World Youth Day activities throughout Madrid continued on Aug. 17, as pilgrims reported to sites the first of three mornings of bishop-led catechesis and Mass.
The Love and Life Centre, hosted by the Knights of Columbus and Sisters of Life at the Palacio de Deportes, served a capacity crowd of English-speaking pilgrims, as more than 10,000 young people gathered for music and catechetical talks before Mass celebrated by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia.
After the morning program, Curtis Martin, president and founder of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), gave a keynote address about the “universal call to holiness.”
He pointed to the significance the words that Pope Benedict XVI spoke to youth at the conclusion of his inaugural homily in 2005: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.”
“The challenge is that you can’t become great and remain comfortable,” Martin said. “You have to live differently – above the world, not being drawn down into the things of the world.”
Martin encouraged his listeners to have an eternal perspective about time, to surrender to God’s will, and to recognize that they were made for a higher purpose than just “having fun.”
“If you were what you were meant to be, you would set the world on fire,” he said.
Following the keynote, pilgrims stayed for a panel discussion on religious freedom, featuring Archbishop-designate Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, and Helen Alvaré, professor of law at George Mason University.
During his opening remarks, Archbishop Chaput said that in light of “ignorance, laziness and bias against traditional Christian belief” that is often found in the mass media, young people must be prepared to be “good apologists, capable defenders of the faith.”
“Each of you, and every young woman and man who belongs to Jesus Christ, will face opposition, resentment and even persecution from the contemporary world,” he said. “Our job, and especially your job as young leaders, is to let God change through us, and then through us, God will change others and the world. We win the world by winning one soul at a time for Jesus Christ and his Church, starting with ourselves.”
Supreme Knight Anderson observed that Christianity is under attack by people who think it “is opposed to human happiness, and therefore want to marginalize it from society.”
The response to this perception, he said, may be found in how Christians witness to the world in their daily lives.
“Christianity promotes human happiness, and the people who follow the truth of Jesus Christ celebrate their lives and live joyful lives. That is what being an authentic witness means today.”
“Religious liberty goes to the heart of what it means to be a person. You cannot be Christians without freedom,” he continued. “If we are to protect our religious liberty, we have to be a people that manifests our religious faith and do so in a way that makes people realize it’s value and truth and the contribution it makes to society.”
Additional panel discussions were scheduled at the site for Friday.
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