You know there’s something super interesting and important going on when almost three million young people from around the world travel thousands of miles to participate. I am referring to World Youth Day (WYD).
Participation in a WYD takes sacrifice, including leaving behind family and friends during the best days of the summer months. They leave behind their work and sacrifice money. The pilgrimage itself includes lots of walking and discomfort, there are safety concerns, and the days hold something quite counter cultural—paying attention to something other than technology. (Trust me, I know the sacrifices! I made a pilgrimage to a WYD when I was 18 years old.)
So why do millions of young people make this trip?
The Adventure of a Pilgrimage
WYD is a celebration open to all young people who want to encounter Jesus Christ. It’s an occasion for young people to experience the universality of the Church. It’s also an opportunity for young people to share with the rest of the world their hope which is Christ and their commitment to love God and their neighbors. WYD is, in a sense, both a retreat and a pilgrimage. It is a way for young people to deepen their faith and grow closer to Christ, through prayer, the sacraments, workshops and cultural events. They unite with thousands upon thousands of their peers who are not perfect, but have the same pursuit: a life of fidelity to God.
These young people give their attention to God through prayer, community, adventure found in the experience of a pilgrimage, the Pope who represents morality and faith to most of them, and even for some an encounter with the merciful face of our Lord!
The Pope’s Messages to the Youth
Among the many highlights of the WYD are the messages the Pope brings to share with the young people of the world. We would all miss out if we don’t take a few moments to read these key messages that the Pope offered to the future leaders of the Church and world.
Messages from WYD
1. Win in life. Move forward in life with the joy of beautiful things and do not give up, do not fall under the sway of drugs, or be defeated by life. Do this with courage, even with suffering. When there is joy, do it with joy.
2. Renew [your] friendship with Jesus by building friendships among yourselves. “What better way to build our friendship with Jesus than by sharing him with others!”
3. “God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind. As far as Jesus is concerned—as the Gospel shows—no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts. No one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important! God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you, just as you are! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.”
4. “Dear young friends, don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weaknesses, your struggles and your sins. He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace. Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him! Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice. Say a firm ‘no’ to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.”
5. “[God] wants to enter your homes, to dwell in your daily lives: in your studies, your first years of work, your friendships and affections, your hopes and dreams. How greatly he desires that you bring all this to him in prayer! How much he hopes that, in all the ‘contacts’ and ‘chats’ of each day, pride of place be given to the golden thread of prayer! How much he wants his word to be able to speak to you day after day, so that you can make his Gospel your own, so that it can serve as a compass for you on the highways of life!”
Applying the Pope’s Words to Your Life
Pick any of these messages of the Holy Father and apply it to the way you are living your life. Maybe you are living the life of virtue and faith really well in these summer months. I hope so! If you are struggling and it seems like you are falling at every temptation and choice you have to make each day, I join your community in saying, get back up. You can do it!
This is true of all sin, but especially sexual sin. It really does impact everything in life, including all of the things that are included in Pope Francis’ messages that he proclaimed throughout this year’s WYD.
When we fall to sexual sin, including masturbation and viewing pornography, we fail to do much of what Pope Francis is encouraging:
1. We feel shame and thus get grumpy and irritable. This impacts the “joy of beautiful things” and the way we treat others. It impacts our interior peace and so it also impacts the way we encounter others.
2. Pornography and masturbation offers a false comfort like a drug, a security. It often keeps one from coming out of oneself and creating true and authentic relationships that are or could eventually become a marriage. Relationships that could bring Jesus to others.
3. Sexual sin makes us feel unworthy of Jesus’ love, even though God loves us no matter what. Thus, we don’t necessarily welcome Jesus into our day to day lives, and we ignore the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
4. Sexual sin distracts us from growing in other areas of our lives. Because sexual sin includes so much shame and guilt, we tend to not work on overcoming others sins in our lives which often do in fact impact the way we approach our sexuality and life. If we don’t seek to overcome sexual sin it can make “our soul go numb” and stagnant in our spiritual lives and life in general.
5. When we participate in sexual sin, we participate in what’s known as mortal sin. This is grave sin that closes us off from grace. It closes us off from being open to God’s grace–from being able to hear him. It can keep us from that great experience of feeling Jesus touch our hearts and from welcoming him into every area of our lives, which drives us to doing great things for God and our neighbors!
God is calling each of us to something more. He calls us away from pornography. He calls us away from masturbation. Away from the things that can keep us away from him. Pope Francis said to the young people at WYD:
“God expects something from you. Have you understood this? God expects something from you, God wants something from you. God hopes in you. God comes to break down all our fences. He comes to open the doors of our lives, our dreams, our ways of seeing things. God comes to break open everything that keeps you closed in. He is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different. This is the challenge.”
How do we do this? How do we live the courageous, joy and hope filled lives God is calling us to and what Pope Francis has encouraged us in? We do this in one way: by receiving the gift which is Jesus Christ. By being receptive of him and by being intentional about living a courageous, joyful and faith filled life. It is possible. This is a full life.
Ways to Take the Call and Live a Full Life
1. Take time for silence and prayer every day (10 minutes or more). Let Jesus hold you.
2. Receive the Sacraments weekly or more.
3. Have accountability in your life. Sign up for Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering. Ask a friend or spiritual mentor to be your Accountability Partner.
4. Get a Spiritual Director and be transparent about all your struggles, including pornography, masturbation, temptations, or other sexual addictions.
5. Give yourself in service to the Church and your community. Serve the poor. Host an Integrity Restored presentation for your local men’s and women’s groups. Provide Covenant Eyes educational bundles to your peers. Be a leader!