Monday, July 18, 2016

Countdown to World Youth Day: Moved By The Holy Spirit

By Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln

The sun rose over Copacabana beach in Brazil, on a warm Sunday morning in July 2013. Three million young people assembled along the water’s edge. I was on the beach with them that day. We were preparing for the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2013, celebrated by Pope Francis, less than six months into his pontificate.

The previous night we’d shared in Eucharistic adoration and Benediction with Pope Francis. The vigil lasted well into the night. I’ll never forget that night. I’ll never forget the presence of God in those moments.

Every World Youth Day has left a lasting impression for me. And they all hold a unique place in my memory – Denver, Paris, Rio. I’ll never forget the heat in Rome in 1999, and the heroic figure of Pope Saint John Paul II. I’ll never forget the beauty of Sydney in 2008, and Pope Benedict’s serene witness. I’ll never forget the rugged splendor Madrid in 2011. And I will never forget, as young priest, my first World Youth Day in 1993, in Denver.

I’ve been to World Youth Day many times, but Denver will always stand out. John Paul stood among millions of young people here in the United States, and told us not to be afraid. He told us to go out into the streets and proclaim the Gospel. He told us to defend life. He told us to become saints. He called us to the New Evangelization.

World Youth in Denver was a transformative moment in my priesthood, and my spiritual life. And every single time I go to World Youth Day, the Lord moves in my life. I am moved by the teaching of the Holy Father. I am moved by the joy of young Catholics from around the world. I am moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, alive in the hearts of young people.

I look forward to traveling to Krakow in 2016. With young people from the Diocese of Lincoln, I’ll travel as a pilgrim to the homeland of Pope St. John Paul II. We pilgrims will rely on the Providence of God as we travel, and we’ll look forward to gathering with the Holy Father, and with young people from countries around the world. We’ll pray together for St. John Paul’s intercession. We’ll celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We will journey to Krakow to experience the universality of the Church’s life.

The theme of World Youth Day 2016, is “blessed are the merciful.” Each one of us is called to be merciful. We’re called to imitate the mercy of Jesus Christ. And we travel to Krakow to visit the country where the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ was revealed in a special way to St. Faustina Kowalska.

I’ll never forget the experiences I’ve had at World Youth Day. I’m sure that Poland will be an unforgettable experience as well. I’ll travel there as a pilgrim, seeking a deeper union with Christ and His Church. I pray that you will be a World Youth Day pilgrim, too.

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