The archbishop emeritus of Delhi, India told English-speaking pilgrims during their first catechesis session of World Youth Day that an encounter with Jesus will change their lives.
“When the Lord comes into your life something new happens, we believe we see people from a different perspective,” said Archbishop Vincent Michael Concessao July 24.
“You will see people as Jesus saw and he will give us confidence, trust and courage to do things,” he told pilgrims gathered at the school of Our Lady of Mercy in Rio de Janeiro’s Botafogo neighborhood.
Pilgrims are divided up into language groups on the mornings of July 24-26 for catechesis, one of the major teaching elements of World Youth Day.
Over 250 bishops from around the world are leading the catechesis sessions, which take place at different churches and schools across Rio de Janeiro.
The sessions are a chance for pilgrims to pray and listen to talks by the bishops related to the World Youth Day theme, “Go and make disciples among all the nations” (Mt 28:19).
Each catechesis session is including a question-and-answer period with the youth, Mass and confessions.
The Archbishop Emeritus of Delhi, India told the pilgrims some personal stories and spoke about saints who they could look to as role models.
“I wanted to become a priest after I had finished high school, but a week before I joined the seminary, my father had a third attack of paralysis,” he said.
“I was 16 at the time and despite my father’s suffering, I still wanted to join the seminary, and some people were surprised,” Archbishop Concessao recalled.
He also remembered a time when he met a poor man who attended his parish.
“He told me, ‘sometimes I eat once a day, sometimes twice, but what I have I can share it with you,’” he said.
“I felt that God was talking to me through him; for me it was like Jesus himself standing before me and talking to me,” he remarked.
The archbishop said that many times the Lord enters into our life through things that happen to us or people we meet.
“On the other side of the road there was a man who saw a beggar that was mentally challenged,” he said as he began another story.
“After two years the man opened an institution of about 250 people,” he added.
Archbishop Concessao told the youth that it is “very important” that their perspective be “a faith perspective.”
“How do you look at people?” he challenged them. “He is your brother and sister because God made all people in his image and likeness and for him there are no outsiders or strangers.”
“There are many others who are misguided, but you are here,” he said. “It is the presence of the Lord in our faith that is important.”
He then told the stories of saints who encountered the Lord and had their life completely changed, such as Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.
“Every person is the temple of God and when we become aware of this we will do everything to be disciples of Jesus,” the archbishop insisted. “This is my prayer for you.”
After Archbishop Concessao’s remarks, Ronnie, a young woman from Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, shared her testimony with the pilgrims gathered at the school.
“One of my parents decided to break the covenant of marriage and broke our family,” she said.
But during a catechesis session in Madrid’s World Youth Day in 2011, she asked one of her friends to pray for her.
“As I knelt down, I realized how badly I was affected and I asked the Lord to heal me and my family,” Ronnie said.
“For the first time in my life I felt Jesus touching me and that was the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had,” she added.
The young woman said when she went back home to Tobago, she told her mother of her experience and they both realized they had been praying on the exact same day and at the same time.
“She had had a very big problem and had also gone to a Church to pray, and through my prayers, I gave her the courage to carry on,” said Ronnie.
“She then received counseling with my dad, and it just made me realize that if I had given up hope, my family would have been finished,” she said.
Pope Francis officially opened World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday evening at Copacabana beach at a ceremony attended by around half a million young people.
The international youth event will last until July 28 and will culminate in a final Mass at Campus Fidei at Guaratiba on Sunday at 10:00 a.m.