Last year, more than five million youth gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to participate in the Pope’s World Youth Day. It’s a day for the Catholic youth, a tradition that has persisted since its conception where peoples of all different ages and nations joined together for a time of fellowship and spiritual transformation.
About World Youth Day
When over 300,000 Catholic youths responded to Pope John Paul III’s invitation to gather on Palm Sunday of 1984, the truth came to light: the youth has not compromised their Catholic values and their devotion to Christ. Since then, more and more young people all over the world travel to partake in what is now known as World Youth Day.
World Youth Day is held annually for two years in Rome and then hosted internationally the third year. Past international hosts include Spain, Poland, the Philippines, France and most recently, Brazil.
Though from an outsider’s perspective, World Youth Day appears as a mass celebration and social gathering, for those attending, it is anything but. World Youth Day has been, until now, established as a pilgrimage or a focused retreat where spiritual maturation and direction are key goals. International World Youth Days encompass the span of four to five days where pilgrims congregate for different activities and events.
Making the Pilgrimage
World Youth Day takes up to a year and a half to plan. With over 300 activities scheduled including extensive hikes and messages from key figures inside the Church, millions of youth ranging from 13 to 35 come for spiritual guidance and revival.
Pilgrims come knowing that extra graces from God are bestowed upon them for dedicating themselves to this mission as it can be demanding and challenging both spiritually and physically. Thousands experience spiritual growth, community and revelation of God’s will for their lives.
The first day of the pilgrimage, the regional Archbishop leads Mass with afternoon opening ceremonies commencing. The millions of young adults congregate, greeting one another in the shared faith and with great expectations for what the next few days will reveal.
Every day features a special speaker and a time to share testimonies, with Mass following shortly thereafter. With opportunities for prayer and reconciliation, many individuals experience great healing and burdens lifting off of them as their faith is restored with clarity.
With countless international groups of youth gathering for World Youth Day, festive events allow for the exhibition of different cultures including music and dance. Yet the core of all of these events is the shared Catholic faith and the agenda for which the Catholic youth are held responsible: how can the youth contribute to the global communities?
Throughout the four-day mission, His Holiness the Pope visits and delivers his address to the people. The next two days contain walking pilgrimages through certain villages and neighborhoods. At the final night, Vigil Mass, everyone spends the night outdoors with the Holy Father. The next morning concludes World Youth Day with morning prayers and the last Mass gathering.
World Youth Day 2014
Now that 2013’s World Youth Day has concluded in Brazil, it turns back to its home in Rome, Italy. Still, millions of eager and hungry Catholic youths anticipate for the special day where Pope Francis delivers his address and message.
It is an extraordinary day for the international Catholic communities to gather and meet, to share their faith and their lives, to encourage one another and uphold the responsibility given to them by the Lord and Christ.
With each year, thousands more are expected to attend, making World Youth Day truly a remarkable achievement for the world far and wide.