from 1901 to 1924. His sister just died last year. He was a young man, went to university, fell in love – but he lived a good life and did a lot of good, in particular by helping the poor and marginalised, from whom he contracted the tuberculosis that killed him at age 24.
WYD Toronto's Patron Saints and Blesseds were mostly young people from different countries, and most of them lived in the 20th century: Agnes of Rome
, Andrew of Phu Yen
, Pedro Calungsod
, Saint Josephine Bakhita
, St. Therese
, St. Gianna Molla
, Marcel Calo
, Francisco Castelló y Aleu
, Kateri Tekakwitha
and again Pier Giorgio
. Young Saints who the youth of today can imitate. I would suggest that you go and research the lives of these great people of the Church. For us, there are no greater models for life.
And this is the reason why we need Saints: we all need models to imitate. John Paul II knew this very well. It is no coincidence that more people were canonised and beatified during his 26 years of Pontificate than of all the other Popes put together.
And that brings us to 2002. It’s important to mention that a new aspect was introduced to WYD in Toronto in 2002: the service project. Why gather all these young people together, calling them to live as the saints that they are, and not give them an opportunity to serve – to serve the poorest of the poor, the marginalised and those left out? We had service projects with Habitat for Humanity, with the Canadian Organisation for Development and Peace, and with many local service agencies. After all, don’t we, as Catholics have a preferential option for the poor and are called to act with justice and charity? These service projects were repeated in Cologne, in Sidney and in Madrid. The plan for Rio is to replace the "Days in the Diocese" with "Days of Mission." Latin Americans have always had a sense of mission when it comes to service.
And this is the most important aspect of WYD. The Pope invites us to go to WYD, but this is not an invitation to a party or just a celebration. The invitation is to go on a walk, under the Cross, together with Mary and the Saints, towards Jesus – in order to meet with the Church and to learn about our beliefs – and to go in a spirit of reconciliation, pilgrimage, worship and service. It’s an invitation to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. It’s an invitation to live as Saints.
But it’s not an invitation to be something that we cannot be. John Paul II said to us, “do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium”. That means we can be. But it’s not an invitation to be saints if we feel like it, or if we’re in the mood. We are created to be saints. The invitation is to say yes
to that for which we are created. For many (and for me too) this is very hard to realize – it’s something that scares us. But JPII kept telling us, and Pope Benedict has reminded us: “Do not be afraid.”
Come back next week
and find out what difference all this makes to you and me.
Deacon-structing WYD Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4