Monday, June 13, 2016

Countdown to World Youth Day: One Bishop's Moving Observation Of Pilgrims

By Bishop Larry Silva, of Honolulu

Each time I have had the privilege of being present at the Vigil and Closing Mass of World Youth Day (Sydney, Madrid, and Rio), when millions of young Catholics are gathered together at the same time, I think of the scene in the Book of Revelation (see Chapter 19) in which a great multitude stands before the throne of the Lamb, singing praises forever and ever. But the realization of this little bit of “heaven on earth” comes not just because of the vast numbers who are gathered or the enthusiasm of their praise. It comes from having witnessed smaller ways in which young people of every nation and language interact with each other at the catechesis sites, at the prayer services, at the concerts, and on the streets. For sure they are not dressed in the pure white garments of heaven, but they are definitely clothed in joy and love of the Lord Jesus. While it may be difficult to express that love so freely in their normal everyday lives, it is energizing for them and for all who witness them, and it gives them courage and strength to witness to Jesus even when they are not gathered for such a celebratory occasion.

When our group from Hawaii arrived at our hotel in Rio de Janeiro, they noticed many homeless people sleeping in the doorways on the street. At first this dampened the mood of the youth, who certainly were aware that many people live in such difficult conditions but who were not accustomed to seeing them often. After several days, however, I noticed that the young people were asking for “to go” boxes for the food left over after dinner. I thought that was odd, since our hotel did not provide refrigeration or reheating appliances. But as we returned, I was deeply moved when they gave this food to their brothers and sisters sleeping in the doorways, giving them a smile and an embrace that needed no translation. Through the experience of World Youth Day they had been moved to sing the Lord’s praises with more than their voices. And now that they are home, I am still moved to see how the love and joy they experienced continue to make motivate them to give faithful witness to Jesus.

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