The Light of Christ in Rio

There’s a great me992810_659039764107551_348015512_nme making its way across social media—it features a picture of Pope Francis, gesturing as if he is having trouble hearing, with the caption, “Did you say ‘young people think the Church is irrelevant?’  Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the million young people at World Youth Day!”

World Youth Day is, in a word, inspiring.  Hundreds of thousands of young people are in Rio celebrating their Catholic faith—a faith that is one holy, catholic, and apostolic.  The oneness is self-evident in the presence of the tens of thousands of young people from all over the world, waving the flags of their own countries but celebrating their oneness in faith.  Young people at this event gather for speakers, for prayer, for Mass—and on their journey to greater holiness they celebrate that the Church indeed is catholic, universal.  How incredible that this massive group of people from around the world can gather as one to celebrate Mass.  Their native tongues may be different, but each and every moment of the Mass is celebrated in the same way throughout the world.  All will feel at home in the presence of God. That is the beauty of the Catholic faith. And all who are present will celebrate Mass with Pope Francis, the successor of St. Peter, the guardian of apostolic tradition.  Pope Francis’ holy joy and genuine love for Christ and His church is contagious.

Yet it is all too easy to lose sight of all of that tradition and inspiration in our increasingly secular world. Oftentimes, believers feel alone in their conviction. That is what makes experiences like World Youth Day so vital.  World Youth Day provides communal and universal experiences of faith, of encounters with Christ. I attended the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis as a teenager, and I can still remember the feeling of awe as I sat in the crowded stadium that usually holds bellowing Colts fans but on that day was filled with young Catholics just like me. We sang together, listened to witness talks together, celebrated the Eucharist together. I left with my faith emboldened and with the knowledge that I belonged to something much bigger than myself.

As Pope Francis wrote in Lumen Fidei, “Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed” (Lumen Fidei, 22).  Just like in the story of Emmaus in Luke 24: Jesus walked side by side with his disciples—though they did not yet recognize him—and they shared stories of faith with one another. When they gathered together in the Eucharist, suddenly their hearts and their minds were opened—“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” When they recognized that Christ was with them, when they had experienced the reality of Christ as a community, they returned at once to Jerusalem to evangelize.

Let us pray for all of these young pilgrims, that they may encounter Christ and set the world aflame with the light of faith.

This post also appears on the Catholic Voices USA blog here.

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Bob Rice

Catholic speaker, musician, author, teacher

domestic diva, M.D.

my mother raised the perfect housewife...then I went to med school

Faithfully Flawed

The Spiritual Evolution of a Faulty Catholic

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The Elephant Project

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