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Posted on 08/9/2023 12:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Lisbon, Portugal, Aug 9, 2023 / 08:30 am (CNA).
Young Seattle couple Luke and Tina Nguyen have been to seven World Youth Day gatherings between them.
But the international event in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 1–6 was the first time they traveled to the weeklong meeting of young people as a married couple — and the first time they traveled internationally with their 14-month-old son, Finn.
“I’ve always loved going to World Youth Day. It’s a great opportunity to travel and I just thought it would be such a special thing for our firstborn to go to World Youth Day as well,” Luke told CNA after the Saturday night prayer vigil with Pope Francis on Aug. 5.
The husband said beforehand the couple had watched a lot of videos on Instagram about traveling with babies.
The videos, he explained, said things like: “‘They might not remember it, but then you will, and they’ll grow so much, and it will be the most special thing.’ And so we were like, ‘Hey, why not? It’s not that bad.’”
“It was pretty bad,” Tina chimed in with a chuckle. “It was very difficult, but we made it work.”
“I think in the end it was definitely worth it,” she added.
The Nguyen family went to Lisbon’s Parque Tejo for the World Youth Day prayer vigil, which had an estimated attendance of 1.5 million Catholics, before heading back to their vacation rental to sleep. They flew back to Seattle on Aug. 6 after a week in the Portuguese capital.
They said the key to making World Youth Day work with a young child is “taking it really, really easy” and not planning to do everything. Pick, they advised, just one or two things you do not want to miss and let anything else you do be “extra.”
The couple, who celebrated their second wedding anniversary the week of World Youth Day, said they were happy to have made it to the gathering’s main events, including an opening ceremony with Pope Francis.
“We made it work around [Finn’s] schedule. He’s the king, of course,” Tina said, noting that their son had grown a lot during the trip, including cutting teeth and learning to walk.
One special memory from the week happened before the pope’s first World Youth Day event on Aug. 2.
“The first day when the pope arrived,” Luke said, “we actually managed to be at the end of where [Pope Francis’] car turned around. And so we raised [Finn] up from the crowd, and I swear to you, the pope was looking at the crowd and his eyes diverted up and he blessed Finn. And I was like, if there’s anything that was great about this entire event it is that Finn got blessed by the pope.”
Tina said it had been a cool experience to see their child interact with the crowds and pilgrim groups, and that his presence had also facilitated meeting new people.
“He’s a very, very social baby, luckily, so he walks up to random people and everyone loves him. And we were able to trade all these trinkets with everybody and meet other new people.”
“I would definitely say if anything, he has been a blessing to others that he has met or approached on this entire trip,” Luke added.
“It’s not often that you see a 1-year-old at World Youth Day. So if anything he has blessed a lot of people, more than we’ve been blessed during this trip.”
The Nguyens said they met in college at the University of Washington when they had a class together. Even then they were both practicing Catholics, Tina said Luke was more “into the faith” than she was.
“He actually tried to get me to go to church with him, and that’s how we kind of started dating,” she said. “He definitely helped lead me towards God.”
Luke said the family’s experience at World Youth Day in Lisbon, his fifth WYD, was “one of the better ones.”
He found it well-organized with happy people around: “The city of [Lisbon] is absolutely beautiful, spirits are very high. You can definitely feel God working in everyone around here as well. Really, really love it.”
Posted on 08/8/2023 20:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 8, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).
The father of Jimena, the 16-year-old Spanish World Youth Day pilgrim who reported she recovered her sight during a Mass in Fátima, provided ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the details of what he described as “a leap in faith” and a “gift from the Virgin Mary for WYD.”
On Saturday, Aug. 5, in Fátima, Portugal, Jimena said she was cured of a serious eye problem — which the doctors called incurable — after completing a novena to Our Lady of the Snows and receiving holy Communion at a Mass.
‘I felt something special’
Her father, who says he was always “holding on to the conviction that she was going to be cured,” described what Jimena’s first call home was after what had happened.
“We practically didn’t speak, she was crying; she just told us, ‘I see, I see.’ Then the priest called us who had celebrated the Mass to give us a few more details. It’s an incredible joy,” he said.
“She went to confession before going to Mass. She was very excited, she felt something special. She then went to receive Communion,” he said. “Afterward she was afraid to open her eyes because she thought, ‘If I don’t get cured, it’s because I don’t have faith.’ And she opened them up and began to see everything. Then she … started crying and realized that her friends were two and a half years older [than when she saw them last],” her father recounted, still quite emotional.
A ‘Way of the Cross’ looking for doctors
For two and a half years, Jimena has suffered from an “accommodation spasm,” a malfunction in the way the eyes focus. Normally, such a condition would measure about two diopters (the unit used for an eye prescription).
“In Jimena’s case,” her father explained, “it ranged from eight to 16 diopters at the worst moments. So, it didn’t allow her to see, not with glasses nor in any way.”
“Let’s say that her ‘eye was crazy,’ so if they measured that she was at eight diopters and they put glasses on her, she couldn’t see, because she couldn’t focus. The convergence [coordination] of her eyes didn’t work for her, it was something that the doctors themselves considered inexplicable.”
For just over a year they tried a “very cutting-edge treatment in Japan” with the hope of obtaining results. However, there was no progress. “It didn’t work for Jimena and it produced terrible side effects because she felt bad, had nausea, headaches, and couldn’t study.”
“The medical team,” the girl’s father continued, said that they had run out of options and “they didn’t know what else to do.”
