“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
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
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 (www.wyd2002.org).
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 www.usccb.org/
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 CatholicGreetings.org.
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