By BISHOP LUIS R. ZARAMA, Commentary | Published September 1, 2011
For the first time, I had the opportunity to attend World Youth Day, which was celebrated in Madrid, Spain. I was not prepared to actually participate in an event like this—I only expected to experience it.
What did I experience? What did I find? What did I enjoy?
Arriving in Madrid and being in such a beautiful city with clean streets and avenues and with such kind and friendly people is an experience in and of itself.
I walked through Madrid a lot during the week of World Youth Day and was able to enjoy the beauty of a city adorned with young pilgrims who had taken over Madrid and filled it with joy and hope.
A group of young people, which totaled 2 million at the closing Mass, congregated to celebrate a festival of faith, with different events, such as catechesis, holy Mass, confession, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and music, to name just a few.
In a beautiful display of color, flags from 200 countries intermingled and were carried by young people from their respective nations. Although they did not speak the same language, they were united by a shared faith and a shared love. As one Church they proclaimed this message to the world: “This is the Pope’s youth. … We are the youth of Christ. We are the youth of the Church.”
Who wouldn’t be moved by these young preachers? Who wouldn’t be moved by an example of faith like this one?
Because of a need for peace, countries joined together to form the United Nations. But peace has existed for over 2,000 years and was a reality at this year’s World Youth Day, when countless young people had the courage to proclaim, together with the Holy Father, a message of hope that is peace, which can only be achieved when people lose shame and live their faith. This message is preached in the daily lives of those who share the wealth of a healthy heart, full of joy, like these young people did through the streets of Madrid. They created an atmosphere that invited you to participate in a festival, a carnival, where Christ is at the center and where love, music and a message of joy overtook Madrid like a tsunami, making even the most skeptical stop, think and even smile.
These are moments in which our faith is renewed, but where we also face a challenge, and now, we all become volunteers for Christ, volunteers for the love of serving the Church.
Something that deeply touched me were the young volunteers in their green shirts who, no matter where you saw them, were always willing to help and had smiles on their faces. No matter how tired they were, they always showed an attitude of service that was admirable. They always did what they could to make everyone feel at home.
It was an experience of love in joy with sacrifice, as everyone wished for the well-being of their neighbors and everyone celebrated this generosity. It was an experience where the seed of love that each person brought was planted, making it an unforgettable event. Listening to the Holy Father call us to accept Christ and his cross, we understood that love and faith are possible.