It was Jimena who asked her parents to stop the medication, and so they decided to look for other alternatives so as not to just sit by and do nothing.
“We went through a small ‘Via Crucis’ [Way of the Cross] from doctors who were recommended to us. No one understood what was happening to her. Some were kind and others were very rude,” he lamented.
‘There was a supernatural component’
“But we also saw that there was a component that wasn’t normal, a supernatural component,” Jimena’s father told ACI Prensa.
He explained that one day they had an appointment for an operation on Jimena “to fix the eye convergence issue with a procedure in the operating room, and we didn’t quite see that, we weren’t convinced that this was what we had to do.”
“She prayed a lot to the Virgin that night and the next day the eye convergence was cured. And the doctor himself saw it and then said, ‘This is pretty amazing.’ It can happen, but well, he was pretty amazed. And for a doctor to be amazed, it already has to be something extraordinary,” the father related.
For the young woman’s family, what happened “also gave us clues that we could take a leap of faith and somehow trust the Virgin and leave ourselves in her hands without, logically, abandoning our responsibility.”
A novena that really took off
In the days prior to WYD, during a walk along the Rincón de la Victoria beach in Málaga (Spain) on their way to visit an image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel found among the rocks, father and daughter decided to completely abandon themselves to the Virgin.
“Walking along the beach we started talking. I told her that at some moments in her life she had had ‘inspirations,’” referring to the faith and trust that the young woman had placed in providence throughout her illness.
It was after that conversation that they both decided to “get in gear and get the whole world praying.”
“And that’s what happened. She told us that she believed that we had to pray and make a novena to Our Lady of the Snows from July 28 to Aug. 5, and we got moving on it with everyone else. She was leaving for Lisbon the same day, the 28th.”
Jimena’s father said that “thousands of people” participated in the novena, which really took off, he said. “Just the girls who went with her numbered almost 400 and most of those who were there didn’t know her. And now for them it was like the miracle of WYD.”
Vacation time this August was going to be definitive for the young woman. “We had hoped that in the summer, if we had any kind of a sign, if we had any kind of indication, we were going to be turned upside down.”
“September for Jimena was [to be] a new world, because she had to start going around with a cane and training a guide dog, she also had to consider which university degrees she could do and which ones she couldn’t,” he explained.
Jimena’s father explained that, in addition, they would have had to look for new doctors, “and every time she goes to a doctor it’s a mis-treatment, because they do all kinds of tests again, because they don’t understand anything and then she ends up devastated.”
In addition, they were working with ONCE (Spanish National Organization for the Blind), “and we realized that it’s a wonderful place.” However, he admitted, “we were always holding on to the conviction that there was going to be a solution.”
‘A girl always concerned about the people around her’
Jimena’s father’s voice cracked with emotion when trying to describe his daughter and said for him she is undoubtedly “a special girl.”
“She is very emotional, she is a very sensitive girl and very close to her girlfriends, always very concerned about the people around her and with an awareness of that, of that friendship that she has with that group of girlfriends that they have been with practically since they were little,” he said.
The father said that she is also “an inveterate reader,” something that she has had to sacrifice for two and a half years, “because there are not as many novels in Braille as one might think.”
“Now it will be a great gift for her to be able to take up ‘Moby Dick,’ the novel she was reading when she lost her sight. This morning we talked to her and she told us that she is reading the signs on the façades and in the streets of Lisbon because it seems to her that it is a gift for her to be able to read again. She doesn’t care that they are things that don’t have any importance, she thinks it’s a miracle to be able to read them.”
Illness as a ‘vehicle for purification’
During the last couple of years in which Jimena’s illness was getting worse, her family felt the need to “not lose our sense of humor, laugh at every situation to be able to live with it.”
“Even laughing at situations with Jimena because she couldn’t see and bringing out the funniest side of the terrible things that can happen to you in life, because otherwise you’re focused all the time on your own misfortune and life is very hard.”
He noted that “things never happen suddenly” and that illness “is a vehicle for other people to purify themselves or to be better around the patient.”
The father also said that Jimena was able to meet one of her three brothers at the WYD Vigil a few hours after having recovered her sight.
‘A gift from the Virgin for WYD’
For the father of the girl from Madrid, “the beauty of this is that each one gets out of it his own testimony, his own experience, which has been very special and everyone is very moved.”
“I think that part of the beauty of a miracle is that it is not exclusive to one person or one family but rather that it is as big as possible. And in this sense, it has also gone beyond us. It has already crossed borders,” he remarked.
In addition, he expressed their intention to not be the center of attention, since “the focus has to be on WYD, since I believe that this is a gift from the Virgin for WYD.”
‘We don’t need any confirmation’
“We don’t need any confirmation. We are going to meet again with the medical team that has been treating her for the past year, more to close that episode a bit so that they can see her and draw their own conclusions,” he explained.
The father pointed out that “since it was a novena to the Virgin and there is no cause for beatification,” they don’t need to confirm that it is truly a miracle.
“I think that people are already sufficiently moved, those who believe, believe, and those who don’t, well they won’t believe anyway,” he emphasized.
The father explained that “when you take a leap in faith, you don’t look back, you only look forward.”
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 08/7/2023 20:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 7, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).
“I opened my eyes and I could see perfectly,” said Jimena, a 16-year-old Spanish World Youth Day pilgrim who said she miraculously recovered her sight after receiving the Eucharist at Fátima, Portugal, during a Mass there.
This possible miracle has moved hearts and filled with hope all those who have been following the events at WYD, which brought together more than a million young people in the Portuguese capital last week.
Jimena traveled to Lisbon from Madrid with a group from Opus Dei. During the days prior, relatives and acquaintances of the young woman organized a novena to pray to Our Lady of the Snows, whose feast day is commemorated Aug. 5, the same day she recovered her sight.
For two and a half years, Jimena has suffered a loss of sight due to a myopia problem that left her with a 95% vision loss. On the morning of Aug. 5, when the Holy Father was also praying the rosary at the Fátima shrine, Jimena received what she herself describes as a “great gift” from the Virgin Mary.
Not long after having recovered her sight, Jimena told the Spanish radio station COPE that she woke up that morning “as I have been getting up for two and a half years, seeing super blurry, very badly.”
She explained that she had gone to Mass with her friends “because we are at WYD and after receiving Communion I began to cry a lot, because it was the last day of the novena and I wanted to be cured and I had very much asked God please [cure me].”
“When I opened my eyes, I could see perfectly,” the young woman continued, “it was overwhelming; very many thanks must be given for the miracle, because I saw the altar, the tabernacle, my girlfriends were there, and I could see them perfectly.”
In addition, she said that she was able to read the novena prayer that she was praying and that she still reads “quite well” — she hadn’t forgotten at all how to read.
The young woman said she is “super happy” and thanked all those who were part of the prayer group. “This has been a test of faith; the Virgin has given me a great gift that I will not forget,” she said.
In an Aug. 6 statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Cardinal Juan José Omella, the archbishop of Barcelona and president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, referred to the possible miracle as “a grace from God” during the press conference at the end of WYD held at Eduardo VII park in Lisbon.
The cardinal said he was able to speak with Jimena on a video call and that she explained what happened in a natural and unaffected manner. “The girl was very excited; she had been blind for a while and she had been learning the Braille method for two or three years,” he said.
The prelate also noted that Jimena “had to read the prayer of thanksgiving at Mass that day with the Madrid group” and that, after receiving Communion, she was able to read it without any problem.
The young woman also told the cardinal that they had been praying for “nine days asking the Virgin for her healing.”
Omella encouraged the faithful to “give thanks to God” and explained that “this doesn’t lead to the cause of beatification for anyone, because the Virgin is already a saint, but it is indeed a grace from God.”
He pointed out that “then the doctors will have to assess it, what it was like, if it existed, if it could be cured or not. But for now for the girl that has been a major event. Let’s say a miracle. She didn’t see and now she sees. Now the doctors will be able to say the rest, but she has gone home seeing. Well, she sees, blessed be God.”
Omella said he was “really struck” by other testimonies that took place during WYD from young people who “have also recovered their interior vision.”
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 08/7/2023 14:15 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 7, 2023 / 10:15 am (CNA).
Francisco Velarde, a 21-year-old Spaniard, was one of the young people who had the privilege of going to confession with Pope Francis on Friday, Aug. 4, at World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal.
A few hours later, and still “in a cloud,” he told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the details of what he considers “the confession of my life.”
“I still don’t believe it a bit; I’m in a cloud trying to assimilate everything, receiving a bit of peace of mind, because it really has been... Imagine, I still can’t believe it and five hours have passed,” Velarde told ACI Prensa, although he added: “I still don’t want to [stop] believing it.”
The young man from Córdoba, a city in southern Spain, received the news of this unforgettable event a month ago. “I’ve spent 30 nights tossing around what was going to happen today,” he said.
In order to prepare himself properly, he began to write down in a notebook what he wanted to tell the pope: “We don’t have much time, about 10 or 15 minutes, and I really wanted to summarize the important things I wanted to talk to the Holy Father about, question my life and let him advise me.”
“Until this last night, it’s been hard to sleep, but it has helped me a lot to simplify everything I wanted to say and to have that mind of opening up with the Holy Father, which in the end, whether you want it or not, makes you a bit ashamed.”
“I told him the sins that cause me the most pain,” Velarde explained, saying it was the confession of his life “because I don’t think there is much probability that something like this will happen again.”
“It was the confession of my life,” he repeated, “and I also confessed things that, although they were already confessed, today, having the opportunity to be with the Holy Father, I wanted him to advise me and present them to him as a representative of God on earth, I wanted to present it to him and also receive his forgiveness for all these things.”
During the sacrament of reconciliation, Pope Francis “stopped me, commented on something, gave me some notion of giving my life.”
“He invited me to be brave, to love even when it is difficult and when we have less reason to love, to continue loving.” The Holy Father also invited him to maintain “the joy of being brave, the courage to follow Christ.”
The young Spaniard, with the pope’s permission, claimed to be his “messenger” and encouraged all young people “to be brave and have courage.”
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 08/7/2023 12:45 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
CNA Newsroom, Aug 7, 2023 / 08:45 am (CNA).
The Spiritual Family “The Work,” a Catholic community founded in 1938 by Mother Julia Verhaeghe and recognized by St. John Paul II in 2001 as a “family of consecrated life,” has secured definitive approval of its constitutions from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
This significant endorsement, announced on the feast of the apostle James on July 25, underscores the growing influence of The Work, which boasts houses in 12 countries, including the United States.
Eucharistic adoration is an important part of the prayer life of the community, Father Hermann Geissler, FSO, a prominent figure in the community, said in an interview with CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner agency.
