The word “catholic” means “universal.” This reality came to life for me upon seeing over 2 million people gathered together in an open field with flags representing over 180 countries, speaking dozens of languages, and praying together with the Holy Father for Sunday Mass. If I could define what the term “heaven on earth” means, I would probably start with a picture of the Sunday Mass at WYD. After that experience, I found it difficult not to compare that special moment spent with several million of my brothers and sisters in Christ to my experience at church on Sunday. However, this comparison was balanced with a greater appreciation of the liturgy itself, as the Mass is what unites me with those friends I made from Argentina, South Korea, Kenya, Ireland, and more. I know what I celebrate at St. Sylvester Church in Logan Square, Chicago on Sunday mornings is the same great mystery that gets celebrated all over the globe by my WYD friends in their homes.
I can’t help but notice that simple things in life also take on different a different meaning after WYD. A walk around my block to the grocery store suddenly seems short and easy compared to the many miles a day I walked in Krakow. However, the idea of walking around and starting a conversation with a stranger, asking them where they are from, or how God is working in their life, all seems very simple and easy to do. It’s weird to adjust back to city life and realize that I should not expect everyone to want to be friendly and willing to talk to me about their faith in God. It almost feels awkward to think back about how easy those faith-sharing conversations got started and how little effort it took to share a story of God working in my life or encountering Jesus that week.
As I return home and enter into a new job at our Diocesan Office for New Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship, I find myself asking the question: “how do I keep that feeling of joy for sharing my faith alive after WYD?” The answer for me comes from Pope Francis and his words at the Saturday evening Prayer Vigil in Krakow, where he warned us against “sofa-happiness” or “…the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis, since little by little, without even realizing it, we start to nod off, to grow drowsy and dull…”
Pope Francis challenges us to “leave our mark.” In the closing of his remarks that Saturday he said:
“Today Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, is calling you to leave your mark on history. He, who is life, is asking each of you to leave a mark that brings life to your own history and that of many others. He, who is truth, is asking you to abandon the paths of rejection, division and emptiness. Are you up to this? What answer will you give, with your hands and with your feet, to the Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life?”
My answer is: I cannot be the same as I was before I went to Krakow. I cannot have this experience of encounter, both with God and the universal Church, and go back to my life like nothing happened. I need to avoid “sofa-happiness,” share what I experienced on pilgrimage, and share what I know: that God is calling not just me, but every follower of Jesus, to leave a mark.
How will you leave your mark on history?
For more information and resources on World Youth Day, please click here.