Vanessa Santilli

WYD pilgrims show faith in the Church

  • August 24, 2011

MADRID, SPAIN - This World Youth Day, I have been given the gift of reflection.

I had known the theme for World Youth Day Madrid for months before my departure: “Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith.” But only after being here do I appreciate its meaning and importance.

We have to be firm in our faith because it’s so easy to be distracted in today’s world. Our priorities are out of order as we discern between what we want to be and what society tells us we should be. Money, prestige, a “perfect” outward appearance: these are all things the media tells us matter most. Firm in our faith, we can challenge these fallacies.

A strong faith will give us an anchor on which to root ourselves when the tides get rough.

“Make God the centre of your life,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily at the closing Mass. We have to make a conscious effort to put God at the top of our priority list.

{iframe width="100%" height="125px"}{/iframe}There has been a strong focus on finding one’s vocation at World Youth Day — searching for our life’s greater purpose.

In answer to the restlessness that can accompany this search, we must learn to take things one day at a time, trusting in God. But that isn’t an easy task. Often, we want to see the big picture immediately. I guess that’s why patience is a virtue.

At a catechesis session, Chicago Cardinal Francis George reminded us that we’re not in this alone. “You’ll always have a permanent relationship with God if you let Him lead you through life as a disciple,” he said.

World Youth Day has shown me that the future of the Church is strong. With 1.5 million people showing up at Cuatro Vientos for the closing Mass, the youth were clearly proud to show and share their faith. Not a bad turnout for a country where Catholicism is said to be waning.

And contrary to popular belief, youth do believe in the Church. At the papal ceremony, my group was waiting for about five hours in the blistering heat. But there were others who arrived 10 hours early for the chance to catch a glimpse. When Pope Benedict passed by us, the crowds went wild. People were screaming, crying, jumping for joy and reaching out to him. The Pope encouraged this base of devout followers to spread the message and the faith: “You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater.” Only time will tell how effective the youth will be.  

As we venture on the journey, looking for answers to life’s questions and searching for meaning and purpose amongst the confusion, I’ve learned that we must be rooted in Jesus. For just as we need to know ourselves in order to stay grounded, we must know Him in order to stay on the right path.

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