Jul 25, 2016
Excitement is building in Poland as millions of young people from over 180 countries descend upon Krakow for the celebration of World Youth Day with Pope Francis. I remember well my own eagerness 25 years ago as I packed my bags for World Youth Day, then also in Poland but with Pope John Paul II, and it was an experience that changed the trajectory of my life.
Pope John Paul II asked us back in 1991, "How can we fail to be amazed at the heights to which we are called?" The saint had enough confidence in his "dear young people" to call them to a higher vision, a higher ideal than the mediocrity and false ideals that the world presents, indeed he called us to holiness. It was at World Youth Day that I and countless others were inspired to embrace the Church's beautiful and lofty teachings on the vocation of marriage, resulting years later in the blessing of five precious children who I'm sure wouldn't be here otherwise, our eldest named John Paul.
Pope Francis will offer a similar exhortation to today's young people, presenting young families at World Youth Day copies of Amoris Laetitia, his apostolic exhortation on love in the family. In a video preview message, Pope Francis said, "The moral and spiritual 'health' of a nation is seen in its families. That is why Saint John Paul II showed such great concern for engaged couples, young married couples and families. Continue along this road!" This time, like each World Youth Day before, will no doubt plant the seeds for many new vocations to married and religious life.
However, today's young pilgrims face deeper and stiffer challenges in an increasingly complex and confusing world. Fittingly, the official theme for this year's World Youth Day is "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy." In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church's youth have been called to the nation that gave us the Apostle of Divine Mercy in Saint Faustina Kowalska as well as the man whose zeal for the young originated the very idea that has now turned into the largest gathering of people in the world.