March 11March 11 Editorial: Pope tells WYD pilgrims to follow Mary’s example of encounter, service and love (September 16, 2022)

September 16, 2022


Pope tells WYD pilgrims to follow Mary’s example of encounter, service and love

The Blessed Mother is at the heart of Pope Francis’ message for young people preparing to attend World Youth Day (WYD) in Portugal next year.

And his words offer a blueprint for them in their mission to live out their vocations as disciples of Christ.

“Mary is an example of a young person who wastes no time on seeking attention or the approval of others—as often happens when we depend on our ‘likes’ on social media. She sets out to find the most genuine of all ‘connections’: the one that comes from encounter, sharing, love and service,” the pope said in his message for WYD, which will be held on Aug. 1-6, 2023, in Lisbon, Portugal.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the postponement of the Lisbon gathering in 2022, and Pope Francis said he hoped young Catholics would gather in the Portuguese city, and that “in these troubling times, when our human family, already tested by the trauma of the pandemic, is racked by the tragedy of war, Mary shows to all of us, and especially to you, young people like herself, the path of proximity and encounter.”

The theme the Holy Father chose for two WYD celebrations—one on a local level on Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King; the other for the world gathering in Lisbon next summer—is “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39) to visit Elizabeth after learning she would become the mother of Jesus.

To “arise,” the Holy Father noted, “speaks to us of getting up from our slumber, waking up to the life all around us.”

In reflecting on the theme, Pope Francis made it clear that he was not urging “haste” as something simply rapid, but instead as an enthusiastic response to experiencing God’s love and feeling an urgent need to share it. The Blessed Mother did this after the Annunciation by visiting her elderly cousin Elizabeth, the pope noted.

“Even though the astonishing message of the angel had caused a seismic shift in her plans, the young Mary did not remain paralyzed, for within her was Jesus, the power of resurrection and new life,” the pope said. “She arises and sets out, for she is certain that God’s plan is the best plan for her life.

“Mary becomes a temple of God, an image of the pilgrim Church, a Church that goes forth for service, a Church that brings the good news to all,” Pope Francis wrote.

Like Mary, disciples of Christ—including young people—cannot be indifferent to the needs of others, the Holy Father noted.

“She thought more of others than of herself. And this gave enthusiasm and direction to her life. Each of you can ask: ‘How do I react to the needs that I see all around me? Do I think immediately of some reason not to get involved? Or do I show interest and willingness to help?’

“To be sure, you cannot resolve all the problems of the world,” the pope wrote. “Yet you can begin with the problems of those closest to you, with the needs of your own community. Someone once told Mother Teresa: ‘What you are doing is a mere drop in the ocean.’ And she replied: ‘But if I didn’t do it, that ocean would have one drop less.’ ”

The Holy Father encouraged young people to “set out in haste toward concrete encounters, toward genuine acceptance of those different from ourselves. This was the case with the young Mary and the elderly Elizabeth. Only thus will we bridge distances—between generations, social classes, ethnic and other groups—and even put an end to wars. Young people always represent the hope for new unity within our fragmented and divided human family.”

Young people’s continuous message, like “the great message entrusted to the Church,” must be Jesus, he continued.

“Yes, Jesus himself, in his infinite love for each of us, his salvation and the new life he has bestowed upon us. Mary is our model; she shows us how to welcome this immense gift into our lives, to share it with others, and thus to bring Christ, his compassionate love and his generous service to our deeply wounded humanity.”

We pray that next year’s WYD bears much fruit and that young people always carry Jesus within their hearts and bring him to all those whom they meet.

—Mike Krokos

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