"All together to Lisbon!" Pope invites youth in message for World Youth Day 2023.
The Virgin Mary is “a model for young people on the move, who refuse to stand in front of a mirror to contemplate themselves or to get caught up in the ‘net.’ Mary’s focus is always directed outwards. She is the woman of Easter, in a permanent state of exodus, going forth from herself towards that great Other who is God and towards others …”
As always, a local Youth Day will be celebrated in dioceses around the world on Sunday, November 20, the feast of Christ the King.
It will be a new beginning!
Inviting young people to “arise and go in haste” in reference to the WYD theme, from Luke 1:39, Pope Francis referred to the current crises.
In these troubling times, when our human family, already tested by the trauma of the pandemic, is racked by the tragedy of war, Mary shows to all of us, and especially to you, young people like herself, the path of proximity and encounter. I hope and I firmly believe that the experience many of you will have in Lisbon next August will represent a new beginning for you, the young, and – with you – for humanity as a whole.
He invites young people to follow the example of Mary, who “entrusted herself completely to God” when she “could have focused on herself and her own worries and fears about her new condition.”
Even though the astonishing message of the angel had caused a seismic shift in her plans, the young Mary did not remain paralyzed, for within her was Jesus, the power of resurrection and new life. Within herself, Mary already bore the Lamb that was slain and yet lives. She arises and sets out, for she is certain that God’s plan is the best plan for her life. Mary becomes a temple of God, an image of the pilgrim Church, a Church that goes forth for service, a Church that brings the good news to all!
“To experience the presence of the risen Christ in our own lives, to encounter him ‘alive,’ is the greatest spiritual joy, an explosion of light that can leave no one untouched,” the Pontiff assured.
Do not shy away from the needs of others
The Pope invites young people to remain outward-looking and attentive to the needs of others.
Someone once told Mother Teresa: “What you are doing is a mere drop in the ocean.” And she replied: “But if I didn’t do it, that ocean would have one drop less.”
Rather than wasting time “on seeking attention or the approval of others – as often happens when we depend on our ‘likes’ on social media,” youth should follow the example of Mary, who “sets out to find the most genuine of all ‘connections’: the one that comes from encounter, sharing, love and service,” the Pope said.
And he praised the devotion that arises in so many shrines around the world:
Our own journey, if “inhabited” by God, can lead us straight into the heart of every one of our brothers and sisters. How many testimonies have we heard from people who were “visited” by Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother! In how many far-off places of the earth, in every age – through apparitions and special graces – has Mary visited her people! There is practically no place on earth that she has not visited.
Mary’s own special visit to Portugal
Francis also recalled that Mary made a “special visit” to Portugal when, from Fatima in 1917, “She addressed to people of all ages the powerful and magnificent message of God’s love, which summons us to conversion and to true freedom.”
The Pontiff visited the Portuguese shrine in 2017, on the occasion of the centenary of the apparitions. If he returns to the country for WYD, Portugal will be the second European state – outside Italy – visited by Francis twice, after Greece, visited in 2016 and 2021.
But in a recent interview with Portuguese television, the Pope, who will be 86 in December, left it unclear whether he would personally participate in the WYD. “The Pope will come… Francis, or John XXIV,” he said with humor.
In 2013, the medical difficulties posed by the prospect of a trip to Brazil were rumored to be a factor in the renunciation of Benedict XVI.