What is World Youth Day?

The first World Youth Day was celebrated in 1984 when Pope St. John Paul II created a gathering on Palm Sunday in Rome to celebrate the Youth Jubilee of the Holy Year of Redemption. It was expected that sixty thousand people would attend, but over two hundred-fifty thousand came. Given the event’s overwhelming success, the Holy Father repeated the celebration in 1985 and the numbers grew. Later that year, the Pope wrote an apostolic exhortation to the young people of the world and in December announced the institution of World Youth Day. World Youth Day 2023 will be the 17th International World Youth Day celebration and takes place in Lisbon, Portugal.

World Youth Day is the gathering of young people from all over the world with the Pope. It is also a pilgrimage, a celebration of youth, an expression of the universal Church, and an intense moment of evangelization for the youth world. Although its Catholic identity is clearly evident, WYD opens its doors to everyone, no matter how close to or distant from the Church they are.


World Youth Day Main Events

This year, the main events of World Youth Day include:

  • Opening Mass on Tuesday, August 1st
  • Welcome Ceremony at 11:45 AM CST on Thursday, August 3rd
  • Way of the Cross at 12 PM CST on Friday, August 4th
  • Evening Vigil at 2:45 PM CST on Saturday, August 5th
  • Missioning Mass at 3 AM CST on Sunday, August 6th

You can watch and follow any or all of these events online and on World Youth Day’s social media.

World Youth Day Website

Lisboa 2023 – YouTube

WorldYouthDay .com (@wyd_com) / Twitter

World Youth Day 2023 CTS (@worldyouthday2023) • Instagram photos and videos

World Youth Day Facebook

While these are certainly options for personal use, the spirit of World Youth Day is one of joy in community. Celebrating with others will give you a sense of the gathering that takes place at World Youth Day.

Other Ways to Celebrate World Youth Day In Your Home

The theme of World Youth Day this year is taken from St. Luke’s account of the Visitation, “Mary arose and went with haste,” (Luke 1:39). Pope Francis in his message for World Youth Day highlights Mary’s trust in God for her own wellbeing and her readiness to move, to act, and to share the good news of God’s presence in her life. The joy of God at work in her prompts her to go with haste to share that joy and to serve others. Pope Francis encourages us likewise to share the Gospel and to serve those in need with haste, and to seek out genuine encounter with others. 

You can read Pope Francis’ full message for World Youth Day here.

In light of this theme, you can celebrate with the pilgrims in Portugal, many of whom will be involved in service projects themselves, by finding an opportunity to, first of all, encounter Christ yourself and then share Him with others.

Some ideas to encounter Christ:

  • An hour of adoration
  • Read Luke 1 and meditate on it
  • Go to an “extra” mass (a daily mass, not Sunday mass)
  • Plan a Eucharistic procession for your parish community
  • Watch virtually a World Youth Day event, ideally with others

Some ideas to encounter others and share Christ:

  • Look up service opportunities in your area (St. Vincent de Paul or the Knights of Columbus are good resources for finding these opportunities).
  • Make a donation to your parish youth group.
  • Visit the sick and elderly.
  • Introduce yourself to someone new, after mass, a neighbor you haven’t met, etc.
  • Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the person He’d like to encounter through you.
  • Offer a daily sacrifice for someone you know who is attending World Youth Day this year.

Some ideas to bring World Youth Day’s cultural and faith celebrations to your home:

  • Enjoy foods from around the world (especially Portugal)
  • Pick a saint from each continent to learn about. (Here’s a great resource to help!)
  • Write a letter to Pope Francis.
  • Go on a holy hike and sleep outside one night.
  • Learn the World Youth Day theme song.
  • Learn about the World Youth Day symbols
  • Ask for the intercession of the patron saints of World Youth Day

What ideas do you have? Share them in the comments below.

The Holy Spirit is the one who unifies us in Christ. The Spirit is not bound by place or time, so if nothing else you can ask in your regular prayers during the week of World Youth Day to be united in Spirit to the prayers and graces of the World Youth Day pilgrims in Portugal, to Our Holy Father, and to the whole Church celebrating God’s love and gifts to the youth of the world

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