World Youth Day
Hello! My name is Luke, as some may know already. For those of you I haven’t met yet, I’m a member of the parish here in Bayside.
About two weeks ago I had the the incredible experience of attending an event in Kraków, Poland called World Youth Day. It was a really unique experience for me and I’m very happy to have this opportunity to share some of what I witnessed with you today.
But first of all, I have to say, all of this was only made possible on account of the generosity and encouragement of the priests here in Bayside. I want to say a big thank thank Fr Joe Kelly. As well as Fr Paul Ward who came up with the idea of sending me to WYD and Fr Seamus Connell who helped with all the paperwork. I’d especially like to thank Fr Kit who really went the extra mile in helping me get to Kraków, I wouldn’t be standing here today without him.
Just a quick bit about the history of WYD celebrations.
WYD was started by Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1986. However some people believe that WYD really began unofficially 7 years earlier in Ireland, when hundreds of thousands of young people gathered at the Galway races to meet Pope John Paul II and celebrate mass. WYD has taken place internationally in 12 different cities throughout the world but this year was a particularly special year to participate. This is because since the last WYD in Rio de Janeiro, Pope John Paul II has been recognised as a Saint and on top of that this years gathering was held in his home country.
After some months of preparation with the archdiocese, I set out on the 25th of July for Kraków alongside 300 other young pilgrims from Dublin. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, I had been told that millions of people would attend, people from every corner of the earth. It really wasn’t until the opening ceremony that I got real sense of the how many people were actually there. Honestly it was like nothing I have ever seen before, just an ocean of people as far as you could see and the crowds only seemed to get bigger. When going anywhere in Kraków you were pretty much guaranteed to be part of a massive crowd and we would often have to hold on to each other’s bags just to stay together! Sometimes when you did find yourself in a big traffic jam of people it would end up being just as enjoyable as the event your trying to get to, there was lots of singing and dancing and you would often end up chatting to someone from a different country and they could be from anywhere! I met people from Nazareth in Israel, France, America, Canada, Poland, Brazil, Portugal. I’ve since heard that there were people from 185 different countries there. It was uplifting to meet so many who shared the same faith and convictions, I really felt strengthened by it and I think I’ll continue to feel that. Being Irish went down well with everyone and of all the countries I think the Irish people held their flags the highest and with the most pride.
Over the course of three days the Pope Francis spoke at three main events. The welcoming ceremony, the vigil, and the final mass. He always spoke in Italian but we were able to hear an English translation by tuning in to an Fm radio station. He spoke mainly about God’s Mercy as the theme of this years WYD was ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.’ I thought this theme was so appropriate, just the fact that we’re currently celebrating this jubilee year of mercy in the church and because the people of Krakow have such a devotion to the divine mercy and such a love for it’s Polish founder St Faustina. You’re able to find everything that Pope Francis said online and I would really recommend doing so because he spoke so well but I’d love to quickly share with you one or two things he said.
So in the words of the Pope now:
“My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk. Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease.
Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths.”
On a more personal note, I just finished school and I’m going to be starting a year of youth ministry with a catholic organisation called Net. I really felt like the Lord was preparing me for this through my experiences of WYD, just because I had been entrusted a leadership role over in Poland and I found that to be a bit of a struggle because a most of people in the group were older than me but through that experience I just felt the Lord calling to me to keep trusting him it was like he was saying ‘just trust me, that’s all that you need to do.’
There is one more thing I’ like to share and I’ll end on this. It’s a prayer that Pope Francis invited us all to say together and it’s just brilliant.
So in the silence of our hearts:
Launch us into the adventure of your mercy! of building bridges and tearing down walls, barriers and barbed wire fences.
Launch us on the adventure of helping the poor, those who feel lonely and abandoned, or no longer find meaning in their lives.
Send us to listen attentively to those we do not understand, those of other cultures and peoples, even those we are afraid of because we consider them a threat.
Make us attentive to our elders, as Mary of Nazareth was to her cousin Elizabeth, so that we can learn from their wisdom.
Send us to share your merciful love.
We want to welcome you in our midst this evening/day.
We want to affirm that our lives are fulfilled when they are shaped by mercy, for that is the better part, and it will never be taken from us.