World Youth Day 2011 is only a few months away, and we want to begin to prepare for this important event by looking at the importance of its location, the capital of Spain.
Some have cited the figure of 1.5 million young people, as the expected number that will go to Madrid in August – and it could be more.
“A new Pentecost”
The last World Youth Day took place in 2008 in Sydney, Australia, and around 300,000 young people answered the Pope’s call.
He had asked the pilgrims:
“To give time to prayer and to your spiritual formation during this last stage of the journey leading to the 23rd World Youth Day, so that in Sydney you will be able to renew the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation.
“Together we shall invoke the Holy Spirit, confidently asking God for the gift of a new Pentecost for the Church and for humanity in the third millennium.”
Here, the Holy Father was referencing the 23rd World Youth Day’s motto:
“You will receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8)
Madrid’s motto – a call to Europe
In just over 100 days, World Youth Day will return to Europe, the continent where it began. Pope Benedict chose as the verse from Scripture that will accompany the pilgrims:
“Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (Col 2:7)
Clearly, it is a call to arms to stand firm before the onslaught of a new kind of radical secularism in this continent and particularly in Spain, that throughout history has been a Catholic stronghold.
As Benedict XVI wrote, in a letter to young people last year:
“Now, at a time when Europe greatly needs to rediscover its Christian roots, our meeting will take place in Madrid with the theme: ‘Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith’.
“We see a certain ‘eclipse of God’ taking place [in Europe], a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity.”
The significance of Spain
Anyone who has read any Spanish history will know that, in the past, the Christians of that land had to fight for their faith in a very real sense against Muslim invaders.
And now again a call to battle is being sounded, this time, not against some foreign assailant, or powerful warlord, but against forces that wish to eradicate from Europe, the true and lasting foundation of its unity.
When the Pope travelled to Santiago de Compostela in 2010, he summed up this idea of European unity perfectly:
“The paths that cross Europe on the way to Santiago differed greatly, each marked by its own language and its particular characteristics, but the faith was the same. There was a common language, the Gospel of Christ.”
Let us hope World Youth Day 2011 can be a starting point for beginning to speak the same language once again.
On CTS Catholic Compass, we will be looking at past World Youth Days and gathering people’s memories and experiences together, so watch this space.
Of related interest: