August 24, 2011| The Long Island Catholic Vol. 50, No. 17 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
Madrid is hot in the summer. Everyone knows that. But the summer heat was outmatched by the warmth of the enthusiasm of the hundreds of thousands of young people who came to Madrid to participate in the twenty-sixth World Youth Day from August 16 through August 21.
As has been from the first World Youth Day Blessed John Paul II convened in Rome, the human attraction is the presence and participation of the Holy Father. Like his predecessor, our Holy Father Benedict XVI did not disappoint. From the welcome event in the Plaza of the Cibeles to the concluding Mass on Sunday at the Cuatro Vientos Airport, his kind and loving presence touched the young people who responded to his words with attention and to his person with enthusiasm and affection.
The structure of the World Youth days featured three days of catechesis on faith formation given by bishops from all over the world. This was my fourth World Youth Day since becoming your bishop. It was my privilege to be one of the eight United States bishops to offer these three days to different English-speaking pilgrims from around the world.
The themes of each day were a joy to reflect, pray and share together. The first day, Monsignor Brennan, Monsignor Morrissey and I were brought to a Church served by the Capuchin Fathers. There were 200-300 young people including those from the Philippines, India, England, even Portugal and Finland. First there was a warm-up with music, reflections, witness and prayer. Then came the bishop’s catechesis, followed by a question and answer period, and the four-hour session then ended with Mass. During the day until Mass began there were priests hearing confessions.
The first day’s theme was “Firm in the Faith.” We could reflect together on belief in God in our world today, the challenges to faith, and the meaning of living life as a faith-filled Catholic in contemporary society. The questions and the insights of the young people were truly insightful and inspiring.
It was equally so the second day when the theme was “Established in Jesus Christ” and there were about one thousand at the parish Church of the Trinitarians, St. John of Mata. A group founded in India, “Jesus Youth,” animated the day. The leader of song was exceptional. Where did he live? Oceanside! A Syro-Malabar Catholic, he sometimes prays at the Cathedral of St. Agnes. The third day’s theme, “Witness to the World,” brought together youth from many different countries but there were more Americans in this group of five hundred than the previous day. What a joy it was to have pilgrims from Valley Stream, Franklin Square and Hampton Bays. It touched me deeply to see Father Robert Ketcham, Father Johnny Mendonca, Father Ed Sheridan and Father Greg Rannazzisi hearing confessions with Monsignor Brennan and Monsignor Morrissey.
Catholics have a long tradition of living deeply and dedicating themselves totally to the mysteries of Our Lord’s death and resurrection. The Via Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, were presented for our prayer and meditation with some of the most overwhelming pieces of religious art imaginable. The Cardinal of Madrid borrowed the most beautiful and moving imagery available from dioceses throughout Spain. The meditations were written by the Sisters of the Cross, a congregation of consecrated women who dedicate their lives to living with and ministering to the poorest of the poor.
Saturday is the day of anticipation. After Mass, the young pilgrims put their basic necessities together and empty Madrid walking to the Cuatro Vientos, the place for the Saturday night vigil with the Holy Father in prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. In the years that I have participated, some rainfall always seems to appear, expected or not. The rain came down Saturday night. But I suspect that many of the pilgrims enjoyed it as refreshment after the long walk from Madrid.
Sunday morning was brilliant as more than one million young people, some 300-400 from our diocese, sang and danced prior to the arrival of Pope Benedict for the closing Mass. One thing always touches me at these events. Young folk can be laughing and dancing, praying and singing, enjoying friendships, new and long-standing. Once Mass begins, they are quiet, attentive, prayerful and totally focused on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
On our diocesan website we will have the major addresses of the Holy Father to the young people there and to all the youth of the world. In the closing homily he spoke of his joy in being with them. “I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you His friends.” “Faith is more than just experiential or historical fact; it is the ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth. … Faith is a gift from God. ... Faith entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person to God’s self revelation. ... Faith must become constantly stronger and more mature to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus …”
“Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in your parishes, communities and movements, as well as celebration of Sunday Mass. … Friendship with Jesus will lead you to bear witness to the Faith!”