Tag Archives: world youth day

Pope Francis Gold Dust II – Creativity and the Motherhood of the Church

Photo courtesy of tacticdesigns

Photo courtesy of tacticdesigns

Here’s some more ‘gold dust’ from Pope Francis’ address to the Brazilian bishops.

This weekend in the Catholic Herald, Bishop Philip speaks about how we do not need more ‘tradition’ to further the new evangelisation, but rather more creativity. We can get hung up on structures (something that Pope  John Paul II also warned against brilliantly in Novo Millenio Ineunte).

Getting hung up on structures happens at every point of the Catholic “spectrum”: those who think if we use a particular textbook or catechetical method it will solve all our problems; those who are wedded to bureaucracy because it makes everything easier to ‘control’ or manage; those who see ‘roles’ within the Church in terms of ecclesiological power, rather than in the context of vocation or following the Lord’s call. Structures gradually suck life out of our faith if we allow them to.

Pope Francis speaks about it brilliantly:

“Dear brothers, the results of our pastoral work do not depend on a wealth of resources, but on the creativity of love. To be sure, perseverance, effort, hard work, planning and organization all have their place, but first and foremost we need to realize that the Church’s power does not reside in herself; it is hidden in the deep waters of God, into which she is called to cast her nets.”

This has implications for all our pastoral work. I think it’s important we never get into the mindset of thinking that a pastoral need must be met because a box has been ticked, provision has been supplied in the words of a document. No – careful planning can never replace the love, compassion, mercy God awakes in our hearts to respond to the needs of another. Even if it falls outside our hours of work, outside our remit, on our day off. All of us who evangelise, who catechise, participate in the Church’s Motherhood – who is awake day and night bringing forth life…

“Concerning pastoral conversion, I would like to recall that “pastoral care” is nothing other than the exercise of the Church’s motherhood. She gives birth, suckles, gives growth, corrects, nourishes and leads by the hand … So we need a Church capable of rediscovering the maternal womb of mercy. Without mercy we have little chance nowadays of becoming part of a world of “wounded” persons in need of understanding, forgiveness, love.”

Pope Francis Gold Dust I – “Warming Hearts”

World Youth Day Rio

I almost felt like I was in Rio the past week, what with the unstoppable tweets, friends’ Facebook updates, and all of Pope Francis’ words being so readily available. From my experience of previous World Youth Days, you can almost follow better if you’re not there. (Let’s face it… the moment you hit 25 (and you’re not of a Latin American temperament) WYD gets tough! As one wonderful Sister (whose youth ministry is very fruitful) commented, any enthusiasm she had died in Madrid two years ago. I know the feeling…)

Back to Pope Francis. Just about everyone I know has been wow-ing and ahh-ing at his incredible words over the past week. For me, one of the highlights was his address to the Brazilian bishops. I’ve been through this absolutely remarkable speech a few times and have pulled out some truly genius gems. Each one of them needs its own post – so let’s see how I go.

To kick us off, I wanted to start with this:

I would like all of us to ask ourselves today: are we still a Church capable of warming hearts? A Church capable of leading people back to Jerusalem? Of bringing them home? Jerusalem is where our roots are: Scripture, catechesis, sacraments, community, friendship with the Lord, Mary and the apostles… Are we still able to speak of these roots in a way that will revive a sense of wonder at their beauty?

“A Church capable of warming hearts…” It reminds me a little of a book I’ve written about here: Bill Hybels’ Courageous Leadership. In chapter 2, Hybels speaks of leaders having such a “white-hot” vision for what their church is about that they impassion and enflame the hearts of those who hear them. Remember that “enthuse” comes from “en-theos” – literally, to be possessed by a god. The passion in our hearts sparks a flame in another’s.

There is lots to reflect on with regard to how well we, the Church, “warm hearts”. Bishops and priests have responsibility for this in their ministry and communication to the faithful, those who work with the poor “warm hearts” through their love and charity; contemplative religious “warm hearts” through their earnest and profound intercession; those who visit the sick or those who are in prison have a special apostolate of compassion to “warm the hearts” of the suffering and the lost.

