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By Susan Hines-Brigger

World Youth Day 2002: Salt and Light


How World Youth Day Began
Making the Pilgrimage
For Teens: How Are You Salt and Light?
For Kids: The WYD Patrons

Send a World Youth Day e-greeting!


“You are the salt of the earth....You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). That was what Pope John Paul II told the youth of the world when he announced last year that the 17th World Youth Day (WYD) would be held July 23-28 in Toronto, Canada. And so this month several hundred thousand youth, ages 16 to 35, from over 150 countries will gather in Toronto to respond to that call.

The gathering, the pope said, “will be another chance to meet Christ, to bear witness to his presence in today’s society and to become builders of the ‘civilization of love and truth.’”

His wish, he said, was “that the Canadian soil become a place where the hearts of many young people are renewed so that they become the salt for the earth and light for the world.”

In choosing the theme, the pope noted, “The images of salt and light used by Jesus are rich in meaning and complement each other. In ancient times, salt and light were seen as essential elements of life.”

Salt reminds us that our lives have been “seasoned” with the new life from Christ, the pope said. Salt was also used as a preservative, reminding us to preserve our Christian heritage.

Light symbolizes the desire to seek truth and the thirst for knowledge. “The light which Jesus speaks of in the Gospel is the light of faith, God’s free gift, which enlightens the heart and clarifies the mind,” according to the pope.

How World Youth Day Began

Throughout his papacy, Pope John Paul II has always held a special place in his heart for youth. In 1984, at the end of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption, the pope invited young people to a Palm Sunday gathering in Rome. During this gathering, which was attended by 300,000 youth, the pope entrusted them with the Holy Year Cross, which is now known as the WYD Cross. This cross has traveled to each country that has hosted World Youth Day.

Then in 1985, during the United Nations International Year of Youth, the pope once again invited young people to gather in Rome on Palm Sunday. This second gathering was attended by 450,000 youth.

Inspired by these two events, the pope created World Youth Day. The first gathering was held on Palm Sunday in 1986 in Rome and in parishes around the world.

The first international gathering was held in 1987 in Buenos Aires (Argentina). Since then, international gatherings have been held every two years. They have been in Santiago de Compostela (Spain), Czestochowa (Poland), Denver (U.S.A.), Manila (Philippines), Paris (France) and Rome (Italy). During the years when an international gathering is not held, local dioceses celebrate on Palm Sunday.

Making the Pilgrimage

Many people who have attended World Youth Days in the past speak of it as a life-changing experience. Even though your family may not be able to travel to Toronto for World Youth Day, there are things you can do to emulate what participants are experiencing.

In his letter to young people announcing World Youth Day in Toronto, Pope John Paul II encouraged youth to read and study the apostolic letter Novo Millennio Inuente (At the Beginning of the New Millennium), which he said challenges all to become the reflection of Christ’s light.

Get a copy of Salt and Light: Preparing for World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. This handbook contains reflections on eight main themes: World Youth Day; being “salt and light” in our time; love; living a moral life; the Church; prayer and the sacraments; justice and solidarity with the poor; and being a witness to the Gospel. The book provides spiritual preparation for World Youth Day. The handbook is available through the Official World Youth Day Web site (

This site contains further recommendations of ways to prepare for this spiritual journey. The U.S. bishops also have information on World Youth Day on their Web site at laity/youth/wyd2002.htm.

Is someone from your parish or someone you know attending World Youth Day? If so, write them a note to take along assuring them of your thoughts and prayers. Or send them a World Youth Day e-greeting from You could also send along a care package.

Most importantly, pray for those attending World Youth Day 2002. For many of the participants, this may be a life-changing experience. Pray that it may be so. The National Liturgy Office of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and the National World Youth Day Office have compiled a book of prayers—Prayers for World Youth Day 2002—for both those traveling to Toronto and those making the journey in spirit. The book is available through the Official World Youth Day Web site.

Next Month: Take a Back-to-School Break


For Teens: How Are You Salt and Light?

In choosing the themes of salt and light for World Youth Day, the pope is challenging young people to live out both themes in their everyday lives.

During WYD, pilgrims will have the opportunity to do just that in a number of different ways, such as learning more about the Catholic faith through catechesis sessions, taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and taking part in social service activities, such as working with the homeless or discussing subjects like international development.

What are some ways you can be salt and light for those around you? Reflect on these themes and try to find ways to incorporate them into your everyday life.

For Kids: The WYD Patrons

There are nine patrons for this World Youth Day:        

    < Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha 
   < Blessed Andrew of Phu Yen 
   < St. Josephine Bakhita    
   < St. Agnes of Rome 
   < St. Thérèse of Lisieux 
   < Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
   < Blessed Francisco Castello Aleu
   < Blessed Marcel Callo
   < Blessed Pedro Calungsod

Try to find information on one or all of the patrons. Some places you can find this information are the official WYD Web site, Catholic Online’s saints page at or your local library.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at

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