Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Catechesis: the heart of World Youth Day

Wednesday morning in Sydney saw the next phase of the World Youth Day activities take flight. In more than 200 sites throughout this city, the pilgrims, who by now number upward of 150,000 were separated into linguistic groups to take part in Catechesis sessions which are led by the world's bishops and cardinals who are present.

Following the theme of the 23rd World Youth Day: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses (Acts 1:8), the young people will be invited to explore the role of the Holy Spirit in their faith lives today.

At the church of Saint Joan of Arc in Habberfield, a predominantly Italian neighbourhood of Sydney, pilgrims gathered today to listen to an animated catechesis led by an Italian diocese which is famous in Church circles, for it counts among its sons Saint John of Capistrano. Like all newcomers to the life of faith, these pilgrims were invited to consider some basic truths about life:
  • just as babies must learn language and customs first by observation and then by trial and error, we too must first learn the ways of faith by hearing about them and then by struggling with them so that we can appropriate them for ourselves;

  • we learn faith from the examples of saints as well as from those who bring us to the source of faith - Jesus Christ;

  • throughout salvation history, the process of growing in faith has continued from the time of creation when we first experienced the love of the Father; to the incarnation; when God sent his son as the ultimate sign of his love; to the arrival of the Holy Spirit, gift of God for the life of the Church;

  • the Holy Spirit has been in existence since the beginning of time - it breathed over the waters at the time of creation; it was present to breathe life into the reconstructed bones of Ezekiel's prophecy; it was present at the moment of the Immaculate Conception; it was present throughout the life of Jesus; it was present at the time of Pentecost when the Church was born; and it is present today to guide us as we live and love today;

  • some parts of our world are in trouble today because we have forgotten how to listen to the voice of God that calls to us from the day of our baptism. This is the time for us to waken from the slumber of daily life, to waken to the voice of God, to listen attentively as He calls us to deepen our knowledge of his love, and to listen also for his voice that calls us all to live life to the fullest.

Catechetical sessions take place every morning until Friday of this week. This afternoon and this evening, a series of youth festival events are being offered throughout the city of Sydney, including a vocation pavillion which invites the worlds youth to ask questions about the possibility that Christ might be calling them to follow in his footsteps.

One of the long-lasting fruits of the World Youth Days is the number of young men and women who have answered the call of God to follow him as priests and as religious. In addition, many have chosen the married state because they have been encouraged to ask deep questions about life and to listen attentively to God's voice which calls them to make a difference in the world by being faithful to the gospel call which was given to us all on the day of our baptism. This is a call which leads some to proclaim God's mercy in the celebration of sacraments, others to celebrate God's loving gift of creation in married life and the birth of children, and others to celebrate God's love as witnesses of prayer and joy to all they meet.

World Youth Day festivities continue down under until Sunday.

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