Pope Francis invites youth to discipleship
More than 3.7 million youth joined Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro . . .
With Jesus’ own words — “Go and make disciples of all nations!”— still ringing in their ears, millions of young pilgrims from around the world left World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro after encountering the living God in the sacraments and in the presence of the Holy Father.
Call to discipleship
More than 3.7 million young people attended the closing Mass at the Copacabana on July 28, a stirring testimony that the Church is alive and young. Rio was electrified by youth carrying flags representing well over 100 countries. And the Holy Father’s presence moved the many pilgrims who waited hours in the wind, cold rain and blazing sun. Why? Not only because he’s the Pope, but because of the challenge he gave to go, to be not afraid, and to serve.
Pope Francis told us that the call to discipleship requires an openness to God’s will and a willingness to give selflessly — not for personal gain, but as an act of charity towards one another. He was clear when he first arrived in Rio: “We need saints without cassocks, saints without a veil. Dear young people, the Church needs you!” With those enthusiastic words, the crowds began to cheer, “Esta es la juventud del papa!” or “We are the youth of the Pope!”
For the first time in its history, WYD didn’t begin with the traditional immersion program called “Days in the Diocese.” It began instead with “Mission Week” throughout Brazil. From July 17-20, in the lead up to WYD, young people helped add to the festive atmosphere in the city that hosted them. They took part in spiritual and cultural activities as part of WYD celebrations.
Work of the Holy Spirit
What makes a young person travel thousands of miles to hear the Pope? It’s not his age or his country of origin, and it’s certainly not his popularity. While it’s a joy to be in the Holy Father’s presence, it’s Christ who calls us together. It’s Christ who inspires us to respond to His invitation to holiness. This is why vocations flourish and the Church is revived in host countries since the first WYD in 1984. Steve Kerekes, founder of the non-profit WorldYouthDay.com, has provided thousands of young people the opportunity to engage in dialogue with the Church since Denver’s WYD in 1993.
“Lives are transformed and changed at WYD and many vocations are awakened,” Kerekes said, “because the Holy Spirit gives abundant graces to those who seek and ask for them. Our mission is to encourage our pilgrims to open their hearts to the grace of God by guiding them through the unique experience of World Youth Day.”
I’ve had the privilege to join Kerekes for the past three WYD events — Sydney, Madrid and Rio — as a pilgrim guide. Participants leave transformed. They become like the apostles of the post-Pentecost era, going out to the world with fearless courage. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit active in the Church, enlightening the mind and fortifying the soul to persevere against the culture.
At the opening celebration on July 25, Pope Francis reminded pilgrims of the “Quo Vadis” story. Saint Peter, who had been fearful, became courageous to his death. The Pope went on to remind us that being sent out requires charity — love of other before self. When individuals make selfless acts of charity we can truly see the face of Christ.
If you haven’t been to a World Youth Day, encourage your local parish to go. Krakow 2016 is coming soon.
“Dear young friends, Jesus Christ is counting on you!” Pope Francis said. “The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: Go and make disciples of all nations!”
DARIO F. MOBINI is a theology teacher at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Wash. He attended World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro for Legatus magazine.