I am going to World Youth Day because I can think of no greater act of pastoral care for our young people than to help introduce them to our Holy Father. It is wonderful to see in the faces of the young that, in some profound way, they have met Jesus in the person of the pope.
Blessed John Paul II called the first World Youth Day to express his love for and hope in the young people of his day. He wanted the participants to hear from his own lips of God’s love for them. He wanted them to know that God created them to be saints, and that this was a vocation that was possible for everyone. This is the message that will once again be heard and experienced by a new group of young pilgrims.
The gifts of young people are always many and sometimes extraordinary. What every pilgrim brings – in my experience – is a hunger for the truth about the meaning of their lives, a hunger for God. That hunger is itself a gift of the Creator given to every human being. By God’s grace, these young people are seeking to satisfy that hunger.
We were asked to share special stories and touching moments from past WYD. I don’t know if there is only one story. There are many. And they all have to do with my hearing from young people of the transformation of their lives because they have come to know and love Christ and his Church more deeply.
To WYD, we invite young people who are looking for more than they are finding in their everyday lives. And almost always the Lord returns to us young people on fire for Christ and the Church. Not only are the lives of young people changed, my ministry is encouraged by those young people, some of whom are ready to give everything to Christ by accepting a call to the priesthood or consecrated life.