Aug 31, 2011

Full Text of Archbishop Collins' Homily - Funeral of Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic

Below you will find the full text of the homily delivered by Archbishop Thomas Collins during the August 31 Funeral Mass for Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, 9th Archbishop of Toronto:

As we gather to mourn Cardinal Ambrozic, and to celebrate this Funeral Mass for the repose of his soul, our consciousness of the Providence of God, and our faith in the Risen Lord, brings us consolation and hope in this time of sorrow.

Death reminds us all of the fragility of earthly life, and of our need to place our hope in the Lord alone, he who guides us on our pilgrimage through this vale of tears to the house of the heavenly Father. When we come together in the solemn rites of mourning of the Church, of our family of faith, we are ourselves strengthened through the Word of God, and through the Eucharist, and through our renewed awareness that when the time comes for each of us to die, we too will come before the Lord supported by the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Cardinal Ambrozic died the day before the feast of St Monica, the mother of St Augustine, patron of the seminary which was such an important part of his life. In his Confessions, Augustine writes of the death of his mother, and tells us that as Monica was dying, she made only one request of her son: “One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord, wherever you may be.”

Today we remember Cardinal Ambrozic at the altar of the Lord, offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which he himself offered as a priest for more than 56 years. The Christian wisdom of St Monica guides us today, as it has guided Christians down through the ages. We are not simply left bereaved, with only a memory of one whom we have loved; our Christian faith, the faith of Monica, dispels illusion, illuminates the reality of death, fills us with hope in the resurrection, and invites us to express our love effectively through prayer, especially in the Holy Eucharist, at the altar of the Lord.

In each Eucharist we are joined to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ Our Lord; at a funeral Mass we are especially conscious that because of that death and resurrection, the stark and painful reality of death, which none of us escapes, is revealed to the eyes that see reality more clearly through faith, to be not a wall at the end of our life on earth, but rather a gateway to new life, to the fullness of life, in the kingdom of God no longer hidden, but experienced with the communion of saints in the heavenly Jerusalem.

It has long been the custom of Christians to mark the passage of time, morning, noon, and night, during our daily pilgrimage towards the new Jerusalem, with the Angelus, the prayer that speaks of the coming of the Lord into our midst, and of our response in obedience to His will. The Angelus ends with the words: “Pour forth, we beseech you O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we to whom the incarnation of Christ your son was made known by the message of an angel, may by his passion and cross be brought to the glory of his resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

Amid the turmoil of this world, and our own struggles to find our way home to the house of the Father, we need sure guidance, a vision of the world beyond this life, and of the way in which, step by step, we can take up our own daily crosses and follow Christ to the glory of his resurrection. As a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus, Cardinal Ambrozic followed that path to the resurrection, a path that at times meant a share in human suffering, as Our Lord himself endured suffering during his own passage through this world, in order truly to be for us Emmanuel – God with us.

But Cardinal Ambrozic was called not only to be a disciple, but also to be an apostle, and a pastor of God’s people, to serve them day by day through wise leadership and through stewardship of the vision of Divine Providence which gives us hope, and inspires us to love. Without vision, the people perish. We need vision, especially because we live in a world of great turmoil, and of much suffering, and of many distractions, where it is at times hard to see the hand of God.

Isaiah lived in such a world as well, and in the first reading of today’s Mass we hear how in his day, so many years ago, God gave him the vision to fulfil his vocation as spiritual leader of his people by helping them to see beyond their sorrows to the hope which is found in God’s provident love:

“On this mountain, the Lord Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food. On this mountain he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations. The Lord God will destroy death forever; he will wipe away the tears from every cheek.” These words console us in this time of sorrow, but they also remind us of the mission of spiritual leader which Cardinal Ambrozic so faithfully exercised for so many years in his vocation as priest and bishop.

Today we thank God for the blessings of his ministry among us, as he shared the vision that gives meaning to life, and that gives hope on the earthly journey. Through his apostolic ministry, in a world that often does not pay attention to the divine message of salvation, the Cardinal, like Isaiah, proclaimed: “See, this is our God, in whom we hope for salvation.”'

For a disciple of Christ, and surely for an apostle of Christ, the vision of hope is made manifest above all in the love of Jesus. The Cardinal chose as his motto the simple ancient Christian proclamation: “Jesus is Lord.” In Jesus we find consolation in sorrow, and hope in the midst of the daily struggle.

As St Paul says in the second reading of today’s Mass: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord.”

One who lives by the motto “Jesus is Lord”, as did the Cardinal, as should we all, is given a perspective that makes it possible to see clearly what is real and what is not. All the stormy waves on the surface of the sea cannot overwhelm one who is governed by the deep conviction that “Jesus is Lord.” From that conviction comes the wisdom to see the truth, and the courage to proclaim it. Life, even a long life by earthly standards, is too short for any of one of us to waste it on what is superficial. The Cardinal was deep, not superficial, because of his simple dedication to Jesus, the Lord.

He once wrote:

“It is Jesus to whom we look.
It is Jesus whom we imitate.
It is Jesus whom we follow.
It is Jesus who is with us so we can be with him.
Yes, we work with others.
Yes, we learn from others.
But in Jesus we find our ultimate identity and purpose.
He is the Alpha and the Omega for each one of us and for every human being.”

As we celebrate this Holy Eucharist, and at this solemn moment reflect more deeply than we usually do, amid the distracting bustle of life, on the things that matter, and on the things that do not, on what is profound and on what is superficial, we do well to ponder the guiding principle of Cardinal Ambrozic’s life: “Jesus is Lord.” He lived according to that as a disciple, and proclaimed that as an apostle and pastor. It is the simple vision of the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus Our Lord.

That vision is expressed bluntly in the opening words of the Gospel of Mark, most straightforward of all the Gospels, to which Cardinal Ambrozic specially dedicated his scholarly work: “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” There is nothing fancy in that, but in those words we find direction for life. In dutiful service, we are daily to follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The Cardinal received many honours during his life, and played an important role in the universal Church as a Cardinal, most notably in his participation in the Conclave that elected Pope Benedict. In 2002 he welcomed the world to Toronto at World Youth Day. But the vision of hope that he lived and proclaimed was expressed more quietly and more profoundly through a life of daily fidelity to his mission as disciple, pastor, and apostle. He once wrote of what he expected in a priest: “I look for a simple readiness to sacrifice, a simple readiness to give of oneself .”

Whatever one’s vocation, that simple spirit of unobtrusive fidelity is the best way to proclaim: “Jesus is Lord.” The Lord is found not in the thunder or in the lightning, but in the still small voice of a sacrificial life.

