.- Twenty years after the 1993 World Youth Day was held in Denver, the archdiocese has been abundantly blessed with much spiritual fruit, said Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila.
“It's just a tremendous grace, and one can only lift up one's heart in gratitude for the graces that the Lord has poured forth upon the archdiocese since the visit of John Paul II here,” Archbishop Aquila told CNA at an Aug. 15 celebration of the 20th anniversary of the event.
Some 1,800 people gathered at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization – home to St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and the archdiocesan chancery – for a Mass commemorating the visit of the Pope and over 750,000 pilgrims for 1993's World Youth Day in Denver.
“I have seen tremendous growth here,” said the archbishop, who in 1993 was a priest of the archdiocese, and became its bishop in 2012.
“Since World Youth Day, the fruit that we have seen born are the two new seminaries, Redemptoris Mater and St. John Vianney … we've seen the blessing of ecclesial movements moving here: the Neo-Catechumenal Way, the Christian Life Movement, Communion and Liberation, and so many others.”
He also mentioned the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, the Augustine Institute, ENDOW, Christ in the City homeless ministry and Centro San Juan Diego Hispanic family and pastoral care center as among the “incredible” fruits of Blessed John Paul II's 1993 visit.
“They continue to increase, they continue to grow. We see more and more of our faithful and our young people having a real desire to come to know and encounter Jesus Christ.”
While saying Mass at the gathering, Archbishop Aquila delivered a homily reflecting that “in our humility, we can only lift up our hearts and recognize the blessings that the Lord has bestowed so generously upon us.”
Noting the day's feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, he said that by her 'yes' to the will of God the Father, Mary “trusted and surrendered herself completely” to him.
“We too are called to the same faith, to put our trust and confidence in all of the promises that have been given to us by our God,” Archbishop Aquila taught.
“My beloved brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters, the greatest hunger of Blessed John Paul II, the greatest hunger of Pope Emeritus Benedict, and the greatest hunger of Pope Francis, is the greatest hunger of Mary: that our hearts, aflame with the fire of love, constantly long for the Father and for union with the Father.”
Archbishop Aquila instructed those attending Mass to pray that they encounter Christ “ever more intimately;” that they receive a heart like Mary's, “more receptive” to God; and for an increase in love.
“Let us also lift up our hearts in gratitude to the Father for the gift of World Youth Day 1993 and all the fruit it has borne in the New Evangelization,” he added.
The archbishop closed by citing the words of Blessed John Paul II at Denver's World Youth Day, which he said are especially relevant as the cultures of life and of death encounter each other in the U.S. “whether it be for the unborn, the poor, the elderly, or the immigrant, whether it be for the true understanding of marriage and the family, or whether it be for religious freedom and the freedom of conscience.”
“This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel,” he said, quoting the former Pope. “(D)o not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern 'metropolis'.”