TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: World Youth Days

I realise that I begin many of these weekly messages with the statement, “so much happens in one week.” And this week is no different.

Allen and I spent last weekend on the Gold Coast with four of our children and all of our grandchildren celebrating a couple of their birthdays, and we travelled north again this weekend to greet our new grand-daughter, Ada Teresa, who was born on Wednesday. What a treasure and gift from God she is! I don’t know how it is for you when you hold a newborn, but it definitely feels like this little person has come straight from God. They are a child of God in their helplessness, innocence and trust. They can be passed from one person to another and remain cocooned in their wrap, feeling the safety, warmth and love of those who hold them so preciously. Parents gaze at them in disbelief and there are many words of wisdom passed onto their siblings, as they learn to share their parent’s affection with the newest member of the family.

Our second reading from Paul to the Ephesians (4:1-6) for this weekend captures so much of this scene, shared daily, when a child is born:

I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. The is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, through all and within all.

I imagine that in 1984 when Pope John Paul II invited young people from around the world to Rome, for an International Jubilee of Youth, he was honouring his call from God to hold young people as a precious gift from God. In 1985 Pope John Paul II announced the beginning of International World Youth Days which began in 1986. Every Palm Sunday has since been designated as a World Youth Day, alternately celebrated at the diocesan and international levels.

There have been 13 International World Youth Day celebrations, where the youth continue to answer the invitation of the Holy Father in staggering numbers and carry home the message received there, to be Christ’s light to the world. Tonight, Sunday 26th July, we gathered at our Sacred Heart Cathedral, one year out from WYD 2016 to launch our diocesan pilgrimage to Krakow.

As part of this launch, we had our Diocesan Praise and Worship Gathering at the Cathedral, led by young people and then followed by Mass, with the commissioning of our World Youth Day Co-ordinators, Chaplain, and Leaders. Some young people spoke of their experiences of previous World Youth Days and of their call to be disciples. I include for you a list of previous WYDs.

Year

Location

Theme

1986

Rome, Italy

Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. (1Pt 3:15)

1987

Buenos Aires, Argentina

We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. (1Jn 4:16)

1989

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

I am the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6)

1991

Czestochowa, Poland

You have received a spirit of sonship. (Romans 8:15)

1993

Denver, USA

I came that they might have life, and have it to the full. (Jn 10:10)

1995

Manila, Philippines

As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. (Jn 20:21)

1997

Paris, France

Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see. (Jn 1:38-39)

2000

Rome, Italy

Jubilee – The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (Jn 1:14)

2002

Toronto, Canada

You are the salt of the earth; You are the light of the world. (Mt 5:13-14)

2005

Cologne, Germany

We have come to worship him. (Mt 2:2)

2008

Sydney, Australia

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses (Acts 1, 8)

2011

Madrid, Spain

Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith (Col 2:7)

2013

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19)

2016

Krakow, Poland

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy (Mt 5:7)


In 2013, in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis asked the young people to read the Beatitudes and to make them the action plan of their lives. I recall learning the Beatitudes, off by heart, in Year 7 Religion, because Mercy Sister, Sr Malachi, was totally captured by scripture and our need to know it and understand it. What a wise woman she was, although I would not have known that at the time. However I suspect her love of the scriptures and my involvement in YCS played a significant part in my journey to where I am today.

One of the young men who spoke tonight began his testimony with a quote from the Shakespearean play, The Merchant of Venice (Act IV, Scene i). He used the speech made by Portia (disguised as a young lawyer Balthazar) to Shylock seeking mercy from him. It seems that mercy and forgiveness are enduring themes that pervade Shakespeare’s works. Shakespeare presented mercy as a quality most valuable to the most powerful, strongest and highest people in society.

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

So we begin our pilgrimage to WYD 2016, and we are invited to walk in mercy over the next twelve months, not only because of WYD, but also because Pope Francis has declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, beginning on the Feast of Christ the King.

I certainly hope and pray that my own children and particularly my grandchildren will capture the spirit of the movement for young people in our church. I am certainly inspired by the young people we have in our own diocese, who are saying ‘yes’ to their call to be disciples and to go and make disciples.

And so I finish this message with the Australian Prayer for WYD 2016:

As Australian pilgrims we travel as one people to celebrate God’s love and mercy at World Youth Day in Krakow. We pray for our own personal transformation.

God of mercy, transform me
that my eyes may be merciful,
that I may marvel at the beauty of my neighbour’s heart.

Transform me, O God,
that my ears may be merciful,
that I may be attentive to those in need.

Transform me, O God,
that my tongue may be merciful,
that all I proclaim is in love and peace.

Transform me, O God,
that my hands may be merciful,
that I use them to serve my neighbour.

Transform me, O God,
that my feet may be merciful,
that my pilgrim journey leads me to compassion.

Transform me, O God,
that my heart may be merciful,
ever open to the joy of your presence.

May your mercy, O God,
rest upon me and transform me
into Yourself, for You are my all.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, pray for us.

I hope you are inspired to look out for some young people and invite them to attend WYD. Our diocese has decided that this pilgrimage is to be an intergenerational one and so you may consider going along for the 26 days of pilgrimage next year at this time. Please visit our website for details and consider going on pilgrimage to walk in the footsteps of saints.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is the Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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