In today’s Gospel, from the Gospel of Mark, we read of the way in which Jesus the Lord ended his time on earth in suffering, but as Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome sorrowfully approach the tomb to offer him the customary rites of burial, they see a young man who confounds and comforts them with the words: “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” Jesus is Lord, not a past memory but a living presence, he who rules the universe and pleads for us before the Heavenly Father as our great High Priest to whose service Cardinal Ambrozic dedicated his life.

Today we pray that as we sadly ponder the reality of earthly death we may gain wisdom of heart, to see more clearly how we should fill each precious moment of our own brief passage through this world with the love of God and of neighbour, with quiet, faithful service, every step of the way.

We pray for Cardinal Ambrozic, for God’s mercy upon him, and for the repose of his soul.

We thank God for the gift of the Cardinal’s earthly life, for his love of family and friends, for his sacrificial service as a priest of Jesus Christ. He does not merely live on in memory, for he is with the Lord, but we do remember him with love, and seek to live more truly as Christians by imitating his selfless dedication.

Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Photos: National Post, Reuters

Thousands of Catholics gather to bid farewell to Cardinal Ambrozic

Toronto’s Catholic community says goodbye to Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic

TORONTO (31 August 2011) – Thousands of Catholics have gathered today to pay their final respects in a Mass of Christian Burial (funeral) for the ninth Archbishop of Toronto. Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic died August 26, 2011 at the age of 81, following a lengthy illness with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.

In a telegram to Archbishop Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, read during the funeral Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral this morning, Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

“I recall with gratitude the Cardinal’s dedication and service to the Church in his adopted country. I join you and all who mourn him, including the members of the late Cardinal’s family, in commending his noble soul to the infinite mercy of God our loving Father.”

Aloysius Ambrozic first came to Canada as a young man from Slovenia, via a series of refugee camps, following the Second World War. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto on June 4, 1955 and served Catholics in this region for 56 years as a priest, bishop and archbishop. He completed a Doctorate in Theology (1970), was Dean of Studies at St. Augustine’s Seminary (1971-76). He was ordained as an Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto in 1976, was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Toronto in 1986 and succeeded Emmett Cardinal Carter as 9th Archbishop of Toronto on March 17, 1990. Pope John Paul II invested him as Cardinal on January 19, 1998.

Cardinal Ambrozic served on a number of Vatican committees related to immigration, culture, worship and the economy. He also hosted the largest gathering of Catholic youth in Canadian history, World Youth Day 2002, that culminated in the celebration of Mass by Pope John Paul II at Downsview Park for more than 750,000 pilgrims.

Among the dignitaries and church officials who confirmed their attendance prior to the funeral included: Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal; Msgr. Luca Lorusso, representing the Vatican in Canada; Most Rev. Anton Stres, President, Slovenian Bishops’ Conference; Hon. James Flaherty, Federal Minister of Finance; Lt.-Gov. of Ontario, David Onley; Hon. John Wilkinson, Provincial Minister of Environment; Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford; and Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.

Aug 28, 2011

Papal Telegram on Death of Cardinal Ambrozic

Below you will find the text of a telegram sent by Pope Benedict XVI to Archbishop Thomas Collins, on the passing of Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic.






Aug 27, 2011

Visitation & Funeral Details for Cardinal Ambrozic

Thanks to all those who have taken the time to send their condolences to the Ambrozic family and the Archdiocese on the passing of Cardinal Ambrozic. Details have now been confirmed for His Eminence's visitation and funeral Mass.

The body of Cardinal Ambrozic will arrive at St. Michael's Cathedral on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. At that time the Rite of Reception will be held.

His Eminence will lie in state for visitation at the cathedral Tuesday afternoon from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. with the Office for the Dead being celebrated at 8:30 p.m. All Tuesday events are open to the public who are most welcome to visit the cathedral to pay their respects.

The funeral Mass for Cardinal Ambrozic will take place on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Michael's Cathedral. Due to renovations currently underway at the cathedral, expected participation by up to 500 priests, family, friends, etc. there will be extremely limited public seating available.

In lieu of flowers, those who wish to pay tribute to the Cardinal are invited to donate to one of His Eminence's favourite charities, the Shepherds' Trust.

Aug 26, 2011

Catholic community mourns the loss of Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic

Catholic Community Mourns the Loss of Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic

Toronto (August 26, 2011). With great sadness, the Archdiocese announces that His Eminence, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, retired Archbishop of Toronto, died earlier today, after a lengthy illness, at the age of 81. The late Cardinal was a priest for 56 years, bishop for 35 years and served as 9th Archbishop of Toronto from 1990 to 2006.

Aloysius Ambrozic was born in 1930 in Dobrova, Slovenia, the second of seven children. In May 1945, the entire family fled to Austria, living in several refugee camps, where the young Ambrozic completed his high school education. In September 1948, the family immigrated to Canada and settled near Markham, Ontario. Shortly afterwards, Aloysius Ambrozic entered St. Augustine’s Seminary, a spiritual home he would return to often as a student, professor, bishop, archbishop and cardinal.

After almost 21 years as a diocesan priest, Fr. Ambrozic was named an Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Toronto in 1976. Bishop Ambozic served alongside Archbishop Philip Pocock and Emmett Cardinal Carter, before his appointment as Archbishop of Toronto on March 17, 1990. In January 1998, Pope John Paul II nominated him as Cardinal, a position that resulted in his participation in the conclave of 2005 that elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Ambrozic served on a number of Vatican committees related to immigration, culture, worship and the economy. He also hosted the largest gathering of Catholic youth in Canadian history, World Youth Day 2002, that culminated in the celebration of Mass by Pope John Paul II at Downsview Park for more than 750,000 pilgrims.

The Cardinal’s legacy is commemorated in several places throughout the GTA, including Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School in Brampton as well as the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence, the long-term care facility in Scarborough, where the Cardinal spent his final months.

Archbishop Thomas Collins, the cardinal’s successor as Archbishop of Toronto, offered his condolences to the Ambrozic family and Catholics across the Archdiocese:

“Cardinal Ambrozic's tremendous contributions to the spiritual life of the faithful of our Archdiocese and the heritage of his wisdom, his knowledge, and his love of the priesthood will remain with us all.”

The Cardinal will lie in state at St. Michael’s Cathedral for a public viewing, dates and times to be determined. His funeral Mass will also take place at the Cathedral, the mother church of the Archdiocese.

An online tribute to Cardinal Ambrozic including photos, a complete biography and other relevant information can be found at:

Aug 24, 2011

An Unexpected Pilgrimage...

