Where there are young people, there is happiness, laughter, energy, passion, and liveliness. So it was the case in Lisbon from 1st to the 6th of August, AD 2023, when approximately 1.5 million young people from all over the world met and rejoiced with Pope Francis in Jesus Christ. The joy of being a catholic youth!
Thanks to saint Pope John Paul II, who, after prayers and consultation, inaugurated World Youth Day (WYD) in 1985 at the Vatican City, Rome-Italy. Through the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and by the Episcopal leadership of the Catholic Church, WYD has been celebrated after every five years, and so the just concluded was the 7th one. How blessed are the Archdiocese Nyeri (ADN) ‘s youth to have Pope John Paul II as their patron saint?
Since the Church is a missionary in nature and militant in character, the 2023 WYD theme shows how true that is; it reads, “Mary arose and went in haste” (Luke. 1:39). The pope invites the young people to renew and strengthen their baptismal and confirmation sacramental vows and graces that they received by being courageous witnesses of Jesus Christ and so missionaries on the move; on the move in haste to share the good news with their neighbors.
It follows that you, the young people must arise and move in haste together with your Blessed Mother Mary and this should remind you that where Mary is, the Rosary is an irreplaceable powerful weapon for the pilgrim Church. Therefore, for your youth missionary work, either spiritual or/and corporal works, to be a service [and not a duty] and bear much fruit it is important to seek the maternal intercession and accompaniment of Mother Mary, who will always help you to personally and collectively encounter Christ and then encounter the same Christ in your neighbours.
Who, then are these neighbors? It is any person [a catholic or a non-catholic] who needs your help in the form of prayers, encouragement, water, food, shelter, clothing, counsel, school fee, medical fee, or a source of earning; who may be near or far from you, known to you or unknown to you. It is all about animating the virtue of compassion and of mercy. Being merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful!
Entertainment was part of the WYD simply because it was a youth and youthful pilgrimage experience. The Church knows very well that young people need to enjoy themselves as part of their youthhood. So, the Youth Festival was a fun part and parcel of the whole pilgrimage event whereby they had cultural, religious, and sporting activities as a way of sharing their Christian experiences from different countries of the world. This was done in the form of music, cinema, exhibitions, theater, dance, etc. It was a holistic, spiritual, and corporal WYD of its kind.
In conclusion, the apostolic journey of Pope Francis to Portugal on the universal occasion of WYD Lisbon 2023 was an indication of how the Church is committed in journeying or, rather accompanying its young people in their moments of joys and of struggles. The pope then prayed with and for the youth, and encouraged you not to neither turn back nor give up their faith on anything else but to zealously follow Christ with trust in him. Finally, with apostolic blessings, he sent them forth to serve the church and the world. Let us pray and meet in South Korea for the next WYD, 2027.
St. Pope John Paul II, Our Patron Saint, Pray for us so that We may be made Worthy of the Promises of Our Lo rd of Jesus Christ, in Time and in Eternity. Amen!
10th of August, AD 2023.