However, as this blog is especially for catechists, let’s think about how as catechists we need to “warm hearts”. Here are some questions that may help:

  • Before we teach, do we pray fervently to the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of those we’re teaching? It is He who will stir hearts as we speak (or even in spite of us!)
  • When we teach, do we speak with passion? Not a contrived liveliness or excitement, but with a profound love for the Lord which naturally spills out in impassioned words?
  • If we struggle to feel passion about our topic, have we spent enough time in silent prayer before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament? Have we asked earnestly enough for the Holy Spirit?
  • Do we love not only Christ who we’re teaching, but also the people receiving the teaching? Our authentic love for these people – that they know Christ, experience life in him, receive the joy of the Holy Spirit in their hearts – will also come across.

As I’ve said countless times before, let’s promise ourselves: the day we stop praying must also be the day we stop giving catechesis.

World Youth Day Madrid 2011

Welcoming the Holy Father to Madrid

Where do I begin?! 

I’m back from the most unforgettable ten days of my summer 🙂 

Let’s be honest – part of me thought that, at twenty-six, I was a bit old for World Youth Day, but Christ ALWAYS surprises. 

WYD has been full of so many diverse experiences. One of the best things was our group: we had a group of 85 amazing, talented, generous and fun young people. They came from many different backgrounds, schools and universities, and it was beautiful to watch friendships developing over the week and the group becoming really close. On the one hand, WYD is an inspiring experience of the universal, worldwide Church. But on the other hand, our group shared a more intimate experience of the Church each morning – we were blessed to have our own chapel in the crypt of the church where we stayed, and here we had a half-hour meditation each morning, followed by Mass, and on some days, catechesis. For me, these were really worthwhile moments of the day – it ensured that World Youth Day was an interior experience for us, as well as the more dramatic, external, exciting experience…

It might seem incredible that, as one person in a crowd of 1.5 million, you can experience the personal call to conversion. You might think that in a crowd that size, you feel pretty anonymous and insignificant. But amazingly, the experience of World Youth Day is the opposite. I was aware, without a shadow of a doubt, that Christ had called each one of us personally to be there. He was intimately present to each young person’s heart, knowing and loving us more deeply than we know and love ourselves. That love is experienced too through the great love of the Holy Father for the youth, who stayed with us in the rain, who did not abandon us. The depth of the call to personal conversion definitely takes you by surprise – Christ wants total holiness from us, not mediocrity, nothing half-hearted. He showed the completeness of his love, and invites us to give our complete selves too.

Finally – the role of suffering in World Youth Day! Yes, the Holy Father offers a plenary indulgence to the pilgrims, surely because the sacrificial aspect is like Purgatory itself! One of the life-giving things about the penitential parts of World Youth Day is that you are all in this together. Nowhere have I felt this more than in Madrid. On the five-hour walk in blazing heat to Cuatro Vientos, there was a severe shortage of water and shade. When we arrived at Cuatro Vientos, there seemed to be even less water and shade and, to top it all, a shortage of toilets. And stampedes of people crushing together whenever you wanted to get anywhere. Several people in our group fainted. Extreme conditions bring out both the worst and the best in people. It humbles you, because you realise how much you need the people around you, and how much they need you. World Youth Day forces you to forget your independence, your needs, and the standards of comfort you expect in your normal life, and to stay in solidarity with others. You have a choice – either you can fight for your own needs over others; or you can let go and realise your solidarity with everyone else who shares the same needs you have. 

I believe that somehow, this element of sacrifice and suffering heightens the joy that is characteristic of WYD. The same goes with sleeping on the floor and cold, communal showers for ten days – I am sure our group was closer and stronger because of these things.

Thank you, Holy Father, for being with us, for loving us! ESTA ES LA JUVENTUD DEL PAPA!!!

“Humanity is loved by God!…”

…This very simple yet profound proclamation is owed to humanity by the Church.”


This line is from a document issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family in 1995, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality. Clearly it is a message thousands of young people need to hear urgently given the events of the past week in the UK.

Blessed John Paul II knew that young people needed to know the love God has for them, which is why he started the World Youth Days.

How timely it is that at this time millions of young pilgrims from around the world are getting ready to go to Madrid for World Youth Day, to hear of and experience the love of God.

At the end of August, there is another, more local, event to which young people each year gather to learn of and receive the love of God into their hearts: the Youth 2000 summer festival at Walsingham. Sometimes it seems like the Church is merely whispering the reality of God’s love to young people who are asleep, when we really need to enter their reality and proclaim it loudly so that they can hear. This is why events like the Youth 2000 festival in Walsingham are so important.

Here are a couple of clips: One about World Youth Day and one about Youth 2000. It’s not too late for young people to book for the Youth 2000 festival.