World Youth Day And St. Théresè: Traveling The World

by Catholic Events & Culture, Family, History of the Church, Testimonies, World Youth Day

You might say that I’m a groupie. Beginning when I was sixteen, I attended four World Youth Days: Denver (1993), Manila (1995), Paris (1997), and Toronto (2002). My experience, along with millions of other young people, was transformative. The impact is still felt in our lives and around the globe today. At World Youth Day, the graces of our Baptism are fanned into flame; the gifts of the Holy Spirit are renewed and emboldened by the witness of other faithful.

World Youth Day Conversions And Vocations

      When I went to Denver, like so many youth, I was seeking God’s will for my life. At an altar call, I responded with peace and joy, yet fear and trembling. I wasn’t alone. Others flocked to the stage, including one of my best friends who is now a priest. My spiritual director–now also a priest–was on that pilgrimage too. Both were present when I became a Consecrated Virgin in the world at the hands of my Bishop on Divine Mercy Sunday of this year.

      How do we attribute the surge in conversions and vocations following World Youth Day? When young people encounter our Eucharistic Lord at Mass and Adoration, and are immersed in the sacramental life of the Church, their spiritual lives become personal. They discover the beauty and majesty of sacred liturgies, music, devotions, the truths of our faith, and authentic communion with the universal Church.

      In our constantly moving and noisy world, World Youth Day provides young people with the opportunity to “be still” (Psalm 46:10) and experience the depths of God’s love for them. As St. John Paul II wrote in his June 1996 letter on the anniversary of Corpus Christi:

I urge priests, religious and lay people to continue and redouble their efforts to teach the younger generations the meaning and value of Eucharistic adoration and devotion. How will young people be able to know the Lord if they are not introduced to the mystery of his presence? Like the young Samuel, by learning the words of the prayer of the heart, they will be closer to the Lord, who will accompany them in their spiritual and human growth, and in the missionary witness which they must give throughout their life. The Eucharistic mystery is in fact the “summit of evangelization” (Lumen gentium, n. 28), for it is the most eminent testimony to Christ’s Resurrection. All interior life needs silence and intimacy with Christ in order to develop. 

– St. John Paul II

When young people are given the opportunity to bask in the silence of our Lord’s presence and know that they are loved, they can respond like St. Théresè of Lisieux, patroness of missionaries, “I love You and I give myself to You forever!”

      When I was present at World Youth Day in Manila, the largest gathering in human history, the theme resounded in my ears: “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” (John 20:21) I was inspired to use my talents increasingly for God’s glory as a writer and teacher. Like St. Théresè who wanted to travel the world and preach the Gospel on all five continents simultaneously (Story of a Soul, Manuscript B), young people who are introduced to the endless riches of Catholic culture are filled with zeal to bring the Gospel back to their countries and beyond.

      At World Youth Day in France, I was also blessed to visit St. Théresè’s hometown and be present when St. John Paul II announced that she would soon become a Doctor of the Church. (In fact, I was so elated that I did a cartwheel!) Visiting her home, convent, and Basilica made St. Théresè’s Little Way of confidence and love come all the more alive in me.

I Would Like To Travel The World | St. Therse

      In the book, I Would Like to Travel the World, by Bishop Guy Gaucher–recently released for the first time in English–modern miracles of St. Théresè’s intercession are recounted. Similar to life-changing experiences at World Youth Day, there are fascinating stories of atheists who are converted and individuals who are healed–physically, spiritually, emotionally, or psychologically–in every walk of life.

      These graces remind us of the World Youth Day Toronto theme: “You are the salt of the earth . . . you are the light of the world” (Matthew 5: 13, 14). The saints intercede for us and inspire us on our journeys to rediscover our “first love” (Revelation 2:4) and the devotion of our youth (Jeremiah 2:2). Bishop Gaucher explains why St. Théresè’s declaration as a Doctor of the Church, one of only four women and the youngest, is revolutionary. He also chronicles the storm of glory, or shower of roses, that has occurred with her relic tour worldwide. May we pray with St. Théresè: “I desire to Love You and make you Loved,” carrying the Gospel with all the fervor of youth, to the earth’s remotest ends.

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