The first day of the World Meeting of Families featured several moving testimonies from young people living out their faith.
The presentation included young people who were married, engaged, and single. Each had his or her own story to tell, expressing to those present how their Catholic faith has given them new life, even when the culture around them remains hostile to the Gospel.
Importance of passing on the faith to the next generation
Mark Neville was the first to give his testimony, explaining how he and his wife were drawn together through the practice of their Catholic faith. Attending World Youth Day in Sydney helped their discernment and shortly thereafter they married and started a family. They now have four children and place prayer at the center of their lives, teaching their children how to pray, encouraging them to express their own unique love of God. While they receive some opposition from relatives, they remain steadfast in the practice of their Catholic faith.
Neville explained how “our hopes and dreams now center on our children. And we have huge hopes that in today’s society, which is not an easy society to live in for our children, that we will give our children the joy and hope of being Catholic to help them live out Christ’s love in their daily lives. So that God can be a light to their path.”
Children need to have a stable and loving environment to grow up in
The next speaker was Isaac Withers, a young man who was selected as the representative of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales at the Youth Synod in 2018. He began his testimony recalling the many challenges Millennials face in today’s world, especially with the proliferation of pornography and the sexual culture that exists among young people. To make matters worse, Withers explained how so many in his generation are cynical about marriage, basing their thoughts on marriage on the example of their parents. About one third to a half of his generation grow up in broken homes, ravaged by divorce. From this context, it is difficult to see marriage in a positive light.
That is why, Withers believes, the future of the world depends on the family and the love of husband and wife. His hope “is that the Church as a community would better support parents so that their children can grow up experiencing marriage and family as stable and loving, to reverse the cynicism of many of my generation.”
Christ must be the center of every marriage
The third set of speakers was Meabh Carlin and Christopher Gallen, an engaged couple who met at the Eucharistic Congress held at Dublin in 2012. Their journey together thus far has been a journey of faith, trusting in God and allowing him to guide them. Gallen expressed that his hope in marriage “is that in all my brokenness, I can make myself a gift to Meabh and hope that God will reflect our love and bring about great things.”
Meabh related that one of the greatest pieces of advice they have received regards “the freedom that comes when we realize that we can’t expect our spouse to fulfill every longing within us.” This allows them to understand that God is the one who can fulfill their deepest longings and their spouse can never live up to that. Together they hope that they can live a Christ-centered marriage and say later on in life, “I love you more now than on the day of our wedding.”
A single woman, Ameera Ahmed, shared her experience as a Catholic looking with hope for a faithful spouse; and one last couple, Pauline and Damien Devaney, shared how God brought them closer to each other in a very difficult situation.
These young people give hope to the world in the midst of such dark times. They are living witnesses that the next generation is not lost and that there still remain many beacons of light who are trying to act as leaven in the world, raising it up from the dead.