Fresh off the buzz of World Youth Day, pilgrims from across the Archdiocese return home this week with the memories of WYD deeply marinated into their souls. This pilgrimage, with its various ups and downs, is one that they will never forget.

If you had a chance to follow a few of the suggested blogs on our local pilgrim travels, you may learn that many if not all of the Archdiocesan pilgrims experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows, most notably, being turned away from the evening vigil. Local police sealed many of the entrances with estimates indicating as many as 250,000 pilgrims didn't make it into the airfield that would become home for 24 hours.

After all the fundraising, spiritual formation, days in the diocese, early days of WYD, no doubt this was a real point of frustration for the young people. Many tweeted or blogged about their disappointment. It's pretty interesting if you stop for a second to consider that there was 40 degree celsius heat, a freak rainstorm complete with lightning that prompted the Holy Father to cut short his remarks and yet these folks were DISAPPOINTED they weren't in the middle of it all? Sounds kind of crazy doesn't it?

Yes, pilgrimage takes on new meaning when you're in the midst of it. The spirit that is present when you're with one million of your closest friends, watching the Holy Father speed by on the Popemobile, the feeling of unity with other Catholics, it's all contagious.

Yet I suspect that disappointment will find fruits in other ways. It may take days, weeks or months but in hindsight, I have no doubt these young pilgrims will take away something positive from the initial disappointment.

Returning to their hotel, the Archdiocesan folks made the best of things and Pilgrim of the Week award definitely went out to Bishop William McGrattan, one of our auxiliaries who made it into the vigil site only to leave when he learned that, for the others, there was "no room at the inn." His Excellency made his way back from the airfield to track down the Toronto pilgrims and accompany them to their accommodation.

The next morning he celebrated Mass for the young people and when it came time for the homily, blackberry in hand, he shared the message of the Holy Father with the pilgrims. Who said technology didn't have its benefits?

Yet it got me to thinking - when we're on pilgrimage, we're on a journey - most times we know the destination we're heading towards. How often in our lives, though, do we start off heading in one direction only to end up in a completely different spot. Whether it be our careers, vocations or other difficult decisions in life, perhaps God is gently tapping us on the shoulder and saying, "wrong way". Even when we don't completely understand or accept it, we veer off course only to learn later that the final destination was actually where we were intended to be.

So for all those who experienced the frustration of not getting to the summit so to speak, perhaps the view you had in the end was just as beautiful. Thanks to all the pilgrims, leaders, clergy and bishops who accompanied our young people on this journey. The bond will forever remain among those who experienced Madrid 2011.

If you haven't already had a chance to read some of the Holy Father's talks, take the time. There's much wisdom in what Pope Benedict had to say in Madrid. Sometimes we need to hear it or read it once, twice, rinse, spin and repeat.

So as we often say, the only constant is change - this proved true once again for World Youth Day 2011. But in the end, the greatest challenges may turn out to be the moments that will remain with you as milestones in your spiritual journey.

After all, there's another story about no room at the inn and that turned out to be pretty special...

Photo: Vanessa Santilli

Aug 21, 2011

Full Papal Text - Final Mass - WYD Madrid 2011

Below you will find the text from both the greeting before Mass and the homily of Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. At the end of Mass, the Pontiff also announced that the next WYD would take place in two years time, 2013, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The two year change is likely due to the fact that Brazil is hosting soccer's World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016.



Cuatro Vientos Air Base, Madrid
Sunday, 21 August 2011

Dear Young Friends:

I have been thinking a lot about you during this time in which we have been separated. I hope you have been able to get some sleep in spite of the weather. I am sure that since dawn you have raised up your eyes more than once, and not only your eyes but above all your hearts, turning this occasion into prayer. God turns all things into good. With this confidence and trusting in the Lord who never abandons us, let us begin our Eucharistic celebration, full of enthusiasm and strong in our faith.



Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open

the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received. Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better. They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?

The Gospel we have just heard (cf. Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing Christ. The first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion. When Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before him. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.

Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”. Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.

Jesus’ responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. What do these words mean? Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God.

The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.

Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.

Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.

Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection. I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.

Aug 20, 2011

Full Papal Text - Evening Vigil @ WYD Madrid 2011

With one million pilgrims gathered for the traditional evening prayer vigil at Cuatro Vientos Airport in Madrid, the Holy Father joined them for prayers Saturday night. An unexpected thunder storm (with lightning) forced the Holy Father to cut short his speech. Below you'll find the full text as prepared by the Holy Father. His truncated message essentially consisted of greeting pilgrims in the various language groups.

Scorching heat during the day, "baptized" pilgrims by night, let's pray for clear skies Sunday morning.



Cuatro Vientos Air Base, Madrid
Saturday, 20 August

Dear Young Friends,

I greet all of you, especially the young people who have asked me their questions, and I thank them for the sincerity with which they set forth their concerns, that express the longing which all of you have to achieve something great in life, something which can bring you fulfilment and happiness.

How can a young person be true to the faith and yet continue to aspire to high ideals in today’s society? In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus gives us an answer to this urgent question: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in his love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.

If you abide in the love of Christ, rooted in the faith, you will encounter, even amid setbacks and suffering, the source of true happiness and joy. Faith does not run counter to your highest ideals; on the contrary, it elevates and perfects those ideals. Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.

Nowadays, although the dominant culture of relativism all around us has given up on the search for truth, even if it is the highest aspiration of the human spirit, we need to speak with courage and humility of the universal significance of Christ as the Saviour of humanity and the source of hope for our lives. He who took upon himself our afflictions, is well acquainted with the mystery of human suffering and manifests his loving presence in those who suffer. They in their turn, united to the passion of Christ, share closely in his work of redemption. Furthermore, our disinterested attention towards the sick and the forgotten will always be a humble and warm testimony of God’s compassionate regard.

Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.

During this prayer vigil, I urge you to ask God to help you find your vocation in society and in the Church, and to persevere in that vocation with joy and fidelity. It is a good thing to open our hearts to Christ’s call and to follow with courage and generosity the path he maps out for us.

The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24), find fulfilment in a profound life of communion. It is a prospect that is both bright and demanding. It is a project for true love which is daily renewed and deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, one marked by complete self-giving. For this reason, to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love.

Christ calls others to follow him more closely in the priesthood or in consecrated life. It is hard to put into words the happiness you feel when you know that Jesus seeks you, trusts in you, and with his unmistakable voice also says to you: “Follow me!” (cf. Mk 2:14).

Dear young people, if you wish to discover and to live faithfully the form of life to which the Lord is calling each of you, you must remain in his love as his friends. And how do we preserve friendship except through frequent contact, conversation, being together in good times and bad? Saint Teresa of Jesus used to say that prayer is just such “friendly contact, often spending time alone with the one who we know loves us” (cf. Autobiography, 8).

And so I now ask you to “abide” in the adoration of Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. I ask you to enter into conversation with him, to bring before him your questions and to listen to his voice. Dear friends, I pray for you with all my heart. And I ask you to pray for me. Tonight let us ask the Lord to grant that, attracted by the beauty of his love, we may always live faithfully as his disciples. Amen.

[French] Dear young French-speakers, be proud of the gift of faith which you have received, as it will illumine your life at every moment. Draw strength from the faith of your neighbours, from the faith of the Church! Through faith we are grounded in Christ. Gather with others to deepen it, be faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist, the mystery of faith par excellence. Christ alone can respond to your aspirations. Let yourselves be seized by God, so that your presence in the Church will give her new life!

[English] Dear young people, in these moments of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, let us raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ, the Lord of our lives and of the future. May he pour out his Spirit upon us and upon the whole Church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world.

[German] Dear young Christians from the German-speaking countries! Deep in our hearts we yearn for what is grand and beautiful in life. Do not let your desires and aspirations dissipate, but ground them in Jesus Christ. He himself is the sure foundation, the point of reference, for building up your life.

[Italian] I now turn to the Italian-speaking young people. Dear friends, this vigil will remain as an unforgettable experience in your lives. Guard the flame which God has lit in your hearts tonight. Never let it go out, renew it each day, share it with your contemporaries who live in darkness and who are seeking a light for their way. Thank you! Until tomorrow morning!

[Portuguese] My dear friends, I invite each of you to enter into a personal dialogue with Christ, sharing with him your hesitations and above all listening to his voice. The Lord is here and he is calling you! Young friends, it is good to hear within us the word of Jesus and to follow in his footsteps. Ask the Lord to help you to discover your vocation in life and in the Church, and to persevere in it with joy and fidelity, knowing that he never abandons you or betrays you! He remains with us until the end of the world.

[Polish] Dear young friends from Poland! This prayer vigil is filled with the presence of Christ. Grounded in his love, draw near to him with the flame of your faith. He will fill your hearts with his life. Build your lives on Christ and on his Gospel. I willingly bless all of you.

* * *

Final greeting of the Holy Father

Dear Young Friends,

Before I leave you, let me say good night to all of you. Rest well. Thank you for the sacrifice you are making and which I know you are offering generously to the Lord. We will meet again, God willing, at the celebration of Mass tomorrow. I will see all of you there. Thank you very much.

Photos: World Youth Day 2011

Full Papal Text - Mass with 4,500 Seminarians - WYD 2011 Madrid

Below you will find the english translation of the Pope's homily to 4,500 seminarians at World Youth Day 2011 on Saturday, August 20.


Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena, Madrid
Saturday, 20 August 2011

Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Religious,
Dear Rectors and Formators,
Dear Seminarians,
Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to celebrate Holy Mass with you who aspire to be Christ’s priests for the service of the Church and of man, and I thank you for the kind words with which you welcomed me. Today, this holy cathedral church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena is like a great Upper Room, where the Lord greatly desires to celebrate the Passover with you who wish one day to preside in his name at the mysteries of salvation. Looking at you, I again see proof of how Christ continues to call young disciples and to make them his apostles, thus keeping alive the mission of the Church and the offer of the Gospel to the world. As seminarians you are on the path towards a sacred goal: to continue the mission which Christ received from the Father. Called by him, you have followed his voice and, attracted by his loving gaze, you now advance towards the sacred ministry. Fix your eyes upon him who through his incarnation is the supreme revelation of God to the world and who through his resurrection faithfully fulfills his promise. Give thanks to him for this sign of favour in which he holds each one of you.

The first reading which we heard shows us Christ as the new and eternal priest who made of himself a perfect offering. The response to the psalm may be aptly applied to him since, at his coming into the world, he said to the Father, “Here I am to do your will” (cf. Ps 39:8). He tried to please him in all things: in his words and actions, along the way or welcoming sinners. His life was one of service and his longing was a constant prayer, placing himself in the name of all before the Father as the first-born son of many brothers and sisters. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews states that, by a single offering, he brought to perfection for all time those of us who are called to share his sonship (cf. Heb 10:14).

The Eucharist, whose institution is mentioned in the Gospel just proclaimed (cf. Lk 22:14-20), is the real expression of that unconditional offering of Jesus for all, even for those who betrayed him. It was the offering of his body and blood for the life of mankind and for the forgiveness of sins. His blood, a sign of life, was given to us by God as a covenant, so that we might apply the force of his life wherever death reigns due to our sins, and thus destroy it. Christ’s body broken and his blood outpoured – the surrender of his freedom – became through these Eucharistic signs the new source of mankind’s redeemed freedom. In Christ, we have the promise of definitive redemption and the certain hope of future blessings. Through Christ we know that we are not walking towards the abyss, the silence of nothingness or death, but are rather pilgrims on the way to a promised land, on the way to him who is our end and our beginning.

Dear friends, you are preparing yourselves to become apostles with Christ and like Christ, and to accompany your fellow men and women along their journey as companions and servants.

How should you behave during these years of preparation? First of all, they should be years of interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study and of gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church. A Church which is community and institution, family and mission, the creation of Christ through his Holy Spirit, as well as the result of those of us who shape it through our holiness and our sins. God, who does not hesitate to make of the poor and of sinners his friends and instruments for the redemption of the human race, willed it so. The holiness of the Church is above all the objective holiness of the very person of Christ, of his Gospel and his sacraments, the holiness of that power from on high which enlivens and impels it. We have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction between the sign that we are and the reality that we wish to signify.

Meditate well upon this mystery of the Church, living the years of your formation in deep joy, humbly, clear-mindedly and with radical fidelity to the Gospel, in an affectionate relation to the time spent and the people among whom you live. No one chooses the place or the people to whom he is sent, and every time has its own challenges; but in every age God gives the right grace to face and overcome those challenges with love and realism. That is why, no matter the circumstances in which he finds and however difficult they may be, the priest must grow in all kinds of good works, keeping alive within him the words spoken on his Ordination day, by which he was exhorted to model his life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.

To be modeled on Christ, dear seminarians, is to be identified ever more closely with him who, for our sake, became servant, priest and victim. To be modeled on him is in fact the task upon which the priest spends his entire life. We already know that it is beyond us and we will not fully succeed but, as St Paul says, we run towards the goal, hoping to reach it (cf. Phil 3:12-14).

That said, Christ the High Priest is also the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep, even giving his life for them (cf. Jn 10:11). In order to liken yourselves to the Lord in this as well, your heart must mature while in seminary, remaining completely open to the Master. This openness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, inspires the decision to live in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and, leaving aside the world’s goods, live in austerity of life and sincere obedience, without pretence.

Ask him to let you imitate him in his perfect charity towards all, so that you do not shun the excluded and sinners, but help them convert and return to the right path. Ask him to teach you how to be close to the sick and the poor in simplicity and generosity. Face this challenge without anxiety or mediocrity, but rather as a beautiful way of living our human life in gratuitousness and service, as witnesses of God made man, messengers of the supreme dignity of the human person and therefore its unconditional defenders. Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surroundings that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.

Under the guidance of your formators, open your hearts to the light of the Lord, to see if this path which demands courage and authenticity is for you. Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts.

With this confidence, learn from him who described himself as meek and humble of heart, leaving behind all earthly desire for his sake so that, rather than pursuing your own good, you build up your brothers and sisters by the way you live, as did the patron saint of the diocesan clergy of Spain, St John of Avila. Moved by his example, look above all to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests. She will know how to mould your hearts according to the model of Christ, her divine Son, and she will teach you how to treasure for ever all that he gained on Calvary for the salvation of the world. Amen.

Aug 19, 2011

Full Papal Text - Way of the Cross - WYD 2011 - Madrid

Below you will find the english translation of Pope Benedict's address to pilgrims gathered in Madrid for World Youth Day 2011, following the Stations of the Cross, August 19, 2011.

MADRID - 19.08.2011 - 19:30
Plaza de Cibeles
Via Crucis
Official translation

Dear Young People,

We have celebrated this Way of the Cross with fervour and devotion, following Christ along the path of his passion and death. The commentaries of the Little Sisters of the Cross, who serve the poor and most needy, have helped us enter into the mystery of Christ’s glorious Cross, wherein is found God’s true wisdom which judges the world and judges those who consider themselves wise (cf. 1 Cor 1:17-19). We have also been assisted on this journey to Calvary by our contemplation of these wonderful images from the religious patrimony of the Spanish dioceses.

In these images, faith and art combine so as to penetrate our heart and summon us to conversion. When faith’s gaze is pure and authentic, beauty places itself at its service and is able to depict the mysteries of our salvation in such a way as to move us profoundly and transform our hearts, as Saint Teresa of Jesus herself experienced while contemplating an image of the wounded Christ (cf. Autobiography, 9:1).

As we were making our way with Jesus towards the place of his sacrifice on Mount Calvary, the words of Saint Paul came to mind: “Christ loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). In the face of such disinterested love, we find ourselves asking, filled with wonder and gratitude: What can we do for him? What response shall we give him? Saint John puts it succinctly: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16).

Christ’s passion urges us to take upon our own shoulders the sufferings of the world, in the certainty that God is not distant or far removed from man and his troubles. On the contrary, he became one of us “in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way — in flesh and blood ... hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God's compassionate love — and so the star of hope rises” (Spe Salvi, 39).

Dear young friends, may Christ’s love for us increase your joy and encourage you to go in search of those less fortunate. You are open to the idea of sharing your lives with others, so be sure not to pass by on the other side in the face of human suffering, for it is here that God expects you to give of your very best: your capacity for love and compassion.

The different forms of suffering that have unfolded before our eyes in the course of this Way of the Cross are the Lord’s way of summoning us to spend our lives following in his footsteps and becoming signs of his consolation and salvation. “To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves — these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself” (ibid.).
Let us eagerly welcome these teachings and put them into practice. Let us look upon Christ, hanging on the harsh wood of the Cross, and let us ask him to teach us this mysterious wisdom of the Cross, by which man lives. The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving in love that extends even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life. The Father wanted to show his love for us through the embrace of his crucified Son: crucified out of love. The Cross, by its shape and its meaning, represents this love of both the Father and the Son for men. Here we recognize the icon of supreme love, which teaches us to love what God loves and in the way that he loves: this is the Good News that gives hope to the world.

Let us turn our gaze now to the Virgin Mary, who was given to us on Calvary to be our Mother, and let us ask her to sustain us with her loving protection along the path of life, particularly when we pass through the night of suffering, so that we may be able to remain steadfast, as she did, at the foot of the Cross.

Photos: World Youth Day 2011

Full Papal Text - Meeting with young women religious - WYD Madrid

Below is the english translation of the Holy Father's talk to young women religious on August 19 in Madrid, Spain as part of World Youth Day 2011.

SAN LORENZO DE EL ESCORIAL - 19.08.2011 - 11:30
Patio de los Reyes
Meeting with women religious
Official translation

Dear Young Women Religious,

As part of the World Youth Day which we are celebrating in Madrid, I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet you who have consecrated your youth to the Lord, and I thank you for the kind greeting you have given me. I also thank the Archbishop of Madrid, who arranged for this meeting in the evocative setting of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Its famous library preserves important editions of the sacred Scriptures and the monastic rules of various religious families, yet your own lives of fidelity to the calling you have received is itself a precious means of preserving the word of the Lord, which resounds in your various spiritual traditions.

Dear Sisters, every charism is an evangelical word which the Holy Spirit recalls to the Church’s memory (cf. Jn 14:26). It is not by accident that consecrated life “is born from hearing the word of God and embracing the Gospel as its rule of life. A life devoted to following Christ in his chastity, poverty and obedience becomes a living ‘exegesis’ of God’s word… Every charism and every rule springs from it and seeks to be an expression of it, thus opening up new pathways of Christian living marked by the radicalism of the Gospel” (Verbum Domini, 83).

This Gospel radicalism means being “rooted and built up in Christ, and firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). In the consecrated life, this means going to the very root of the love of Jesus Christ with an undivided heart, putting nothing ahead of this love (cf. SAINT BENEDICT, Rule, IV, 21) and being completely devoted to him, the Bridegroom, as were the Saints, like Rose of Lima and Rafael Arnáiz, the young patrons of this World Youth Day.

Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. This is all the more important today when “we see a certain ‘eclipse of God’ taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity” (Message for the 2011 World Youth Day, 1). In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.

This Gospel radicalism proper to the consecrated life finds expression in filial communion with the Church, the home of the children of God, built by Christ: communion with her Pastors who set forth in the Lord’s name the deposit of faith received from the apostles, the ecclesial Magisterium and the Christian tradition; communion with your own religious families as you gratefully preserve their authentic spiritual patrimony while valuing other charisms; and communion with other members of the Church, such as the laity, who are called to make their own specific calling a testimony to the one Gospel of the Lord.

Finally, Gospel radicalism finds expression in the mission God has chosen to entrust to us: from the contemplative life, which welcomes into its cloisters the word of God in eloquent silence and adores his beauty in the solitude which he alone fills, to the different paths of the apostolic life, in whose furrows the seed of the Gospel bears fruit in the education of children and young people, the care of the sick and elderly, the pastoral care of families, commitment to respect for life, witness to the truth and the proclamation of peace and charity, mission work and the new evangelization, and so many other sectors of the Church’s apostolate.

Dear Sisters, this is the witness of holiness to which God is calling you, as you follow Jesus Christ closely and unconditionally in consecration, communion and mission. The Church needs your youthful fidelity, rooted and built up in Christ. Thank you for your generous, total and perpetual “yes” to the call of the Loved One. I pray that the Virgin Mary may sustain and accompany your consecrated youth, with the lively desire that it will challenge, nourish and illumine all young people.

With these sentiments, I ask God to repay abundantly the generous contribution which consecrated life has made to this World Youth Day. In his name, and with great gratitude, I give you my affectionate blessing.

Photo: World Youth Day 2011

Aug 18, 2011

Full Papal Text - Welcome ceremony with young people - WYD Madrid

Below you'll find the address of Pope Benedict XVI to the youth gathered for the welcome ceremony with the Holy Father at World Youth Day Madrid, August 18, 2011

MADRID - 18.08.2011 - 19:30
Plaza de Cibeles
Welcoming celebration by the young people - Speech
Official translation

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the kind words addressed to me by the young people representing the five continents. And I salute with affection all of you gathered here, young people from Oceania, Africa, America, Asia and Europe; and also those unable to be here. I always keep you very much in my heart and pray for you. God has given me the grace to see and hear you for myself and, as we gather together, to listen to his word.

In the reading which has just been proclaimed, we heard a passage from the Gospel which talks of welcoming the words of Jesus and putting them into practice. There are words which serve only to amuse, as fleeting as an empty breeze; others, to an extent, inform us; those of Jesus, on the other hand, must reach our hearts, take root and bloom there all our lives. If not, they remain empty and become ephemeral. They do not bring us to him and, as a result, Christ stays remote, just one voice among the many others around us which are so familiar.

Furthermore, the Master who speaks teaches, not something learned from others, but that which he himself is, the only one who truly knows the path of man towards God, because he is the one who opened it up for us, he made it so that we might have authentic lives, lives which are always worth living, in every circumstance, and which not even death can destroy. The Gospel continues, explaining these things with the evocative image of someone who builds on solid rock, resistant to the onslaught of adversity, and in contrast to someone who builds on sand - we would say today in what appears a paradise - but which collapses with the first gust of wind and falls into ruins.

Dear young people, listen closely to the words of the Lord, that they may be for you “spirit and life” (Jn 6:63), roots which nourish your being, a rule of life which likens us - poor in spirit, thirsting for justice, merciful, pure in heart, lovers of peace - to the person of Christ. Listen regularly every day as if he were the one friend who does not deceive, the one with whom we wish to share the path of life. Of course, you know that when we do not walk beside Christ our guide, we get lost on other paths, like the path of our blind and selfish impulses, or the path of flattering but self-serving suggestions, deceiving and fickle, which leave emptiness and frustration in their wake.

Use these days to know Christ better and to make sure that, rooted in him, your enthusiasm and happiness, your desire to go further, to reach the heights, even God himself, always hold a sure future, because the fullness of life has already been placed within you. Let that life grow with divine grace, generously and without half-measures, as you remain steadfast in your aim for holiness. And, in the face of our weaknesses which sometimes overwhelm us, we can rely on the mercy of the Lord who is always ready to help us again and who offers us pardon in the sacrament of Penance.

If you build on solid rock, not only your life will be solid and stable, but it will also help project the light of Christ shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity, presenting a valid alternative to all those who have fallen short, because the essentials in their lives were inconsistent; to all those who are content to follow fashionable ideas, they take shelter in the here and now, forgetting true justice, or they take refuge in their own opinions instead of seeking the simple truth.

Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves. They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment. These temptations are always lying in wait. It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God.

We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation. God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with him and love him. Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in him, we give wings to our freedom. Is this not the great reason for our joy? Isn’t this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?

Dear friends: be prudent and wise, build your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ. This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you fear and peace will reign in your hearts. Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others. They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe.

He died for us all, rising that we might have life, and now, from the throne of the Father, he accompanies all men and women, watching continually over each one of us.

I commend the fruits of this World Youth Day to the most holy Virgin Mary, who said “Yes” to the will of God, and teaches us a unique example of fidelity to her divine son, whom she followed to his death upon the Cross. Let us meditate upon this more deeply in the Stations of the Cross. And let us pray that, like her, our “Yes” to Christ today may also be an unconditional “Yes” to his friendship, both at the end of this Day and throughout our entire lives. Thank you very much.

Photos: World Youth Day 2011

Pope Arrives in Madrid for World Youth Day!

Shortly before noon Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Madrid, Spain to join the hundreds of thousands gathered for World Youth Day 2011. As is his traditional custom, the Holy Father held a mini press conference on board his flight from Italy to Spain, answering a number of questions posed by journalists. You can find a complete transcript of his remarks here.

In his first address at Barajas airport in Madrid, the Holy Father challenged the young people gathered for WYD's to "let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord." The Pope also spoke of the numerous challenges facing young people in the world today and the need to find God in the midst of the chaos. One example of his advice to the young pilgrims:

"With God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected...World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure and youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and the world."

You can read the entire text of the Holy Father's address at the airport here.

Later today (1:30 p.m. EST or 7:30 p.m. in Madrid), the Holy Father will address hundreds of thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims at Plaza de Cibeles.

Meanwhile, pilgrims are participating in catechetical sessions which, for many, are highlights of the WYD experience. Bishops from around the world have the chance to connect with young people, bridging the gap between church hierarchy and young people. You can catch a reflection by Toronto pilgrim Stefanie Romano on Wednesday's catechesis here.

If you've been trying to access the WYD official website, patience is the key. In addition to extremely high traffic volumes, hackers have got to the site prompting numerous delays and making it necessary for organizers to pull down the website periodically. Those who have been to WYD know, the only constant is change and glitches both large and small are to be expected.
As the Canadian pilgrims and others around the world brave daily temperatures in the 30's (celsius) keep them in their prayers as the grand celebrations begin to unfold. The Holy Father described the youth of the world as a "pure and youthful breeze" - let's hope that spirit keeps them cool in the days ahead...

Aug 15, 2011

Your Guide To Following World Youth Day 2011

It's been just over 9 years since Canada and Toronto welcomed hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world for the celebration of World Youth Day (WYD) 2002. While the action this summer takes place literally across the ocean, several time zones and thousands of km's away, it may be somewhat challenging to get into the spirit of WYD 2011 in Madrid, Spain, taking place August 16-21.

That said, if you'd like to take a "virtual pilgrimage" it won't be hard to spend countless hours following the excitement of one of the largest Catholic events you'll see in your lifetime. So for those looking for their WYD 2011 "fix" here's how you can stay on top of the proceedings:

Official World Youth Day 2011 Site - the official spot for the latest info as the event unfolds and plenty of background information for journalists, Catholic youth or the young at heart interested in following the action. Fun features include an interactive world map where you can zoom in to your country of choice to see how many are registered. You can also check out the multimedia archive that includes downloads of official theme songs for WYD past and present along with lyric pages in case you want to sing along.Salt & Light Television - World Youth Day Central - Canada's Catholic television station has a full docket of coverage planned both through their television channel and a special portal set up for WYD, complete with blogging, multi-media and pilgrim reflections. A special section of the site WYDTV will allow online visitors the chance to "sit in" on celebrations with up to 15,000 Canadian pilgrims, hear lectures (Religious Freedom and the Media), listen to concerts and, of course, witness footage from the Papal events in Spain.

Toronto pilgrim blogs:

With almost 100 pilgrims participating in the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Catholic Youth pilgrimage to World Youth Day and hundreds more traveling with their own parish groups, you'll want to capture a flavour of what it's like for these young people as WYD unfolds before their eyes. Two blogs worth following will help you stay connected to the pilgrim experience in Spain:

1) Vanessa Santilli - Youth Speak News Editor and journalist for the Catholic Register, Vanessa is participating in her first pilgrim experience, traveling with the Youth Office and its contingent. Vanessa will be blogging and tweeting from Madrid so be sure to follow her on twitter or track her blog throughout the week. A special website from the Register has been created so you can follow all of Vanessa's reflections on WYD. You can follow her tweets here.

2) Stefanie Romano - A 3 time WYD veteran from Woodbridge, Stefanie is keeping an online journal/blog of her experiences in Madrid as one of the leaders of the Office of Catholic Youth pilgrimage. A young adult passionate about her Catholic faith, she's already included some challenging experiences faced by the delegation, delays, long travel days and moments of inspiration, elation and deflation. You can find Stefanie's blog here.

Of course, we'll do our best to tweet or update highlights from the event in this blog space as well. Suffice it to say, we're in good hands with the many resources at our disposal to highlight this celebration of faith for the global church.

Let's not forget in addition to the half million pilgrims in attendance, it will be most interesting to hear what the Pontiff has to say to the youth of the world and, by default, the rest of us listening in. His talks at recent WYD's have been insightful, inspiring and thought-provoking.

Don't forget if you're staying in the city, the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Youth is holding its annual youth rally up at the Martyrs' Shrine to coincide with WYD weekend, August 19-21. The weekend will mirror the WYD experience with catechesis for high school aged and young adult pilgrims, evening prayer, adoration, fun activities and a Sunday morning Mass at the Shrine. You can find more details here.

There's every reason we should all be engaged in this unique event. No doubt many parishioners contributed to fundraising efforts, others offering prayers for a safe and rewarding pilgrimage. I can still recall my first WYD in Rome 2000, about to arrive in St. Peter's Square for opening ceremonies with a million people.

The heat was blistering and as we approached the square we moved through a residential area. An elderly lady of about 80 appeared on her balcony and when the pilgrims chanted "acqua" for water, she disappeared into her tiny apartment, only to appear moments later with what had to be a dixie cup. She proceeded to pour it from her fourth floor balcony onto thousands of pilgrims below, with maybe 10 of them catching any drops at all.

Yet she returned to her apartment at least half a dozen times before I walked past, gently dousing pilgrims with each baptism.

Yes, that's what WYD's are all about. Whether you're a pilgrim, senior watching on the tube, riding the subway with a chorus of off-key pilgrims, we're all a part of WYD. So to all who will participate, baptize, pray and contribute to the week's festivities, celebrate every moment and bless each other along the way. You may even find a dixie cup along the way...

Photo: Tim Lee Loy, WYD 2011

Aug 9, 2011

6,000 Canadians, 500,000 Pilgrims, One Pope.

The official Archdiocesan delegation departed for their pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2011 on Sunday, preparing for what many refer to as the "Catholic Olympics", the largest gathering of young people held every few years.

World Youth Day 2011 gets underway August 16-21 and more than 500,000 pilgrims from around the world are expected to attend. The Toronto pilgrims will spend a few days in Rome before heading to a smaller community outside of Madrid to participate in the Days in the Diocese, an opportunity to encounter local youth leading up to WYD celebrations.

A tale of the tape so to speak for Canadian involvement in this year inlcludes the following:

**23 Canadian bishops have registered to attend this year's WYD and they represent dioceses literally from coast to coast. Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto William McGrattan is flying the colours for our diocese, accompanying the delegation of close to 100 pilgrims traveling with the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Youth. Five Canadian bishops will offer catechetical sessions at WYD - in french, Archbishop Lacroix (Quebec City), Bishop Durocher (Cornwall/Alexandria) and Bishop Gendron (Saint-Jean Longueuil) and english catechesis will be offered by Archbishop Miller (Vancouver) and Archbishop Smith (Edmonton).

**6,000 Canadian pilgrims are registered to attend World Youth Day 2011. Aside from the several hundred Archdiocesan pilgrims from the greater Toronto Area, the Archdiocese of Vancouver has more 510 pilgrims enroute, the Archdiocese of Edmonton 470 and the Archdiocese of Montreal has more than 1,000 registered from throughout Quebec.

**Leading the way in overall registration (no surprise) are many European countries with their close proximity to Spain. Italy has more than 90,000 pilgrims registered with host country Spain coming in at about 83,000, France with 50,000 the USA with 30,000, Germany with 16,000 and Australia, host of World Youth Day 2008 sending 4,300pilgrims across the ocean.

**Registration is open to those 15-30 years old with the average age of the WYD pilgrim coming in at 23.9 years old. The split at present is 43% female, 57% male.

**In addition to numerous local gatherings and activities among Archdiocesan pilgrims, North American delegates will have an opportunity to gather in a special space dubbed, "Love and Life Site: An Oasis at World Youth Day 2011". The setting will be one of Madrid's premier sports and concert stadiums with seating for up 15,000 and, most imporantly, in Madrid's hot summer, will be fully air conditioned.

The space is a joint sponsorship between the Knights of Columbus, Sisters of Life, Holy Cross Family Ministries and Salt & Light Television. One may recall the atmosphere at Exhibition Place during WYD 2002 to draw a reasonable comparison.

For the first time in WYD history, there will be a celebration for all Canadian pilgrims, to be held on August 16, complete with morning prayer, music, testimonies and greetings from Archbishop Prendergast, Archbishop Smith and the Canadian Ambassador to Spain. In short, this is a big deal!

For those who may need a little background on WYD's, the events were the brainchild of the late Blessed Pope John Paul II, who, in 1984, decided to invite the youth of the world to come together to celebrate their faith, diversity and all that the church has to offer. WYD's include teaching sessions from bishops around the world offered in language groups (english, spanish, chinese, etc.). This also provides a chance for bishops to hear from the youth of the church and for the young people to get to know their bishops a bit better.

Activities aside from catechesis include a youth festival, highlighting cultural, musical, theatrical and other artistic presentations with literally hundreds of events taking place during WYD.

Many Canadians will remember the journey of the WYD Cross in our own country,akin to the Olympic Flame of the event, criss crossing Canada in the lead-up to WYD 2002. The cross has traveled throughout the world to places of faith and places where the spark of hope may be needed. It's been to prisons, night clubs, seniors centre, city halls, malls and countless churches and other historical sites.

It's often been said the event is so big that even the Pope is a guest, arriving at key moments to energize and engage the masses, leaving pearls of wisdom for pilgrims to reflect on both at WYD and beyond. Many a vocation seed has been planted at World Youth Day. If you attend the annual Ordinandi Dinner in Toronto, you'll hear the stories of many seminarians inspired by what they experienced at past WYD's.

Pope Benedict will preside at the Stations of the Cross (August 19) as well as the evening prayer vigil on Saturday (August 20) and the closing Mass (August 21) which will take place at the Cuatro Vientos airfield in Madrid. The Holy Father will also celebrate a mass for seminarians and meet with young religious sisters and more than 1,000 young university professors during his time in Madrid.

Having attended the last four World Youth Days, I can attest that it's an experience unlike any other and that each WYD has its own unique challenges and opportunities. We've got plenty of local pilgrims on the ground who will help provide insights on their experiences as they unfold. Over the next week, we'll fill you in on how to track the various blogs, tweets and other social media as the event unfolds.

So as final preparations are underway, we offer our thoughts and prayers for all who will be planning and participating in this historical pilgrimage. And for anyone on the ground in Spain, in addition to prayers and your rosary, don't forget that water bottle. The river of faith will be flowing - make sure to drink those waters literally whenever possible!

Photos: WYD 2011

Aug 4, 2011

600 Women on the Way to Toronto...

More than 600 women from across Canada will be making their way to Toronto in the coming days to take part in this year's Catholic Women's League National Convention which takes place August 14-17. For many parishes, the CWL are a staple, for almost a century providing support to strengthen the faith communities in which they live. Some will joke that the "ladies" are all about tea and cookies - I can certainly attest to enjoying their hospitality after many funerals. However, they are so much more than that...

The CWL of 2011 is about a lot more than receptions in church halls, although their presence and support of families who have just lost loved ones is a tremendous example of compassion and outreach. A quick read of one of their recent issues of their official publication, "The Canadian League", included stories tackling numerous hot button issues including child poverty, corporate responsibility of Canadian mining companies, palliative care, hospice, prostitution and other important resolutions brought forward by CWL members.

The publication also highlights the intense work being done at the local level by councils thorughout the country. These are women of action and they're not afraid to step forward, bringing along with them the voices of tens of thousands of members from across Canada. You can learn more about the CWL through their national website here or for Ontarians through the provincial web presence here.

In fact, every year a delegation travels to Ottawa to meet with our political leaders to discuss issues of great relevance. The 2010 visit included meetings with the Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance as well as numerous other Chiefs of Staff, opposition members and other government officials. Now that's some substance to sink your teeth into.

In action for over 90 years in Canada, the CWL continues to be one of the most visible and engaged lay movements in the country. Their manadate is clear, as outlined on their national website:

The objectives of the League shall be to unite Catholic women of Canada:

to achieve individual and collective spiritual development.
to promote the teachings of the Catholic church.
to exemplify the Christian ideal in home and family life.
to protect the sanctity of human life.
to enhance the role of women in church and society.
to recognize the human dignity of all people everywhere.
to uphold and defend Christian education and values in the modern world.
to contribute to the understanding and growth of religious freedom, social justice, peace and harmony.

Of particular note for CWL councils in the Archdiocese of Toronto is their intense commitment to prayer, especially in the area of vocations. Each year at the annual Ordinandi Dinner, a "spiritual bouquet" is presented to the semiarians on the cusp of priesthood with literally tens of thousands of rosaries, novenas, countless hours of eucharistic adoration and other prayers offered for their vocation. No doubt these prayers are going on throughout the country in other dioceses as well.

For this year's national gathering in Toronto, keynote speakers will include Dr. Nancy Reeves, a registered clinical psychologist, spiritual director, best selling author and internationally respected workshop facilitator. She will be joined by Linnea Good who is called the “contemporary musical voice of the emerging church in Canada. They will speak on the topic: “The poor have good news brought to them."
In addition to educational and business sessions the delegates will come together in prayer and fellowship at two of Toronto’s historic churches with the opening Eucharistic celebration at St. Paul’s Basilica and the closing Mass taking place at St Michael’s Cathedral.

Planning has been underway for more than a year on this conference and our prayers and best wishes go out to all involved. Added to the stress of convention planning is the fact that in the last couple of weeks, the CWL National office endured a fire that temporarily prevented staff from operating out of their national base in Winnipeg.

We can't underestimate the powerful impact the CWL continues to have on our local and national church. Let's hope their drive to recruit new members and encourage young women to join the "League" is answered with a resounding "yes" from coast to coast.

So if you happen to be in downtown Toronto August 14-17 and run into the 600+ strong, extend your thanks for all that they continue to do. While I can't guarantee there will be any cookies, you can be sure there will be plenty of faith driven women committed to making a difference and walking the talk, serving as the hands and feet of Christ in our communities.

Now that's a recipe for success!