I’m planning to go to World Youth Day!
No, I’m not young, and I’m not going as a member of a youth group. I’ve applied for accreditation as a journalist, and will be covering the event for various newspapers and websites.
I have met so many young people over the years who attended WYD in Rome, Paris, Cologne or Sydney – the reports were all varied, and all glowing. I remember descriptions of the extraordinary World Youth Day in Paris with Pope John Paul II. The French media were all convinced that very few young people would turn up, and were confidently predicting embarrassment for the Church. Then the young people came in their hundreds and thousands, packing out the venue, singing, praying, waving banners and flags, and cheering the Pope to the echo. The Church in France was alive – and today, there are young men training as priests, and young families growing up in the Faith, as a result of that memorable time.
This year, groups from different parts of Britain will be going to Madrid. Already there is fund-raising going on to help cover fares and accommodations. Some young people will be going because they have been specially chosen by their parish or diocese. Some are already thinking of the priesthood and are part of a vocations discernment programme. Some will go at the last minute, almost on a whim. Some are going with a group or Catholic movement.
There is no doubt that vocations have risen in number in Britain over the past decade, and look set to rise further. Numbers entering the seminaries for the dioceses of Westminster and Southwark this autumn are encouraging, and there is talk of the “Benedict bounce”, the enthusiasm and interest generated as a result of the 2010 Papal Visit.
In June, young Catholics in Britain will be encouraged to attend InVocation, a big weekend event held at Oscott, the seminary for the archdiocese of Birmingham. Here, many different religious communities will be represented, and it’s an opportunity to talk to priests and sisters, to explore what a call to the religious life means, to pray together, and to be encouraged in the Faith.
In this first summer of the second decade of the new Millennium, we have seen the Beatification of the great John Paul II, who did so much to inspire young people in their search for the truth. We should seek his intercession in helping young people today – and tomorrow – to discern what God is calling them to do. We can beg that God will call many to the priesthood and to the religious life.