From the only U.S. city that has ever hosted World Youth Day, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver (soon to move to Philadelphia) will be a bishop catechist in Madrid. Here are a few thoughts from his WYD sendoff homily at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on July 31.
Many people think they are going on a vacation when they go to World Youth Day. But they are really going on a pilgrimage. In preparation for World Youth Day, I would like to highlight three differences between vacations and pilgrimages.
Vacation is about avoiding discomfort, relaxing and having a good time. But a pilgrimage, especially a pilgrimage with a million other people, is hardly a time of comfort. Pilgrimages are a time of sacrifice in the tradition of the Church. I hope that as young people go on this trip to discover Jesus in a deeper kind of way, in the great city of Madrid, Spain, that they do so with a spirit of sacrifice. That they are able to see the sacrifices that they make, like sleeping in uncomfortable places or waiting in long lines for the bathrooms and all the other discomforts that come with being with a million other people, as a way of pleasing God and of stretching themselves so they can be more generous and loving persons.
Often when we are on vacation we try to escape ordinary life. On pilgrimage the Lord calls us to embrace life more completely. It’s at time for young people to think about their vocation. A vocation is the call God has for each of us to make something of our lives. God calls each one of us without exception. A pilgrimage is a great time to reflect on what the Lord calls us to. To ask what is pleasing to him. Is it to be a father, a mother, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer? Is it to be a priest or a sister, or a deacon? Most of us want to do what we want to do. But what we should want to do is what God wants us to do. That’s what our vocation is all about—doing what God wants us to do. So I pray that this pilgrimage is a time for us to embrace our lives and our vocations.
A vacation is a place we go to have a good time. A pilgrimage is a place we go, not to have a good time, but to become good. That’s what the Lord will do for young people if they sincerely offer themselves to him during this time of pilgrimage—he will transform them and make them loving and good. A pilgrimage is a time of conversion and change. We welcome this transformation by our prayer together and by witnessing the example of other people. Young people from the United States, Asia, Africa, South America, Australia and all the parts of the world come together because they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and they love him. I hope all of these young people go to Madrid with the expectation that the Lord will transform them.
All of us are going to Madrid to see the Pope, the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Jesus Christ who is also going to Spain to see us so that together we can meet the Lord Jesus Christ. My prayer for all of us is that the Lord would use this pilgrimage as a way of drawing us closer to himself so that we understand that we are all on pilgrimage to our true citizenship with him in heaven.
Archbishop Chaput added a few comments to highlight how WYD 1993 in Denver impacted life of the archdiocese.
Outsiders sometimes ask me how I measure the success of World Youth Day. It's easy. Every day as I walk from my house to my office at the pastoral center, I pass and often speak with the outstanding young men at our Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary and St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. Every Sunday I meet hundreds of committed people — the young and the young at heart — at the cathedral's 6:30 p.m. Mass. Every time I visit a parish, which is nearly every week, I see new life in youth ministry, formation in the sacraments, Bible study and service to the elderly, infirm and poor. World Youth Day 1993 in Denver revitalized the Church in the archdiocese. We saw an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life; the growth of youth ministry; the formation of new catechetical opportunities and a strengthening of the presence of ecclesiastical movements and religious orders in Denver. World Youth Day in Madrid can bring the same kind of new life.