Loading

Experiencing the universal

Jessica Harris

Pope Benedict XVI departs WYD 2011 (Credit: Official WYD Flickr.com/Madrid11)

Many young people live in a bubble.

The “bubble” could be their school, community, social group, town, or even their youth group or parish.  From within their particular bubble, they fall into the trap of believing that their reality is the universal reality, and their view of the world, and the Church, never expands beyond that group. 

Teenagers and young adults are frequently criticized for their self-centeredness, and for a lack of awareness of the world around them. As a high school teacher, I see the effects of the “bubble-mentality” in students who cannot imagine a world beyond the four walls of their high school, their town, or country. 

Believing that you are the center of the universe is a serious problem.  It affects the way young people perceive the world, make choices, and practice their Catholic faith. Parents, youth ministers, catechists, and teachers may be asking, how do we show our young people that there is so much more to the world than what they see or experience in their immediate realities?

The world “catholic” literally means universal.  The Catholic Church is meant to be home to all people, from all geographic locations, nationalities, social classes, and ages.  However, until young Catholics truly have  an opportunity to experience the universality of the Church, their understanding of the Catholic faith could be limited to their home parish, where they may not really be truly fed or nourished or pushed to grow in their relationship with God.  In order to truly understand, and appreciate the universal Church, young people need to be given the opportunity to experience the Church as more than something their parents make them do on Sunday mornings, or a venue for community service.

Pope John Paul II, in his wisdom and love for young people, considered the importance of exposing the youth to the universality of the Church when he established World Youth Day 26 years ago.  Since the start of World Youth Day, over 16 million young people have gathered around the world to be with the Holy Father and Catholics from almost every country.  This summer, I was blessed to be able to accompany young people from my diocese to Madrid, Spain, and while they were thrilled to see  leave the country, experience new things, and see the Pope, the most powerful experience shared by the teens was the experience of the Universal Church. 

As anyone who has attended a World Youth Day would be able to tell you, the event is characterized by an abundance of joy and enthusiasm.  Cheers of “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” “Viva il Papa!” and “Esta es la juventud del Papa” (We are the youth of the Pope!) rang throughout the streets of Madrid.  The most remarkable part of the passion and excitement is that among the shouts and cheers of the youth, amid the sea of hopeful faces, were the sounds of different languages, and flags from almost every country imaginable.

The differences between the cultures is clear, as some groups were quiet and more subdued, and others almost uncontainable and hardly ever silent.  Groups, including our own, led songs and cheers in their own languages.  One afternoon, as we walked down the street singing “Blessed Be Your Name” a group of pilgrims from France started accompanying us, singing the lyrics in French.  Catholicism transcends language and culture, as every one of those 1.5 million pilgrims bowed their heads in prayer, made the sign of the cross, and said, together, and individually, “Amen- I believe.”

The American students I traveled with commented that they were encouraged to see the Church thriving throughout the world.  One college student wrote to me about the sense of community she experienced, saying, “It is something that will stay with me forever, and something I can remember when living a true Catholic life is difficult. I know I never stand alone. I stand alongside all of my brothers and sisters – all built up and rooted in Christ.” 

The experience of the Universal Church that is lived at World Youth Day is certainly life-changing, but experiencing the universal is possible without leaving the country.  Parents, teachers, and youth ministers can expose youth to the universality of the Church without leaving home.  In my diocese, many parishes have cultural groups and Masses offered in different languages, from Spanish to Portuguese, Creole and Vietnamese.  Throughout the world, Christians are being persecuted and even killed for their faith.  In third world countries, the faithful are unable to access the basic necessities for human existence, and often can only receive the sacraments on a limited basis.  Nevertheless, faith and love for God survives.  It is up to us, as educators, to teach the teens entrusted to us about the state of the Church throughout the world, and help them to experience what it really means to be a member of the Body of Christ.  When young people experience the universal Church through an event like World Youth Day, they are able to break out of their respective bubbles, and start living for Christ, and working to bring Him to others. 

Topics: Travel , Young Women

Jessica Harris graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2008 and works as a youth minister and high school religion teacher in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

View all articles by Jessica Harris

Ads by Google
(What's this?)

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

OUR TOPICS

Abortion (48)  Advent & Christmas (19)  Beauty (3)  Bioethics (4)  Books (55)  Church history (16)  Church teaching (31)  Contraception (26)  Culture (123)  Current Events (93)  Dating (15)  Death (4)  Depression (14)  Divorce (7)  Education (14)  Eucharist (4)  Exercise (3)  Faith (220)  Family (89)  Fashion (5)  Feminism (14)  Fertility (2)  Fitness (1)  Food (2)  Forgiveness (18)  Friendship (18)  Generosity (2)  Girl Scouts (2)  Grieving (1)  Health (23)  Home Management (17)  Humor (14)  Leadership (4)  Lent & Easter (13)  Liturgical Year (11)  Marian devotion (8)  Marriage (35)  Mature Years (5)  Meditations (17)  Mental illness (1)  Mercy (2)  Military Families (2)  Ministry (5)  Miscarriage (1)  Motherhood (58)  Movies (2)  Music (5)  Natural Family Planning (2)  Nutrition (4)  Parenting (44)  Personal Growth (105)  Politics (4)  Pope Francis (1)  Pornography (3)  Prayer (33)  Pro-Life (27)  Psychology (1)  Reflections (6)  Relationships (44)  Religious freedom (11)  Saints (11)  Scripture (7)  Service (8)  Sexuality (19)  Single years (4)  Social justice (1)  Social Networking (5)  Special Needs (3)  Spirituality (2)  Suffering (14)  Suicide (1)  Travel (11)  United Nations (1)  Welcome (1)  Women in the Church (4)  Women's Health (20)  Workplace (12)  Writings of the Saints (10)  Young Women (40) 

Jul
28

Liturgical Calendar

July 28, 2014

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Featured Videos

#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Dedicating art to San Juan de la Cruz
A state without territory elects new government
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Synod on the Family October 2014
Preferential option for the poor
God is alive, even in sport
'A forbidden God' named Best Film at the International Catholic Film Festival
Vatican backs a 'Pause for Peace' during World Cup final
The effects of religious violence in Sarajevo 
The origin of Corpus Christi 
Corpus Christi at the Vatican 
Homage to an Indian Cardinal
Train of the Child's Light
New book explaining gestures of the Mass
Encounter between Pope Francis and the Charismatic Renewal in the Spirit Movement.
Religious tensions subside amid Balkan floods
John Paul II Center for Studies on Marriage and Family
Saint John Paul II on cartoon

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 13:31-35

Gospel
Date
07/28/14
07/27/14
07/26/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Jer 13: 1-11
Gospel:: Mt 13: 31-35

Saint of the Day

St. Victor I, Pope »

Saint
Date
07/27/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 13:31-35

Homily
Date
07/28/14
07/27/14
07/26/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: