WHAT DOES THE WORLD YOUTH DAY CONCERN?
MARIA MAGDALENA SZTUKA
For the whole week, young people from all over the world, gathered in a particular place, are experiencing the community of the Church, are listening to God's Word, are using sacrament of Penance and Eucharist and are proclaiming Lord Jesus joyfully as their Lord and Redeemer. No, it is not a crowd around God's Son before two thousands of years. Here is the World Youth Day, on which - in a still increasing number of a few thousand and a few dozen thousands of priests - the youth gather in order to confess their faith in Christ.
Who invented it?
An inventor and their first organizer was blessed John Paul II, who had invited young people to Rome for the first time in 1984, on the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Redemption. A year later, on 31 March 1985, on the occasion of the International Year of the Youth, young people from all over the world arrived in Rome, and the Holy Father announced the establishment of the World Youth Day. This year, the third pope meets with young people in Rio de Janeiro. 'Young people are asking us - said John Paul II - to lead them to Christ. The youth pastoral ministry is one of the priorities of the Church at the threshold of the third millennium.
The World Youth Day take place every year on the Palm Sunday as a diocesan meeting and as the international one - every two or three years in various countries of the world. They require a good preparation in respect of contents on which the youth will be pondering, while gathering in language groups for a few days. The topic of this year's meetings is defined by the Holy Father in the Message to the youth. During the World Youth Day these contents are deepened during three-day meetings called a catechetical triduum.
Participation in the international World Youth Day organized to a bigger scale lasts about two weeks. It is preceded by a long period of spiritual and organizational preparations, and it is started at the moment of making a decision about leaving and lasts after a formal ending - when we are still carrying out the mission resulting from the contents of the meeting. At present it has two basic contents: the first one are Days in diocese, when the youth are on the area of the whole country which is the host of the meeting. This is time for integration and getting to know the culture and topography of a particular region. There are also trips, fun, and also social engagement in various kinds of work and projects prepared by organizers. During the nearest World Youth Day in Brazil, the Days in dioceses are called a Mission Week, full of evangelical and apostolic initiatives.
After the Days in diocese are over, everybody go to a diocese, which had been chosen by the Holy Father as a place for experiencing central events. For the whole week, there are catechesis and festivals, in Saturday there is a vigil and meeting with the Pope, and on Sunday there is the solemn Holy Mass which ends the World Youth Day. The central events are accompanied by special spheres of meetings, called a Reconciliation Sphere and Expo-vocation.
The meetings are accompanied by two special signs, given by John Paul II, which are the Cross of the World Youth Days and the Icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani. These signs are not only with young people during the World Youth Days, but they are still travelling throughout the world, gathering hundreds or even thousands of young people for a prayer and adoration every day.
A plan of love
'We are not a fruit of a coincidence or irrationality but at the beginning of our existence there is a plan of God's love' - these words of Benedict XVI to young people fully present the sense of the history of the World Youth Days.