Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, the World Youth Day started by Blessed John Paul II has brought together young people from all around the world driven by the same desire: to celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ. In 1984, His Holiness’ invitation to the youth of the world brought in a response of over 300,000 faithful. Looking out to the crowds who answered his invitation he said, “What a fantastic spectacle is presented on this stage by your gathering here today! Who claimed that today’s youth has lost their sense of values? Is it really true that they cannot be counted on?” Three decades later, the World Youth Day has united nearly a quarter of a billion youth from all seven continents in thirteen host cities. A multitude of cultures and languages blend together as the youth of the world join the Holy Father in diving deeper and growing closer to their faith. The World Youth Day has not only impacted the cities which have been blesssed to call themselves hosts, but the event has sparked the creation of other related events around the world. This years World Youth Day, hosted by the beautiful Brazilian capital of Rio de Janiero united over three million young people. At the same time, youth from all over Europe gathered together in Częstochowa, Poland home of the Black Madonna in the Jasna Gora monastery and the host city of the 1991 World Youth Day. For one week, the Emmanuel Community invited the youth of Poland and Europe to come take part in what was called: Rio in Częstochowa.
In union with the celebrations of the World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero, the youth of the Emmanuel Community gathered together for one week to celebrate the Faith. In the spirit of Emmanuel, mornings were started with breakfast together followed by a lively praise. Given the opportunity to come closer and discover their faith in a more profound manner, the youth of Rio in Częstochowa took part in teachings, faith and talent workshops, evenings of Mercy and most importantly, the daily celebration of the Eucharist. Testimonies given throughout the forum inspired us to trust in the mercy of God. From Monsignor Sarno’s teaching on the love of God and His desire to enter into a relationship with each us, to John Pridmore, a former gangster from the East End of London testimony on how he found Christ after hitting rock bottom, there was never a dull moment in for us who were blessed to listen.
As with all Emmanuel Youth forums, the celebration of faith goes on into the late hours of the night with the always exciting and solemn evening programs. Although Rio in Częstochowa was the European response to Rio de Janiero, people from all over the world found themselves joining the youth of Europe in this week of pure joy and worship. Evening programs included a welcoming night where each group of pilgrims were presented by their country and language followed by a look at the work of Fidesco around the world. Fidesco is the Emmanuel Community’s missionary organization which helps bring missionaries around the world to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ! Like in any great retreat or gathering of the Faith, participants were asked to walk around introducing themselves to each even if language barriers became a problem. After all, the language of Faith transcends that of our cultural languages and the gift of tongues is just a prayer away. Soon the multicultural and multi-lingual pilgrims from around the world saw each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and the immense joy of the Holy Spirit filled the air of Częstochowa!
The beautiful landscape of God’s creation in Poland gave us the opportunity to venture into a day of prayer as men and women of God. On the fourth day of the youth forum, the young men and women took part in a men’s and women’s day. With the purpose of getting to understand more deeply what is to be a man and woman of God, the youth were lead by the priests of the community into the beautiful nature of Częstochowa making stops along the way to pray and meditate on verses of Sacred Scripture. The highlight of the day came with the blessed opportunity to have an open air celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The holy sacrifice of the Mass along with the serene atmosphere of nature made for the perfect way to end the adventure!
Coming from a society where having the most material possessions and obtaining the most wealth is regarded as the highest achievement, the idea of participating in a World Youth Day event can seem dull and boring to the average onlooker. This could not be further from the truth! The World Youth Day and events like the Rio in Częstochowa youth forum, is a testament to the Faith of Jesus Christ that is alive and well, being re-awakened in the hearts of the young around the world. If only everyone in the world, no matter how young or how old, had the opportunity to experience this reality, this expression of love and joy poured out through the promise of Our Lord’s Spirit, the world as we know today will stop to marvel at what their souls are long for. St. Augustine has famously stated: “My heart is restless until it rest in Thee”. The Good News of Jesus Christ is the answer to our restless hearts. The World Youth Day celebrations prove Blessed John Paul II’s statement that the youth of the world are not lost, they desire to know and draw closer to Christ, who promises the gift of eternal life!
To learn more about World Youth days visit:
World Youth Day
The next World Youth Day is set for 2016 in Krakow, Poland!
Check out their website Krakow 2016
See you there!
Written by Juan. Juan is a young Cuban-American. He grew up in Miami, Florida and is currently studying at Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida. He attended the Emmanuel School of Mission in Rome, Italy where he met and joined the Emmanuel community.