I am thinking this morning of the young people (18-35) from around the world you have taken up Pope Benedict's invitation (late last year) to be a part of the 28th World Youth Days in Rio de Janeiro beginning this week. The Christchurch group made the journey last week. Let's keep them in our prayer, and also others who make the journey.
I know many young people whose lives have been changed dramatically by attendance at a World Youth Day, not because they have met new friends and seen the pope, but because they have been encountered by Jesus. My confident prayer is that this will be the Rio experience for every person who has made the sacrifice to take part in this event.The theme of this years WYD is "Go and Make Disciples of All Nations" -Mt 28:19.
A remarkable shift has happened in the Catholic Church in recent decades. More than half the world's Catholics live in the Southern Hemisphere (over 60%). Less than a quarter of all Catholic's live in Europe, and only 1% in Oceania. Even the pope is from the Southern Hemisphere.
It is helpful for us in New Zealand to remember that our NZ experience of Catholicism is certainly real, but it only one small perspective. Many NZ parishes struggle to attract young people. However in many other parts of the world it is young Catholics (often returning from a new encounter with Jesus at a World Youth Day) who work in their local Church to make disciples of all.
Their method is significant. They do not ask for the Church to modernise, to update teaching - or to modify or reduce the gospel call to justice, love of neighbour or forgiveness of enemy. They embrace the traditional teachings of the Church on sexuality and morality. They delight in prayer and in the traditional liturgical life of the Church - liturgy celebrated with noble simplicity and solemn dignity.
And the response to their new-found faith is remarkable. Parishes, neighbourhoods and countries are transformed. Many of these new disciples become the ones who re-evangelise their parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and even Godparents.
So over these days let's pray for all those who take part in these World Youth Days. May they return to us as new disciples, to evangelise us in a new way.
If you have any photos from WYD 2013 and forward them to me I will upload them here. If you are at WYD add your comments below to this blog. I know readers would love to share this experience with you...so the foodforfaith blog is looking for a WYD correspondent!