“We want to form a spiritual family of brothers and sisters in which Jesus Christ is the center and the mystery of the Church can be experienced,” said Geissler, emphasizing the community’s focus on faith, unity, and complementarity among its members.
The community, known as The Work, was founded by Mother Julia Verhaeghe (1910–1997) in Belgium. Geissler has written a biography of the founder, to which Pope Benedict XVI provided a letter about the “inner drama of being a Christian.”
“She never wanted to found anything in particular; rather, she wanted to live, love, and witness the Church as the foundation of Christ in the here and now,” Geissler told CNA Deutsch.
“The life of prayer, especially eucharistic adoration, is at the center of our houses. From union with God comes unity in the diversity of vocations, gifts, and talents,” he said. “We are also deeply concerned about fidelity to the Catholic faith and its transmission to future generations. As Mother Julia testified, the community should be ‘a wake-up call to keep the faith pure.’ These aspects are detailed in the constitutions and shape our daily life.”
Over the years, The Work has expanded to include a community of sisters, a community of priests, and members in the wider sense, including diocesan priests, single and widowed persons, and married couples. It has also taken root in many dioceses with the approval of the bishops.
Given the current state of the Church and the world in 2023, Geissler sees the community’s role as increasingly important. “The witness of the Church is becoming more and more important in our time, because the Church is no longer seen as the foundation of Christ but as a secular association,” he said.
In 2013 the community was subject to a papal visitation on account of allegations made by former members of the community. Following this, a revision of the constitutions was undertaken by a theological and a canonical working group, whose proposed modifications were adopted by the Family Assembly (General Chapter) in 2019, prior to their being submitted to the Holy See for approval.
The Work has its headquarters at Thalbach Monastery in the Austrian town of Bregenz since 1983.
The community is now one of the first institutes of its kind to have its constitutions definitively approved by the Church, marking a significant step forward in its mission to “live, love, and witness the Church” in the modern world, according to The Work.
Posted on 08/6/2023 16:25 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Lisbon, Portugal, Aug 6, 2023 / 12:25 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis wrapped up his World Youth Day visit with one word, rendered in Portuguese as “obrigado,” thank you — literally, “I am obliged.”
The Holy Father closed the international celebration at a Mass celebrated with an estimated 1.5 million pilgrims earlier this morning, but before leaving Portugal, his last public address was for the some 25,000 volunteers from 130 countries who kept the massive event running.
At the Passeio Marítimo outdoor festival center in Algés, on the outskirts of Lisbon, the pope arrived a little after 4 p.m. local time to temperatures of 99 degrees.
Despite the heat and the long hours of the last several months and days, the volunteers excitedly cheered the WYD shout used since the days of Pope John Paul II: “These are the young people of the pope!” adding: “Long live Pope Francis!”
Using umbrellas, flags, and their bright green hats to shade themselves, the volunteers gave one last “welcome!” — this time for the pope.
Three of the young people gave their testimonies to start the meeting: from Portugal, Francisco, 24; Filipe, 33; and from Germany, Chiara, 18. The three of them spoke of how fulfilling these days of service have been and the enriching experience of serving with people from around the world, as well as the chance to grow in their faith and love for Christ.
“I have realized that life with God is not boring; it is pure adventure,” Chiara said, bringing cheers from her fellow volunteers. “I want to be a saint,” Francisco assured the pope and the crowd. Filipe said there are many young people who know that in Christ we find peace.
Cardinal Manuel Clemente, patriarch of Lisbon, gave words of thanks to the pope and his collaborators before the Holy Father took the microphone.
Speaking in Spanish, and often adding off-the-cuff comments and emphases during many of his addresses during the five-day trip, Pope Francis referred to the theme of this World Youth Day — “Mary arose, and went with haste.”
She went to share joy and service, “service in joy,” he said. Francis told the sea of yellow-T-shirted young people that he had seen them also “running about” during these days, moving in haste to help others. “You ran a lot,” he said, as the crowd acknowledged him with cheers.
“But I always noted one thing,” the pope praised them, “that your eyes shone brightly, shining with the joy of service. Thank you.”
“You made this World Youth Day possible. You did great things with the smallest of gestures,” he added. “You have done much running about, yet never in a frenetic or aimless way that sometimes our world asks. You ran a race that brings about an encounter with others. To serve others in the name of Jesus. You came to Lisbon to serve, not to be served. Thank you. Many thanks.”
Pope Francis noted how love always makes us move quickly, saying: “We think of Zacchaeus, who went up a tree and hurried down from the tree to meet Jesus and welcome him into his home; of the women and disciples, who on Easter morning ran to the tomb and back to the upper room to announce that Christ is risen. Those who love do not stand idly by, one who loves, serves, and hurries to love.“
The bishop of Rome left the volunteers with an image taken from his host country, pointing out that north of Lisbon, at a place called Nazaré, waves as high as 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) attract surfers from all over the world.
“In these days, you also have faced a real wave,” he told the volunteers, “not of water, but of young people, young people like you, who have poured into this city.”
Indeed, the estimated attendance at World Youth Day in Lisbon was as much as 50% higher than expected. While only about 350,000 pilgrims had registered, organizers expected a million for the vigil and the final Mass. Estimates suggest, though, that as many as 1.5 million youth were actually in attendance.
“With God’s help, with a lot of generosity and helping each other, you have ridden this great wave,” he told the volunteers as they cheered. “You’re brave!” he assured them, urging them to continue riding the waves of love and charity. “Be surfers of love. This is a task I give you today.”
