The theme of the 31st World Youth Day, Krakow 2016 was “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). This was my first time at WYD, and I hadn’t known what to expect. I was so happy to meet people from all over the world and to share with them some information about RENATE and human trafficking. My only expectation was to find the English or German speaking groups. News reports had predicted that there would be around two million people attending the events, but still I couldn’t imagine what such a crowd would be like.
I quickly found out! The scene looked unreal as I travelled by train and car from the airport to my accommodation. Groups of pilgrims stretched block after block along the streets, singing, smiling and dancing almost everywhere. I felt that those energetic, full-of-life groups were the Church come to life — a beautiful representation of the faith and dynamism of the world’s Catholic youth.
Unfortunately, because my flight had been delayed, my colleague Sr. Klara Marie from the Czech Republic and I missed the Papal welcome ceremony but we still got a sense of the enormous energy and enthusiasm of the groups as they returned from the ceremony.
In 1984, John Paul II told the College of Cardinals that “…the whole Church, in union with the successor of Peter, must be more and more committed, globally, to youth and young adults – and to their anxieties and concerns and to their openness, hopes, and expectations…”.
And so it is that every three years, youth from all around the world gather with church representatives at World Youth Day celebrations. They do so for three reasons: to make pilgrimage; to celebrate and place trust in the youth and to meet as a Catholic community.
The extent of interest shown in the RENATE flyers about human trafficking and the willingness to join us in praying together for the victims of human trafficking, was most encouraging. It was a confirmation that the church of the youth is a church of both spiritual devotions and social engagement.
Our daily pilgrimages in order to engage with the youth made me appreciate the vision John Paul II had for these gatherings: revealing the merciful face of Jesus Christ in each one of us, regardless of what ones’ reality is at any given moment.
I have a particular memory of stopping to talk with a young French man who was sitting on the steps of a church. As I gave him some flyers to share with his group, he said “not all of us understand English, but I promise you that I will translate the flyers this evening so we can all pray with you and for you”.
The final Mass which was celebrated by Pope Francis was imbued with such a beautiful spirit. That liturgy brought together so many languages, cultures, ethnicities and nationalities. Although different in so many ways, faith was the common denominator that brought everyone together at WYD.
Everything we experienced in Krakow can be only be described as an inner feeling of happiness! It was uplifting to see that the message which Jesus brought to the world, preached and lived by John Paul II and Sr. Faustina Kowalska (the patron saint of the gathering) is very much alive in more than 1.5 million young people who attended World Youth day.
Sr. Adina Balan, CJ.
‘’I hold you in my arms
And together we softly sway
As I rock you to sleep
And this is what I pray:
I pray for your safety
Your health and happiness, too
I ask God to wrap you in his love
In everything you do’’.
Adapted by Anne Kelleher, RENATE Communications.