World Youth Day 2005

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Introduction It was a blessing to take part in World Youth Day 2005 at Cologne in Germany with some 300 of our youth — together with their priests and youth leaders — from the archdiocese.The universal Church owes a deep depth of gratitude to Cardinal Joachim Meisner and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Cologne who gave themselves so wholeheartedly and generously to the preparation and celebration of World Youth Day.I renew my expressions of gratitude to Sister Consolata Crews, FSGM, director of the Office of Youth Ministry, her staff and the many priests and youth leaders who assisted our young people to take part in these days of grace. Given the structure of the activities of World Youth Day, I was not able to have much direct contact with our youth.However, thanks to the excellent planning of the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, I was able to offer the Mass for the entire group on Aug. 20 at the Monastery of the Friars Minor in Dsseldorf, before the young people began to make their way to Marienfeld, the place of their meeting with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on that evening, their vigil of prayer with him and their participation in the closing Mass of World Youth Day, celebrated by our Holy Father on Aug. 21. Through the homily at the Mass for the pilgrims from the archdiocese, I reflected with our youth on the meaning of their pilgrimage to Cologne for World Youth Day and expressed my hope that their participation in the pilgrimage would bring forth an abundance of good fruit in their lives. As a way of communicating with you all that World Youth Day meant for me and for the youth of our archdiocese, I now offer you the text of my homily.It is my hope that the homily will help you to understand more completely the irreplaceable experience of participation in World Youth Day. The meaning of pilgrimage To the world it may seem strange that we from the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois should meet each other in Cologne, far away from our homes.We, like the Magi whose relics are venerated in the Cathedral of Cologne, have come with so many other young people — together with their bishops, priests and youth leaders — from near and far, to worship our Lord Jesus Christ.At the invitation of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II and his successor, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we have come on pilgrimage to meet our Lord, to know Him more fully and to love Him more ardently.We have come to meet our Lord, in a special way, with His vicar on earth, Pope Benedict XVI, who is here to teach, to sanctify and to guide us. The example of holy Ruth You who are young in age have received the invitation of the Holy Father to spend these days with him and with young people from throughout the world, in order that you may understand the future which is yours and embrace it, filled with hope.You are not unlike the young Ruth who, after her husband had died prematurely, embraced her future with complete trust in God’s love by devoting herself to her mother-in-law Naomi.She was of another people than her husband and his family, and was very much tempted to return to her own people, but she knew that her mother-in-law, also a widow, needed her care. Trusting in God’s providence, Ruth remained with Naomi and gleaned grain for their food in the fields of Boaz.God gave her Boaz in marriage and blessed their union with the birth of a son, Obed, the grandfather of David from whose house was born the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.In the womb of the Virgin Mary, under her Immaculate Heart, God-the-Son was made man, was conceived by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Ruth trusted in God’s will.She made her will one with the will of God.God blessed her abundantly and made her a blessing for her family and for us all (Reading 1).Because of her loving obedience in doing God’s will, Ruth has a bond with us, for she cooperated with God’s plan to send His only-begotten Son into the world as our Savior. Youth, the future of the Church Our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have understood the importance of your future for you personally and for our world. Pope John Paul II so frequently reminded us all that you, our young people, are the future of the Church (cf. Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter Hoc omine, "To the Youth of the World on the Occasion of International Youth Year," March 31, 1985, nn. 1b, 10k, and 16a; and Pope John Paul II, Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the XVII World Youth Day, July 25, 2001, n. 3b and 3f).He and now Pope Benedict XVI have invited you to come on pilgrimage to Cologne, to leave your home and familiar surroundings for some days, in order to reflect upon the pilgrimage of your life in Christ, which you began at the moment of your baptism, for which you have been strengthened through the Sacrament of Confirmation, and along which you are healed of sin through the Sacrament of Penance and most wonderfully sustained with the Holy Eucharist, the Heavenly Bread which is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Going on pilgrimage, you come to know more deeply Christ who is the Way of your life and to desire to live ever more closely united to Him, especially through your love of Him in the Holy