World Youth Day Sydney 2008 has had an extraordinary effect on the life of our dioceses here in Australia. There are so many people who went to the event in Sydney in 2008 now actively involved in the Church in so many ways: in our youth work, in marriages that have happened as a result of meeting there and falling in love, and in those who are pursuing a vocation of priesthood or religious life, writes Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide.
The World Youth Day celebrations, initiated by Blessed John Paul II in 1985, are important occasions because they give young people an opportunity to have an experience of being with large groups of people who are dedicated to Christ and to realise they are not the only ones who believe in Him and want to follow him in their lives.
So it really has a great effect that lasts for a long time and I think it’s an opportunity for the rest of us to accompany all of them as they go to Madrid this year with our prayers, asking that the Lord will have a big effect on their lives and that they will come to realise how much he loves them and cares for them.
For those of us not going to World Youth Day in Madrid, it’s an opportunity to reflect that the same Lord loves us and is present in our world and that love is the really core experience in our lives. We need to love him, to trust him and to follow him in the best way we can.
World Youth Day is a day of renewal that is not only confined to youth. It is actually a day when the Church, and its members of all ages, can look into the eyes of young people and see in them the hope we have for the future.
We are not waiting for them to become believers some time down the track. We are depending upon them now, because they are believers today and the enthusiasm and the freshness of the relationship they have with Christ and with the Church can be an energising factor in all our lives.
When you see these young people and their enthusiasm, you are reminded of the truths which create such enthusiasm. We must allow those truths to take a deeper root in all our lives.
Perhaps as we get older we become more marked by our own human limitations and weaknesses, and by the progress of our own sin. We can lose something of the hope and energy for the future that marked our life as young believers.
World Youth Day provides us with an opportunity to recognise that our faith is meant to be always youthful and ever characterised by the life, hope and enthusiasm of youth. It is possible to be 110 years old and still filled with enthusiasm for our faith and to have the same energy about our beliefs and relationship with Christ and the Church as when we were 15.
We can achieve this through a vibrant personal relationship with Christ, promoted through a life of prayer, our celebration of the Eucharist and our service of Christ.
In Adelaide recently we have had the ordination of Peter Zwaans who first experienced his calling to the priesthood at World Youth Day in Toronto and after eight and a half years of studies his entry to the priesthood has been a great gift to our community.
I also recently attended a large gathering of young people wanting to talk about their faith and work out ways in which they can spread their faith and give witness to it in their daily lives. Many of those people would have been to World Youth Day in Sydney and are now acting as apostles, reaching out to others.
This is the way it works in the Church; if you discover that Christ loves you, it then gives you the freedom to be his apostle and his witness especially by the quality of your love and care that you can bring to other people in your life.
So we pray for lots of grace for these young people going to Madrid and the continuing renewal of the life of our Church as a result of their involvement in World Youth Day.
Archbishop Philip Wilson is President of theAustralian Catholic Bishops' Conference.