Some of the young volunteers then greeted the pope personally. Shortly before 5 p.m., the encounter wrapped up with the pope leading the youth in praying the Our Father and then giving the apostolic blessing. “And now to ride the wave!” he said as a last encouragement.
The pope then moved on to a farewell ceremony at Figo Maduro Air Base in Lisbon. He is expected to arrive in Rome this evening around 10 p.m.
Posted on 08/6/2023 08:36 AM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Lisbon, Portugal, Aug 6, 2023 / 04:36 am (CNA).
“Be not afraid,” Pope Francis told young Catholics Sunday at the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, echoing the well-known call of his predecessor and the founder of the international youth gathering, St. John Paul II.
“Dear young people, I would like to look into the eyes of each one of you and tell you: Be not afraid, be not afraid,” he said Aug. 6 on a sunny morning in what organizers dubbed the “Field of Grace.”
“I tell you something very beautiful: It is no longer me, it is Jesus himself who is looking at you in this moment, he is looking at you,” the pope continued. “He knows you, he knows the heart of each one of you, he knows the life of each one of you, he knows the joys, he knows the sadness, the successes and the failures.”
Jesus, Pope Francis told young people, “knows your hearts. He sees our hearts. And he tells you today here in Lisbon, on this World Youth Day: ‘Be not afraid, be not afraid, take heart, be not afraid.’”
Francis celebrated Mass on the feast of the Transfiguration for an estimated 1.5 million people in Parque Tejo, where young people and their leaders had camped out overnight following a prayer vigil. Approximately 10,000 priests and 700 bishops concelebrated.
The Mass marked the official end of the international youth gathering, which drew hundreds of thousands of teenagers, young adults, and their leaders from almost every country in the world to the Portuguese capital Aug. 1–6.
The week included prayer, Mass, music concerts, religious talks, and cultural events, among other activities.
Luis Graca, 23, from Portugal, told CNA Sunday morning that a highlight of the week for him was visiting the “City of Joy,” where there was a vocational fair and park with priests hearing confessions.
“We could see a lot of different people all trying to seek Jesus and that was really amazing to see,” he said. “It was also amazing seeing the amount of people going [to the reconciliation park], the amount of priests there. It was beautiful.”
He said the prayer vigil the night before was also a good experience: “It was really calm, everyone could pray… everything was beautiful.”
Graca and his wife, Leanor, also 23, got married just 18 days ago. Graca described World Youth Day as “another bomb of the Holy Spirit after our marriage. One bomb with our marriage and now another bomb, so let’s live the Holy Spirit from now on.”
“‘Lord, it is good that we are here!’ (Mt 17:4),” Pope Francis said in his homily, quoting from the day’s Gospel reading. “We also want to make these words that the apostle Peter said to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration our own after these intense days.”
“It is beautiful what we are experiencing with Jesus, what we have lived together, and it is beautiful how we have prayed with so much joy in our hearts. And then we can ask ourselves: What do we take with us when we return to everyday life?” he said.
Marina Aleykseyeva, 31, from Kiev, Ukraine, was also present for the vigil and Mass with Pope Francis.
“We are here to pray for the country, to pray for peace,” she told CNA. “This World Youth Day is very, very special because all [of us] Ukrainians came here to pray for peace, to pray for the soldiers and for our families.”
Aleykseyeva, a Latin Catholic, said she and the other members of her group were checking their phones during the vigil to follow the news of another air raid on Ukraine overnight. The Ukrainians were joined in prayer by some young women from Italy who were nearby them in the field.
She said she was touched by how many people came up to them during the week to say they were praying for Ukraine.
“Now we can return to our country and tell everyone that so many people who believe in God are praying for us from all over the world,” she said.
Pope Francis also made an appeal for peace in the world and in Ukraine during a short address before the Angelus at the end of Mass.
“Let us accompany with our thoughts and prayers those who could not be with us because of armed conflicts and wars,” he said. “Indeed, there are many of them in our world. In thinking of this continent, I feel great sorrow for beloved Ukraine, which continues to suffer greatly.”
“Allow me, as an older person, to share with you young people a dream that I carry within me: It is the dream of peace, the dream of young people praying for peace, living in peace and building a peaceful future,” he continued.
“As we pray the Angelus, let us place the future of humanity into the hands of Mary, Queen of Peace. As you return home, please continue to pray for peace.”
Francis told young people: “You are a sign of peace for the world, showing how different nationalities, languages, and histories can unite instead of divide. You are the hope of a different world. Thank you for this. Onwards!”
Posted on 08/5/2023 20:47 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Lisbon, Portugal, Aug 5, 2023 / 16:47 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis on Saturday urged attendees at World Youth Day to make themselves “roots of joy” in the lives of others, calling on the huge young crowd to draw on the “love of Jesus” to “walk in hope” as they journey through life.
The Holy Father gave the address at the Saturday vigil that took place near the end of the World Youth Day celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal. The vigil took place in the city’s Parque Tejo.
Pope Francis spent most of the week in Lisbon and the surrounding region, visiting with civil dignitaries, Church officials, and World Youth Day participants. On Saturday morning in Fátima he had prayed a rosary with young people with disabilities alongside a participatory crowd of about 200,000 attendees.
On Saturday the pope addressed the crowd — estimated at upwards of 800,000 people — with the story of the Virgin Mary, who the Gospel of Luke says “departed and went without delay” to her cousin upon finding out she was pregnant with Christ.