Eucharist. For you, following Christ into the future demands your trust in Him Who will never fail you in love.For you, no less than for Ruth, doing God’s will demands humble trust in His providence. Suffering and trust in divine providence With Christ, you have already come to understand that your life pilgrimage is the Way of the Cross, which leads to eternal life, to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (cf. Revelations 19:9; Pope John Paul II, Message to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the XX World Youth Day, Aug. 6, 2004, n. 36).Perhaps, you have experienced sickness and even death in your family or among your friends.Perhaps, you have known division in your own family or betrayal by a friend.We have all known the deep sadness of our betrayal of Christ by our sins.The future, then, can cause us fear and can tempt us to abandon Christ, our Way.The way of the world, the way of life, centered upon ourselves, our possessions and our comfort, can seem so inviting.We can be so easily beguiled by the world which urges us to avoid sacrifice and suffering, and to keep open all our options, lest we lose any opportunity for our own advancement and pleasure. But Christ has called us here, through the invitation of His vicar on earth, to trust in Him who is alone our Master, to trust in His promise that, humbling ourselves to do what God asks of us, as Ruth did, will bring us lasting joy and peace and will make us great in our own lives and in the lives of our brothers and sisters (Gospel).As Christ called the Magi to Himself at His Birth to offer Him their riches, their lives, so He calls us. Let us listen to the words of our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II in his message for this 20th World Youth Day: "My dear young people, you too offer to the Lord the gold of your lives, namely, your freedom to follow Him out of love, responding faithfully to His call; let the incense of your fervent prayer rise up to Him, in praise of His glory; offer Him your myrrh, that is your affection of total gratitude to Him, true Man, who loved us to the point of dying as a criminal on Golgotha" (Pope John Paul II, Message to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the XX World Youth Day, n. 4c). We must never think that Christ, Who poured out His life for us, will ever fail us. Seated in eternal glory at the right hand of the Father, Christ continually pours forth His love from His glorious pierced Heart.If we lift our poor and often troubled hearts to Him, we will have a secure and loving haven in every temptation, trial and suffering.In His Most Sacred Heart, we will find lasting joy and peace.In His Heart, our hearts will become great.Especially in the Sacrament of Penance, Christ receives the expression of the sorrow which is ours because of our sins and offers us forgiveness and peace. Then, in the Holy Eucharist, He remains with us always, nourishing our minds with divine truth and our hearts with divine love. Called to be saints My dear young people, there are so many sentiments and thoughts which I wish to express to you at this historic meeting with Christ, at the invitation of His vicar on earth.You are indeed the future of the Church and of our world.Giving yourselves completely to Christ, handing over your lives to do God’s will, you will transform your lives, you will transform our world.Pope John Paul II and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI have urged and urge you to be "men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others.The Church needs saints.All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity" (Pope John Paul II, Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the XX World Youth Day, Aug. 6, 2004, n. 7a). Pope John Paul II in his message to the youth for this occasion and Pope Benedict XVI in his address for the welcome ceremony of this past Thursday, have recalled to our memory the great heroes of God, who have lived in this treasured portion of the Church: St. Boniface, Apostle of Germany; St. Ursula; St. Albert the Great; St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and Blessed Adolph Kolping.Today, too, we think of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who at the age of 22 entered the Cistercian Order and so heroically lived his vocation as a religious and priest that he attracted many of his contemporaries to respond generously to God’s call.St. Bernard remains our great teacher of discipline of mind and heart, in accord with divine truth and love.May the patron saints of World Youth Day and St. Bernard of Clairvaux be your inspiration and your intercessors in these days and in the days to come, the days of your pilgrimage to seek an ever deeper knowledge of Christ and an ever more fruitful and generous love of Him. Pilgrimage and vocation Lastly, I have been praying and will be praying with special fervor today and tomorrow that your pilgrimage to Christ, in imitation of the Magi, will help you to know your vocation in life, God’s special plan for each of you.Our vocation is our way of giving our whole life to God and to our neighbor in marriage, the dedicated single life, the consecrated life or the priesthood.I pray also that your pilgrimage here will help you to be clear and courageous in doing whatever it is that God asks of you.In these days of your youth, I pray, above all, that you grow strong in virtue, so that you may be always pure and holy in your love, in