WORLD YOUTH DAY 1997

 

PARIS - A REVOLUTION OF LOVE

Rabbi, where are you living? Come and see" was the theme of the XII World Youth Day in Paris from August 19-24. Ninety New Zealand pilgrims including two Bishops left Auckland asking the same question wanting to deepen their Christian faith. The opportunities included the visiting of the hometowns of the early French missionaries to New Zealand and celebrating our faith over five days at the World Youth Day activities.Arriving late and exhausted in Paris they met up with eight other New Zealanders (including myself). We were billeted out to French families where we could share our cultures and faith. Our parish, St Ferdinand alone billeted out over 1,000 people.

The opening Mass was celebrated amongst 300,000 jubilant flag wavingpeople from 150 countries. The chief celebrant, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris said that the "World Youth Day has become the symbol of the Light that is passed on from one generation to the next, and of the living Tradition in our times.

With these young people, who have come from some 150 countries, you are invited to discover, in the Eucharist celebrated around the Holy Father, the strength of the risen LORD who reconciles all nations and unites the different generations... Our country has a rich, though tormented,
history. May this World Youth Day give it, through God's grace, the taste of the generosity to which each and every one of us is called, so as to build a civilisation of love.

The remainder of the week incorporated discovering the risen Lord through Morning Prayer, Catechesis - the opportunity to be fed spiritually by a Cardinal and share our faith with others from different nations, a pilgrimage to the grave of Bishop Pompallier, a Sports Witness and Culture Night with Nick Far-Jones, ex-captain of the Wallabies, a "Way of the Cross" in which more than twenty groups throughout Paris walked through the streets focusing on the Passion of Jesus and walking closer with Jesus - committing our lives once again to Him, the welcoming of Pope John Paul II with representatives from the Orthodox, Jewish, Protestant and Muslim faiths. This alone touched me in the openness and unity between the different religions making it quite an Ecumenical occasion. The Holy Father greeted individually each nation within the 500,000 exuberant crowd, and a 36 km human chain was formed around the inner city of Paris under the theme of a witness of peace and friendship. While the World Youth Day was hosted by the Catholic Church anyone was welcome and so it was also a great opportunity for the young people to bring their friends and hope they would be evangelised.




 


This act would definitely not go without bearing fruit. Every person was touched in some way by the joy which was so transparent and overwhelming, and the amount of people wanting to celebrate their faith in Jesus. On the eve of the final mass, named the Great Mass; one million people flocked into the Longchamp stadium in Paris. The video screens showed the arrival of the Holy Father and the young people rushed to their feet breaking out in joyful applause amidst the 32 degree heat singing, "Oh Happy Days" - the song which meant the Holy Father had arrived. The successor of St. Peter greeted
us as "Dear young people" and the love and respect in this one phrase shone through resulting in thunderous applause and drew us closer to him, putting us at ease. During this night 10 young people from nine countries were baptised by the Holy Father. Each person had an incredible testimony of why they wanted to become Catholic - to dedicate their lives to Jesus..The Great Mass was celebrated amongst 1.2 million people. The cries of "Viva La Papa! and John Paul II we love you!" echoed around the stadium as the Holy Father greeted us. His speeches were filled with love and when he encouraged or challenged us we applauded him. He was saying what we needed to hear and not want he thought we wanted to hear. He said that he respects and needs us and called us to continue to contemplate God's love and we would receive graces for the building of the civilisation of love - transforming the world by love.

They had seen hundreds of thousands of young people celebrating their faith with joy, knew they were actually in the same location as the Holy Father (not just seeing him in a TV from the other side of the world), deepened their Christian and Catholic faith, experienced an incredible unity and joy amongst many other nations and cultures, learnt that it was more important to take back the message than the experience, experienced a deeper sense of Mary like the Marist brothers brought to us - that we don't worship her but honour her and her great example of holiness. Bishop Pat Dunn, Bishop of Auckland was impressed with the enthusiasm and joy so evident on the streets - the comrade it brought - we were part of a huge family. He was touched by the young people's love for the Holy Father, the Cardinal of Paris' exuberant cry of "What joy! What joy!; and the Holy Father's reference to St Therese Liseux testimony of "To be love at the heart of the Church." Bishop Pat also referred to something the World Youth Day delegate said, "Each of us is an individual letter from Christ and collectively we form one united letter." He believes each one of us now has to make a ripple and be a servant of peace wherever we are. We had come and asked, "Master, where do you live? We had discovered him in many different ways, through many people and we would now return to our countries and go out and share the message - the treasure, and help build a civilisation of love.

       
       
       

 

   
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