August 22, 2011
1.5 million celebrate Mass at Cuatro Vientos, Madrid, Spain 2011.
I remember when Pope John Paul II died, sitting on the couch watching the media coverage on television. I was perplexed at the process of appointing a new Pope, and wondered at the masses standing outside the Vatican, waiting with bated breath for the announcement of John Paul II´s succesor. “Can it really make much difference?” I wondered.
Now, 6 years later, I have traveled half way around the world to see and hear the man who I once dismissed as inconsequential. He is wise, Pope Benedict XVI, and gentle in spirit. But he speaks the truth with unrelenting conviction. There is no place for relativism. There is no compromise of the Gospel. Nor is he wrapped in entertainment or pre-packaged in youth friendly sound bites. Saturday night, over two million people faced fierce heat and then a violent storm in the open air to hear the Pope, and to pray alongside him.
A taste of what the Holy Father said on at the Vigil, Saturday night…
Faith is not the simple acceptance of abstract truths, but a close relationship with Christ.
We must propose the universal values of Christ with courage and humility.
The joy you are seeking has a name, a face; that of Jesus of Nazareth, who waits for you in the Eucharist.
It is strange that I once thought the Catholic Church had no understanding of a personal relationship with Christ. I recognize that there are those who have not experienced, or still do not have such a relationship with Christ in the Church – but that is more a testimony of personal experience than a reflection of what the Church teaches. All I see in the Church is Christ. Christ in the Mass, Christ´s prayer in the “Our Father,” Christ´s words from the Gospel, Christ´s grace through the Sacraments. Okay, so they don´t use catch phrases like, “Born again,” and yes, the Church is full of fakes and phonies who either want to be part of a club or can´t figure out anything better to do for Easter. But who was I to ever say that the Holy Spirit was a stranger to the Catholic Church? As I sit with thousands upon thousands with their heads bowed in reverence or their hands lifted in praise…who was I to ever think that my salvation was more genuine than theirs? I do not say these things to make a point to anyone but myself. I am truly humbled in recognition my own self-righteousness. I am not responsible for the salvation of the world. I am responsible for my own salvation, and as a vessel of His will, may He be glorified as he choses. Where I once strained to be a super Christian, burdened with that responsibility, I now learn to die, so Christ may live. He will, and has, and is the Savior.
Which brings us to the end of the official ceremonies of World Youth Day, 2011. Sunday morning, the Pope drove throw the crowds in the infamous “Pope-mobile.”
There was such joy, and mutual affection. But one of the greatest moments to be had, was after hearing the thunder of a million voices, you heard the deeper silence that swept across the crowd during the Mass. Call it what you may, Catholics understand reverence. During the Mass, Pope Benedict gave his final homily for WYD 2011. In it he challenges us not to create an individualized spirituality, but be accountable to the authority of the Church and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Below is an excerpt, click here to read the entire homily.
The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.
Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.
Lord, forgive me for seeking the truth in my own conscience at times when I should instead seek it in Your Word or in the authority of my pastor. Forgive me when I have rationalized simple sins, or simple shortcomings. For you are forgiving, and instead I should bring these things to you and ask for grace to be disciplined. I thank you for the friends and family who have been a source of encouragement and truth. I pray that you be with each of them, bless them, and may I not be afraid to express my gratitude and dependency on them. I pray also that you would strengthen these relationships I have and bring new ones into my life. Teach me to be the truest of friends. Not self protecting, but vulnerable and full of love. Teach me to be a great wife and mother, humble yet strong, honest and serving. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the gift of my loving Jake, my beautiful Sofia, my sweet Luke, and our precious little one on the way. They are the greatest of gifts…how I miss them so. Amen.
WYD 2013 announced – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! (Don´t worry, not getting any ideas 🙂 )