responding to your vocation. Let us all pray, in a special way, for our brothers and sisters whom God is calling to the consecrated life and the priesthood, vocations which, in our time, require a special measure of generosity and courage.How we all need those who are called to say "Yes" today and every day of their lives, so that we may be helped to lead holy lives by those who have given their entire life to a closer following of Christ, the Poor, the Chaste and the Obedient!How we all need those who are called to say "yes" today and every day of their lives, so that we may have good shepherds to teach, to sanctify and to guide us, shepherds after the Heart of Jesus! It is a special gift from God to have 39 of our seminarians from the Archdiocese of St. Louis with us on pilgrimage.They are preparing to offer their entire lives to Christ, so that they may be your future priests.I am very proud of them.Please pray for them, that they may continue to respond to God’s call with an undivided heart. Pilgrimage and the Holy Eucharist My dear young people, let us now come to adore our Lord who offers His life for us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, from which He feeds us with His true Body and Blood, the Heavenly Food of our earthly pilgrimage and the pledge of our eternal communion with God, in the company of the angels and all the saints, at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.With the holy Magi let us offer ourselves to Christ.Let us make our hearts one with His Most Sacred Heart.In our Eucharistic Lord, let us discover the way to holiness, the way of our vocation in life.Through participation in the Most Holy Eucharist and prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament, we come to know God’s will in our lives and we receive the strength to follow God’s call with an undivided heart and, thus, to find lasting joy and peace, to attain the greatness for which God made us. I close with the words which our beloved Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the youth of the world at the conclusion of his homily during the Mass for the beginning of his Petrine Ministry.Referring to the homily of Pope John Paul II at the beginning of his service as Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI urged us all and, in particular, young people, to give ourselves completely to Christ.Let us listen to his words as a preparation for our participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice: "Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide.Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything.When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return.Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ — and you will find true life" (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily,Mass, with the Imposition of the Pallium and Conferral of the Fisherman’s Ring, for the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome, April 24, 2005, n.8). Dear young people, with holy Ruth, trust in God.Trust in Christ Who teaches you: The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Gospel). Conclusion Please pray that World Youth Day 2005 will bear an abundance of good fruit in young men and women dedicated to the work of the new evangelization.The inspiration and the strength of the new evangelization comes from Christ alone in the Holy Eucharist.Even as the three Magi came to worship the Infant Jesus and to offer Him their gifts, so also we come to worship our Lord Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament and, with Him, offer to God our Father our humble gifts, the gift of our lives.In his words to the youth of the world, especially at the solemn Mass to conclude World Youth Day, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, urged the young people to meet Christ in the Holy Eucharist and to follow Him in doing whatever it is that God asks of them. Let us pray that the meetings of our young people with our Lord through participation in the Holy Mass and Eucharistic adoration will lead them to give themselves generously to our Lord and to others. I ask your prayers, too, for the eternal rest of Frre Roger Schutz, founding member of the ecumenical religious community at Taiz in France. Frre Roger was most dedicated to helping young people to find Christ, to love Him and to serve Him.Often, he participated in World Youth Day from its very beginnings. His death by the violent act of a disturbed woman from Romania during the time of the celebration of the 20th World Youth Day at Cologne is a reminder to us all of the conversion to Christ so sorely needed by our world and of the final end of daily conversion of life to Christ: eternal life with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — in Heaven. May God grant Frre Roger eternal rest. Let us thank God for all of the many blessings which He bestowed upon the celebration of the 20th World Youth Day.Let us thank Him especially for the protection of our Holy Father and the participants from any harm.We thank our Blessed Mother and the patrons of World Youth Day for their intercession which brought abundant graces to the participants who called upon their help. Finally, let us pray for Pope Benedict XVI and for Cardinal George Pell and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Sydney in Australia as they prepare for the celebration of World Youth Day in 2008 in Sydney.

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