“That is what love makes us do,” the pope said. Joy, he said, “is missionary. Joy is not for one. It is to bring something.”
“I ask you,” he said to the crowd, “you who are here, who have come to meet, to seek the message of Christ, to seek a beautiful meaning in life: Will you keep this for yourselves, or will you bring it to others?”
Departing frequently from his prepared script as he has done throughout his visit to Portugal, Francis asked attendees to remember people who have acted as “rays of light” in their own lives.
“Did you find faces, did you find stories?” he asked. “That joy that came from those roots is what we have to give. Because we have roots of joy, roots of joy. And we too can be for others roots of joy.”
At the conclusion of his brief remarks, Pope Francis told the crowd: “I leave you with this idea: Walk and if you fall, get up. Walk with a goal, train every day in life. Nothing in life is free, everything is paid for.”
“There is only one thing free: the love of Jesus,” he added. ”So with this free thing that we have, the love of Jesus, and with the desire to walk, let’s walk in hope, let’s look at our roots and go forward, without fear.”
Eucharistic adoration followed the pope’s address. The display of the monstrance led many of the hundreds of thousands of young attendees to kneel even as they were out of view of the main event stage.
‘A moment to rest in God’
Since the early part of the morning on Saturday, a steady and growing stream of pilgrims filled Dom João II Avenue and adjoining streets in southern Lisbon as they marched toward the vigil and final Mass with Pope Francis.
As temperatures soared toward 95 degrees Fahrenheit and Lisbon authorities issued an orange-level heat advisory, registered pilgrims received bags of food and water for two days while preparing to camp out overnight for the culmination of the international gathering.
While some young people walked from lodgings roughly one mile from the park, others spent the whole morning journeying to the vigil carrying backpacks, sleeping bags, and rolled-up exercise mats.
Isadora Mercado, 20, from Santiago, Chile, said her group of about 55 people left their lodgings in north Lisbon around 9:30 a.m. to trek to the park by bus, train, and foot.
World Youth Day has been “amazing,” she said. This weekend “I’m looking forward to having a moment for me to rest in God, preparing for the final Mass with the pope.”
Nina Würth, 26, from near Zurich, Switzerland, said her group of 400 young people walked nearly five hours, starting at 9 a.m., to reach the park, which has been dubbed “Field of Grace” by WYD organizers.
“I’m really looking forward to the beautiful Mass tomorrow morning and just the bonding experience tonight with everybody,” Elizabeth Pinze, 19, said, as she and her group from Venice, Florida, walked to the vigil eight hours in advance of the start.
Jacob Morris, 22, from Dover in Kent, England, said World Youth Day has been “a great religious experience.” He added that he has especially enjoyed seeing the singing and dancing and joy of young people from other countries.
“It’s deepened my faith a lot,” he said. “We’ve made tons of cool friends.”
Posted on 08/5/2023 18:50 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
Lisbon, Portugal, Aug 5, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).
The World Youth Day gathering in Lisbon, Portugal, this week debuted a new model of catechesis sessions aimed at listening to young people better.
The new format, however, garnered a mixed response from pilgrims and some complaints from bishops about miscommunications related to schedules and locations.
Venues included both churches and large parks and attendance in individual sessions varied from hundreds to thousands of pilgrims.
Rise Up Encounters, as the new catecheses are called, took place on the mornings of Aug. 2–4 at approximately 270 locations in and outside of Lisbon. They were organized into more than 30 language groups and led by different Church groups with the participation of bishops.
The meetings, according to the official WYD website, “are planned to provide young people with an experience aligned with the ongoing synodal journey in the universal Church.”
Each day focused on a different theme: integral ecology, social friendship, and mercy.
The meetings were supposed to “provide a time for reflection, listening, and sharing,” the website says, and include “the construction of a house” after dialogue with the bishop, to “show young people that together, they can build a ‘common home’ with their dreams.”
Rise Up Encounters at the Church of Our Lady of Providence in a quiet, residential neighborhood in east Lisbon Aug. 2-4 were led by members of the Emmanuel Community, to which many of the pilgrims in attendance belonged.
The English-language sessions included pilgrims from the Netherlands, Poland, the Philippines, Ireland, Australia, the United States, and Liberia.
The first morning started with praise and worship followed by a less-than-10-minute reflection on integral ecology from Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis.
Thompson, together with Auxiliary Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen of Orange County, California, and Auxiliary Bishop Robert Lombardo of Chicago, then answered questions from young people. Among them: Do you have a particular devotion to Mary? How do we follow the call in the Gospel of John to be in the world, but not of the world? How do we put our whole trust in God?
The morning concluded with the celebration of Mass.
On Aug. 4, the focus was mercy. The meeting included confessions, eucharistic adoration, and Mass.
Mark Wang, 27, attended the session to support his archbishop, Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon.
“I really enjoyed it,” he told EWTN News. “I felt that the testimonies were really powerful, they really showed how well the Lord was working in the lives of our fellow young people.”
“Getting to have a time of adoration and just being able to spend some quiet time with the Lord after a lot of busy days has just been really amazing,” he added.
Gabriel Leblond, 25, from New York City, was the emcee and one of the organizers of the three Rise Up Encounters led by Emmanuel Community. He told CNA that local organizers gave the group a general outline to follow and themes to cover, but that they had some freedom to add or change things.
They added praise and worship, he said. He also noted that the local organizers told them which bishops would come to each session to speak.
