Yassiel Barranco, 21, Ivan Lopez, 20, and Liz Marie, 17, pray during a vigil for young people at the Church of Christ the Redeemer April 22 outside Panama City. World Youth Day 2019 will be celebrated Jan. 22-27 in Panama City. CNS photo/Bob Roller

Jean Ko Din in Panama: Renewing my devotion to Mary at World Youth Day

  • January 20, 2019
As much as I want to travel light for this pilgrimage, I'm letting myself bring one book to World Youth Day – St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary.

I first picked up my copy at 20 years old (I'm 27) when I heard that St. Pope John Paul II's deep love for the Blessed Mother was inspired by this book and consecrated himself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at 19 years old. I was a year late, but hey, we can't all be PJPII.

This year's World Youth Day reflects on a Marian theme that comes from the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. When archangel Gabriel visited Mary with the Good News, she replied, "I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your Word." (Luke 1:38)

So it was only fitting that I revisit that book again. St. Louis de Montfort taught me how to love the Blessed Mother and understand her role in interceding for us. He also taught me who she really was and how to adopt her as a role model.

Mary wasn't just this demure and gentle young woman who raised the angelic baby Jesus to become the saviour of the world. She is also the Queen of Heaven and Earth who crushes the devil under her foot.

St. Louis called her the perfect mold in which we should model ourselves. But it also doesn't hurt to have contemporary women to look up to, too.

As a Catholic woman, I am attentive to women who have been a driving force in the Church, starting of course with our Blessed Mother and the moment she said, "yes." But I'm also left wanting more female role models that work in decision-making processes alongside our priests, bishops and cardinals.

I think the Church is still finding its footing in how it can make more visible spaces for women. And sometimes, it feels like Church leaders point to places where lay and religious women are and say, "Here you are and how great is that!" But I think when we ask for more conversations about the role of women, we're not looking to just fill the spaces that already exist.

Women are great advocates and supporters for the Church. We can't overlook how these past generations built foundations in the Church life we see today. But I also think that my generation doesn't want to just fill the spaces that were established for us. We want to grow in places where the feminine voice and perspective is sorely absent. We want to be in every level of the Church and right now, it can feel like we're only invited into some rooms but not all.

I don't expect solutions to come at World Youth Day but I also hope that Mary's voice inspires us as a Church to realize how important male and female voices both contribute to Christ's entire vision for us.

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