“Speak about Christ only when you are asked. But live so that people ask about Christ!” exclaimed Paul Claudel. Claudel, a 20th Century French poet, dramatist and diplomat, was a revert to his Roman Catholic faith. When he was 18 years old, he was an agnostic; then, during Christmas day Mass, he had a mystical vision. He reported that he heard voice say, “There is a God.”
I have high hopes that World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid will produce such a voice in more people’s heads, both participants and those who witness the pilgrims. The youth of this world have much to offer, through their steadfastness to God’s laws, and their faith and love of God. WYD is where almost a million young people come together in fellowship, so as to not let anyone “have contempt for your youth, but [to] set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the young people in Madrid, saying, “Many of them have heard the voice of God, perhaps only as a little whisper, which has led them to search for him more diligently and to share with others the experience of the force which he has in their lives. The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations.”
He went on to say, “They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalisation of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. …They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life.”
This topic is a seed falling on fertile soil for so many young Catholics. In USA Today, Anna Williams wrote a column about how “For These Millennials, Faith Trumps Relativism.” Williams writes that the liberation from moral creeds and orthodoxy has betrayed us, and that “the inevitable results are not personal fulfillment and communal harmony but selfishness and social breakdown.”
At LiveAction, Thomas Peters posted a question from Yahoo! Answers, where an 18-year-old girl was looking for a free abortion because she is “not ready for a child” and cannot use her own money, “because [she is] saving to buy a new iphone.”
My heart cries for this girl, who is in a situation where one should be filled with joy, and instead is seeking to terminate possible happiness because the gratification will not be immediate. A child is a continuation of humanity, not a burden on the earth. This is an accessible example of how desperately our culture needs God and the guidance of the Roman Catholic Church on issues of moral and faith.
Spain, though a traditionally Catholic country, is suffering spiritually. This is one reason Madrid was picked as WYD’s location. Spain’s Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, clashes with the Church over the issue of abortion and has helped change Spanish law to make it easier for women procure abortions, including removing many of the restrictions.
Earlier this month, the Vatican announced that any woman at WYD who confesses to participating in an abortion will be forgiven and once again in the body of the Catholic Church. According to Canon 1398, “a person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.” WYD is a tangible reaching out to those women, and offering them hope for fuller life in Christ.
To ask for forgiveness in the Church is the first step towards true repentance and amending one’s life. This is why reconciliation is a sacrament in the Church, and the necessity of forgiveness on a human level alongside God’s grace. I pray that this special emphasis at WYD 2011 on forgiving abortions will help with more spiritual and emotional healing, a renewal of the Culture of Life, and to give more people the courage to witness against the evil of abortion.
Our Papa B. knows there will be no lack of difficulties in the future of the Church. He says, ” But, with all my heart I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace. Do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way he saved us.”
In the poem “L’otage,” Claudel wrote, “There is something sadder to lose than life – the reason for living;/ Sadder than to lose one’s possessions is to lose one’s hope.”
The sacrament of forgiveness gives hope to us fallen humans. The fellowship in the Church gives us a hand to guide us. Secularism is stifling because it individualistic and offers no redemption, no alternative to live, than beyond a person’s own wants and needs. But in Christ, there is more: “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance” (Romans 8:24-25).
Claudel was given the fundamental understanding in this world: there is a God. Moreover, our God gives us hope. Hope for our life, hope for eternal life, hope for redemption, hope for understanding of pain and suffering, hope for happiness; our sanctification comes from this hope. WYD is a tangible sign of hope in the world, but so are each of our individual lives. We are to testify for Christ, and how knowing him has shaped our life, and given us joie de vivre. Let us go then, you and I, and proclaim our hope, show our joy, and live authentically for Christ. Vive Jesus!