Reflecting after the meeting and before Mass on Aug. 2, Thompson, Nguyen, and Lombardo thought the question and answer session went well but noted that they did the most speaking, while a direction they had from local organizers was to spend more time listening to young people. They considered switching things around on the other days to ask the youth questions instead.
Father Paul Hartmann, associate secretary general of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), also noticed that a Rise Up session he attended with Cardinal Sean O’Malley Aug. 3, while great, “did not seem to completely follow what I understand as the WYD plan,” because it did not include small-group discussions.
The meeting was led by the Focolare Movement in a Lisbon park. “As I understand things, it was done more like WYDs [in the] past and more like their own movement’s style of meetings,” he said.
An Aug. 4 Rise Up Encounter with Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the USCCB and archbishop of Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, in the Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation began with prayer and included a guided meditation on mercy from a youth minister of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.
The morning also included a talk by Broglio, testimonies from a priest and religious sister on vocation, adoration, Mass, and opportunities for confession.
Claire Cataldo, 21, of Indiana, said she “thought the session was really great.”
“It’s actually our third day coming to this church, and it’s been really awesome getting to be in the same place," she said. "And there’s a little side chapel in the front of the Church with Jesus in it, so that’s been really awesome because when we come in the mornings before the sessions get started we can spend time with Jesus.”
Twin brothers Jacob and Patrick Swierczek, 20, from Chicago, were chosen to bring up the gifts during Mass.
Jacob, who uses a wheelchair, said he felt blessed he was chosen “at random” to present the gifts. “God has a plan for everyone in their lives and little things like that definitely lead you towards faith and allow you to experience the presence of God in your life,” he said.
‘A little unfocused’
Some pilgrims reported dissatisfaction with certain aspects of their Rise Up meetings, especially logistics, while expressing overall contentment with the World Youth Day experience.
Elise Cloutier, 28, of Quebec, Canada, said her group attended a Rise Up at a local parish close to where they were staying, and overall it went well.
“Because we were so many people, the sound system was not as good or well-organized, sometimes we couldn’t hear properly,” she told CNA. “But otherwise I think it was very fruitful to learn a bit more about the faith.”
Stephen Guelda, 32, who traveled with a group from the Diocese of Louisville, Kentucky, noted that the Rise Up Encounters attended by his group were held outside, which at times “was a little hectic, a little unfocused.”
“It’s a different atmosphere versus being in a church where it’s a little more reverent. People probably have a little bit of a different attitude there,” he said, adding that “if you could get in close enough you could hear and focus a little better” and then “it was fine.”
Father Harrison Ayre, who brought a group of 26 young adults from his parish in British Columbia, Canada, to World Youth Day, was also disappointed by the outdoor space of a Rise Up he attended.
“The space was not conducive for prayer,” he told CNA.
Several U.S. bishops described last-minute schedule changes and a general lack of organization and communication about where they were supposed to go for Rise Up meetings during the week.
Archbishop Sample of Portland, Oregon, was notified as he was in a car on his way to a park for an Aug. 3 Rise Up at which he expected to speak that Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia, would be taking his place.
Ayre, who went to two World Youth Days before becoming a priest, found the format and content of the Rise Up his group attended on Aug. 3 to be “disappointing,” and he missed the simplicity of the morning sessions he experienced at the past gatherings: just catechesis and Mass.
The priest said he and his group also did not care for certain aspects of the program, including praise and worship, obligatory small group discussion, and an activity involving pasting an answer to a question onto a cardboard house.
The young adults, ages 19-35, Ayre explained, were hoping to learn more about their Catholic faith, while “it seemed the talk [by the bishop] wasn’t prepared” and “there were a lot of terms used that my young adults didn’t know like ‘throwaway culture’ and ‘integral ecology.’”
Pilgrims expressed the most satisfaction for the Aug. 4 Rise Ups, which focused on mercy and usually included eucharistic adoration and opportunities to go to confession.
Despite the Rise Up Encounter not fitting their expectations, Ayre said his pilgrims are having a great overall experience at World Youth Day. “It has been eye-opening, joy-filled, and a deepening of faith for them,” he said.
Guelda said his group was able to venerate relics of saints around the city and attend several events, including the welcome Mass with patriarch of Lisbon Cardinal Manuel Clemente, and the welcome ceremony with Pope Francis.
“There’s been frustrations, there’s been things that haven’t gone perfectly, stuff like that. But I would say, all in all ... the whole WYD experience has been great, including the Rise Up Encounters,” Guelda said.
You can view a highlight reel from several Rise Up sessions below.
Giulio Capece and Claudette Jerez of EWTN News contributed to this report.
Posted on 08/5/2023 17:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Europe)
National Catholic Register, Aug 5, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
Mother Elvira Petrozzi, who founded Comunità Cenacolo in 1983 to provide hope and healing to those suffering from addiction, died on Aug. 3 in the formation house and residence of her congregation in Saluzzo, Italy. She was 86.
Her death, following a long illness, came just weeks after thousands of people gathered in Saluzzo, a hilltop town in Italy’s northwest Piedmont region about an hour’s drive south of Turin, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Cenacolo Community’s founding there in an abandoned home on July 16, 1983.
In the decades since, the community has grown to encompass 72 Cenacolo houses in 20 countries, including four in the United States.
Mother Elvira called the Cenacolo a “School of Life” because it took people off the streets and gave them a “rebirth” that was “based on a simple, family-oriented, orderly life” with the foundation of prayer, physical labor, discipline, and fraternal sharing.
