How Lovely This Is!
You are not here by accident. The Lord has called you…from the very beginning of your days. He called you by name. Dear young people: may these days be vibrant echoes of God’s call of love, for we are precious in God’s eyes, despite the fact that sometimes our own eyes are dimmed by negativity and dazzled by distractions.
…We, his Church, are the community of those who are called: not of people who are better than others – no, absolutely not – but of sinners, called…as we are.
There is room for everyone. Jesus never closes the door, never, but invites you to enter: come and see. Jesus receives, Jesus welcomes. In these days, each of us transmits the love of Jesus. God loves you. God calls you. How lovely this is!
The Holy Father greeted 1.5 million young people at World Youth Day’s Welcome Ceremony with these words in Lisbon, Portugal!
World Youth Day is a global event for young Catholics, first established by Pope John Paul II. Pilgrims from all over the world came together for a week of fellowship, catechesis, the Sacraments, learning about beautiful devotions of the faith, enjoying performances (my favorite being Joyful, Joyful (Sister Act II Version)), and of course, a profound experience of the universal church.
A group of forty traveled with the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows from New Orleans including three priests, four sisters, and young people from Los Angeles, New Mexico, and Southwest Louisiana. Most of our time together was in Lisbon for World Youth Day, but we also had a chance to be in Fátima for one day.
While our time in Portugal was certainly beautiful and grace-filled, a pilgrimage is not a vacation. From walking several miles a day in the heat, inevitable interpersonal friction, along with limited sleep and the added anxiety of being packed on public transport, our group endured many sufferings and moments of struggle!
However, the experience of the universal church, all who are called by name by our Lord, is so inspiring. Our journey reminded us that the Church is alive! If I were to give a one-word reflection on my time at World Youth Day it would be hope. There was a frenetic energy among the pilgrims. The streets (and trains, and planes, and literally everywhere) were filled with shouts of joy, songs of praise, chants, and clapping. It was at the same time exciting and overwhelming. Conversations with Catholics around the world about how they lived out their faith in their hometowns was always so beautiful, and nothing can describe the joy of sharing a Mass with the Holy Father and hearing the Our Father in thirty or more different languages.
But there was a beautiful joy, also, in the pure silence of 1.5 million of us before the Blessed Sacrament during the Vigil! (A silence that would not even be sustained during sleep hours.) To see that kind of reverence, to share that with over a million people, in adoration of Our Lord, to know that each of us there are called by name…it is a way to see the magnitude of the love of the Father’s heart, and well, to repeat Pope Francis, how lovely this is.