In his message for this year’s Diocesan World Youth Day, which takes place on Palm Sunday, Pope Francis has told young people that the Church and society needs their courage, dreams and ideals.
Opening his message, Pope Francis said, “Here we are, on the road again, following our great meeting in Kraków, where we celebrated the Thirty-first World Youth Day and the Jubilee for Young People as part of the Holy Year of Mercy. We took as our guides Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina Kowalska, the apostles of divine mercy, in order to offer a concrete response to the challenges of our time. We had a powerful experience of fraternity and joy, and we gave the world a sign of hope. Our different flags and languages were not a reason for rivalry and division, but an opportunity to open the doors of our hearts and to build bridges.
“At the conclusion of the Kraków World Youth Day, I announced the next stop in our pilgrimage, which with God’s help will bring us to Panama in 2019. On this journey we will be accompanied by the Virgin Mary, whom all generations call blessed (cf. Lk 1:48). This new leg of our journey picks up from the one that preceded it, centred on the Beatitudes, and invites us to press forward. I fervently hope that you young people will continue to press forward, not only cherishing the memory of the past, but also with courage in the present and hope for the future.”
This year’s message, which was released today, has a Marian theme “The Mighty One has done great things for me”, taken from the Magnifcat. In his message, Pope Francis has asked young Catholics to reflect on the life of Mary. He said that Mary knew how to give thanks to God and she was no couch potato!
“According to Luke’s Gospel, once Mary has received the message of the angel and said “yes” to the call to become the Mother of the Saviour, she sets out in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was in the sixth month of her pregnancy (cf. 1:36, 39). Mary is very young; what she was told is a great gift, but it also entails great challenges. The Lord assured her of his presence and support, yet many things remain obscure in her mind and heart. Yet Mary does not shut herself up at home or let herself be paralyzed by fear or pride. Mary is not the type that, to be comfortable, needs a good sofa where she can feel safe and sound. She is no couch potato! If her elderly cousin needs a hand, she does not hesitate, but immediately sets off.
“It was a long way to the house of Elizabeth, about 150 kilometres. But the young woman from Nazareth, led by the Holy Spirit, knows no obstacles. Surely, those days of journeying helped her to meditate on the marvellous event of which she was a part. So it is with us, whenever we set out on pilgrimage. Along the way, the events of our own lives come to mind, we learn to appreciate their meaning and we discern our vocation, which then becomes clear in the encounter with God and in service to others.
Pope Francis goes on to reiterate some of what he said at the World Youth Day vigil in Krakow last year. He has invited young people not to allow themselves to be led astray and has encouraged them to decide their own futures. He has asked young people to look to the past for inspiration, especially – to elderly people in their lives like their grandparents. He said they “will speak to you of things that can thrill your minds and fill your hearts.”
Pope Francis said “When God touches the heart of a young man or woman, they become capable of doing tremendous things. The “great things” that the Almighty accomplished in the life of Mary speak also to our own journey in life, which is not a meaningless meandering, but a pilgrimage that, for all its uncertainties and sufferings, can find its fulfilment in God.
He also said that being young does not mean being disconnected from the past. “Our personal history is part of a long trail, a communal journey that has preceded us over the ages. Like Mary, we belong to a people. History teaches us that, even when the Church has to sail on stormy seas, the hand of God guides her and helps her to overcome moments of difficulty. The genuine experience of the Church is not like a flash mob, where people agree to meet, do their thing and then go their separate ways. The Church is heir to a long tradition which, passed down from generation to generation, is further enriched by the experience of each individual. Your personal history has a place within the greater history of the Church.
Pope Francis went on to say, “There is a hidden treasure in the prayers that past generations have taught us, in the lived spirituality of ordinary people that we call popular piety. Mary inherits the faith of her people and shapes it in a song that is entirely her own, yet at the same time the song of the entire Church, which sings it with her. If you, as young people, want to sing a Magnificat all your own, and make your lives a gift for humanity as a whole, it is essential to connect with the historical tradition and the prayer of those who have gone before you. To do so, it is important to be familiar with the Bible, God’s word, reading it daily and letting it speak to your lives, and interpreting everyday events in the light of what the Lord says to you in the sacred Scriptures. In prayer and in the prayerful reading of the Bible (lectio divina), Jesus will warm your hearts and illumine your steps, even in the dark moments of life (cf. Lk 24:13-35).
“Mary also teaches us to live “eucharistically”, that is to learn how to give thanks and praise, and not to fixate on our problems and difficulties alone. In the process of living, today’s prayers become tomorrow’s reasons for thanksgiving. In this way, your participation in Holy Mass and the occasions when you celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be both a high point and new beginning. Your lives will be renewed each day in forgiveness and they will become an act of perennial praise to the Almighty. “Trust the memory of God … his memory is a heart filled with tender compassion, one that rejoices in erasing in us every trace of evil” (cf. Homily at Mass, World Youth Day, Kraków, 31 July 2016).
Concluding his message, Pope Francis said, “Dear young people I entrust our journey towards Panama, together with the process of preparation for the next Synod of Bishops, to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I ask you to keep in mind two important anniversaries in 2017: the three-hundredth anniversary of the finding of the image of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil and the centenary of the apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, where, God willing, I plan to make a pilgrimage this coming May. Saint Martin of Porres, one of the patron saints of Latin America and of the 2019 World Youth Day, in going about his humble daily duties, used to offer the best flowers to Mary, as a sign of his filial love. May you too cultivate a relationship of familiarity and friendship with Our Lady, entrusting to her your joys, your worries and your concerns. I assure you that you will not regret it!
“May the maiden of Nazareth, who in the whole world has assumed a thousand names and faces in order to be close to her children, intercede for all of us and help us to sing of the great works that the Lord is accomplishing in us and through us.”
The theme for World Youth Day 2018 is “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30) and the theme for the 2019 World Youth Day will be inspired by the words “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
In October 2018, the Church will celebrate the Synod of Bishops on the theme: Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. Pope Francis said that it is his hope that the journey towards the World Youth Day in Panama and the process of preparation for the Synod will move forward in tandem.
To read the full text of this year’s World Youth Day message click here.