“How could I invent a story like this? Everything happened without me even realizing it,” she once remarked.
“I dove into God’s mercy and I rolled up my sleeves to love, love, love … and serve!” she said. “I am the first to surprise myself with what has happened and what is happening in the life of the Cenacolo Community. It’s a work of God, the Holy Spirit, and of Mary.”
Bishop Robert Baker, bishop emeritus of Birmingham, Alabama, first met Mother Elvira in 1991. The two developed a close friendship and together they co-founded four Comunità Cenacolos in the U.S. Southeast, including one near Hanceville, Alabama.
Baker was among Mother Elvira’s many friends, supporters, and community members who were able to visit with her in her final days.
“I had the blessing of being invited to come to be at her bedside,” he told the National Catholic Register, CNA’s partner news outlet. “I was with her and I was able to give her a blessing.”
Born Rita Petrozzi, Mother Elvira was born in Sora, Italy, in 1937 and grew up in a poor family, taking the name Elvira upon entering the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Antide Thouret as a teenager.
It wasn’t until 27 years later that she felt inspired to help young addicts and other youth to change their lives. Rooted in her Catholic faith and God’s love for every person, her methods were so effective that they led to others wanting a Comunità Cenacolo established in their region.
Prior to meeting her, Baker founded a drug addiction center called Our Lady of Hope Community in St. Augustine, Florida. Then visiting Rome when he was rector of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, he learned of Mother Elvira, spoke with her, and at his invitation agreed to establish a Cenacolo community with her entire program at Our Lady of Hope in 1992. The two friends went on to co-found two other houses in the St. Augustine area and a fourth house in Alabama.
Baker celebrated one of the Masses for the thousands of people attending the 40th anniversary celebration in Saluzzo. In his homily, he reflected on the time when he arranged to use an ornamental nursery to raise funds for the Cenacolo program in Florida, but when community members arrived from Italy they explained that Mother Elvira had instructed them to rely instead on divine providence.
“It was the result of her own closeness to the Lord in the Eucharist, which enabled her to see the immensity of God’s love. And if God loves us so immensely, he will provide for us,” he said.
After 30 years, no one has gone hungry in that Florida house or any of the community’s houses. “The point being, she was right,” Baker said.
The daily schedule at these houses includes Mass, eucharistic adoration, Marian devotion with three rosaries minimum a day, and devotion to St. Joseph. Every day members pray simply: “St. Joseph, provide for us.”
“The heart of it is, of course, the Eucharist,” Baker explained.
“Part of Elvira’s training is to divest to get rid of the stuff you don’t need,” he said. “So, the divesting, the trust in divine providence, and then … the Eucharist, praying before the Lord. That’s where her greatest strength was — the Eucharist, where she had all these insights. [You] have to have the sense of God’s immense love, which she had from praying before the Eucharist. And then because you know God loves you immensely, he will provide for you.”
When Baker visited Mother Elvira shortly before her death, he noted upon entering the house a mosaic on the floor that spells out the words “Dio Provvede” (God Provides).
‘Consumed with God’s love’
Florida residents Sean and Elaine Corrigan, who met Mother Elvira in 2000, lived in her community for some time and served in its missions in Brazil.
The couple credits her for saving their marriage.
“She had an extraordinary impact on our lives and on our marriage,” Elaine Corrigan told the Register. “Mother Elvira was a person fully in love with her Savior. She knew, she accepted, and she believed completely in his merciful love, and her great desire was to share him with others.
“I wanted to run after her and soak up all that she had,” she continued. “When we met Mother Elvira, we knew we had encountered a woman completely consumed with the love of God. She knew in the core of her being that he could and would heal people. She shared this hope and mercy with everyone she met.”
Albino Aragno, who started with the Cenacolo more than 30 years ago and today is the director of Comunità Cenacolo America, said Mother Elvira taught him many valuable lessons.
“Mother Elvira always encouraged me. She reminded me that life is precious and that life needs to be lived fully … to never be afraid to do God’s will, and always trust in him,” he said.
“Because of this, I can say that in all these years I can see that our community has kept on going even through so many difficulties, because good always prevails!”
Albino’s wife, Joyce, said Mother Elvira had a profound effect on her from the very beginning.
“Mother Elvira said, ‘Lord, let me know your will in the moment you want me to do it.’ This pierced my heart the first time I heard it and moved me to try to live every moment of my life in surrender and abandonment to his will, as Jesus reveals it at that moment,” she explained.
“It’s so radically opposed to control and trusting ‘in my own understanding,’ as the Psalmist says — my own intellect, perception, and analysis. Jesus calls me to live totally in the moment, not depending on myself.”
Pope Francis paid tribute to the Comunità Cenacolo on its 40th anniversary following his July 16 Angelus reflection.
“I send my heartfelt greeting to the Cenacolo Community, which has been a place of hospitality and human promotion for 40 years,” the pope said. “I bless Mother Elvira, the bishop of Saluzzo, and all the fraternity and friends. What you do is good, and it is good that you exist! Thank you!”
Baker said he observed during a recent Mass how “in periods of the Church there are great saints that get us through the eras in which we live.”
He pointed to St. Benedict in the fourth century, the Dominicans and Franciscans in the 13th century during the Albigensian heresy, and St. Ignatius and the Jesuits in the 16th century at the time of the Reformation.
“Mother Elvira,” he believes, is “on that list.”