Paul II to the youth of the world in Toronto:
“Be salt of the earth, light of the world”
Pope draws millions
again, Pope John Paul II confounded his detractors with his visit in Toronto
for the World Youth Day, which brought young people from a record 173
countries. His critics say that he is now too weak to attract crowds or even
lead the Church, but the Sunday Mass with the Holy Father at Downsview Park
was the largest gathering in Canadian history, with more than 800,000 people. (Many
police officers who were present say the crowd was over one million.)
The same thing happened when he was in Mexico City on July 31: 10 million people were gathered along the streets to see him. And two weeks later, in Poland, for the 8th official visit to his native land, the Holy Father attracted over 2.7 million people in Krakow, the largest crowd ever for any Papal Mass in Poland.
human being in history has drawn so many people. Why? It is because this man
is the Vicar of Christ, and one can really feel he is in close contact with
God. It is like Jesus who speaks to us, with the same words of eternal life.
Like Jesus, John Paul II is not afraid of telling the truth, of saying that it
is not easy to be a Catholic, a Christian, in today's world.
this is precisely why the young people love him. They know he is right; they
know he is courageous. Despite his illness, Pope John Paul II had made clear
many months ago that there was no question for him to miss this
“rendez-vous” with the youth of the world in Toronto. Upon his arrival on
Tuesday, July 27, he astonished everyone, even his own helpers from the
Vatican, when he ignored the hydraulic lift prepared for him, and opted
instead to descend the steps of the airport gangplank. And the journalists who
follow him regularly say that he has never spoken so clearly for at least a
year. Maybe it is because, as the Pope says himself, he gets younger when he
is with young people!
The “White Berets” were present
Pilgrims of St. Michael followed the ceremonies with the Pope in Toronto on
Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Saturday morning, our first bus with 61
“White Berets” left Rougemont, and arrived in Toronto at 2 p.m. to attend
the evening vigil with the Pope, and also spend the night there for the Mass
the next day. Saturday evening, three more buses, accompanied by mini-vans,
left Rougemont for Toronto, and arrived around 4 a.m. to be also present for
the Mass. Many of the Pilgrims made many sacrifices, but no one regretted it,
for it was an unforgettable event.
was quite something to see people from so many nations, gathered at the same
place. One could hear the English-speaking people shouting: “John Paul II, we love you!”;, the
Italians: “Giovanni Paolo” (and then clap their hands five
times); the Poles “Niech
nyze Papiez!” (Long live the Pope!); and the Spanish: “Juan
Pablo Secundo te quiere todo el mundo” (John Paul II, the whole
world loves you!).
fact, graces were showered upon us, especially on Sunday morning, with the
rain! This spectacle of the pouring rain and heavy winds that began before the
Mass on Sunday was particularly striking. Seeing the crowd battling with the
rain, the Pope began to say: “Be
strong! Courage! Animo! Coraggio!" It was during the
Sprinkling Rite of the Mass which reminds us of our baptism, and people were
sprinkled indeed! The Pope added with humour, in English: “This
is Baptism in a natural manner!”, and then in French: “The rain reminds us of the water of
Baptism!” As soon as the Pontiff began his homily, the dark
clouds disappeared, the rain stopped, and the sun appeared again. As the sea
parted upon the words of Moses, darkness fled in front of the powerful words
of the Pope. (This
rain was a blessing in more than one way, for without it, the whole place
would have become a real furnace, with temperatures well over 35 degrees
Celsius in the afternoon.)
are excerpts from the exceptional speeches of the Holy Father during his
six-day stay in Canada that deserve to be meditated upon again and again, not
only by young people or Catholics, but by every person of good will, if one
wants to remain young at heart!
preserve your heritage
his address during the arrival ceremony at the Toronto International Airport,
on Tuesday, July 23, the Holy Father said:
people from all parts of the world are gathering for the World Youth Day. With
their gifts of intelligence and heart they represent the future of the world.
But they also bear the marks of a humanity that too often does not know peace,
or justice. Too many lives begin and end without joy, without hope. That is
one of the principal reasons for the World Youth Day. Young people are coming
together to commit themselves, in the strength of their faith in Jesus Christ,
to the great cause of peace and human solidarity. Thank you, Toronto; thank
you, Canada, for welcoming them with open arms!
the French version of your national anthem, ‘O Canada’, you sing: ‘Car
ton bras sait porter l'épée, il sait porter la croix.’
(For your arm knows how to carry the sword, how to carry the
cross.) Canadians are heirs to an extraordinarily rich humanism, enriched even
more by the blend of many different cultural elements. But
the core of your heritage is the spiritual and transcendent vision of life
based on Christian revelation which gave vital impetus to your development as
a free, democratic and caring society, recognized throughout the world as a
champion of human rights and human dignity.
a world of great social and ethical strains, and confusion about the very
purpose of life, Canadians have an incomparable treasure to contribute – on
condition that they preserve what is deep, and good and valid in their own
heritage. I pray that the World Youth Day will offer all Canadians an
opportunity to remember the values that are essential to good living and to
human happiness. Mr. Prime Minister, dear Friends: may the motto of the World
Youth Day echo throughout the land, reminding all Christians to be ‘salt of
the earth and light of the world’. God bless you all. God bless Canada.
On Friday, July 26, the Way of the Cross was re-enacted on the streets of Toronto.
The secret of happiness
Thursday, July 25, the Pope was welcomed in Exhibition Place in front of
400,000 young people. John Paul II told them that the secret of true happiness
had been given by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, with the Beatitudes
(Matthew 5:1-16), which were read to the crowd:
seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up into a mountain, and when He was set
down, His disciples came unto Him. And opening His mouth, He taught them,
are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their full.
are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
are they who suffer persecution for justice's sake: for theirs is the kingdom
are you when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is
evil against you, untruly, for my sake: be glad and rejoice, for your reward
is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before
are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it
be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be
trodden on by men.
are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a
candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.
let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
young people! What we have just heard is the Magna Carta of Christianity: the
Beatitudes. (...) Many and enticing are the voices that call out to you from
all sides: many of these voices speak to you of a joy that can be had with
money, with success, with power. Mostly they propose a joy that comes with the
superficial and fleeting pleasure of the senses. (...)
are made for happiness. Rightly, then, you thirst for happiness. Christ has
the answer to this desire of yours. But He asks you to trust Him. True joy is
a victory, something which cannot be obtained without a long and difficult
struggle. Christ holds the secret of this victory. (...) It is by walking with
Christ that we can achieve joy, true joy! Precisely for this reason He again
repeats the proclamation of joy to you today: ‘Blessed
around the Lord's Cross, we look to Him: Jesus did not limit Himself to
proclaiming the Beatitudes; He lived them! Looking at His life anew,
re-reading the Gospel, we marvel: the poorest of the poor, the most gentle
among the meek, the person with the purest and most merciful heart is none
other than Jesus. The Beatitudes are nothing more than the description of a
face, His face!
the same time, the Beatitudes describe what a Christian should be: they are
the portrait of Jesus' disciple, the picture of those who have accepted the
Kingdom of God and want their life to be in tune with the demands of the
Gospel. To these Jesus speaks, calling them ‘blessed’. The joy promised by
the Beatitudes is the very joy of Jesus Himself: a joy sought and found in
obedience to the Father and in the gift of self to others.
people of Canada, of America, and of every part of the world! By looking at
Jesus you will learn what it means to be poor in spirit, meek and merciful;
what it means to seek justice, to be pure in heart, to be peacemakers. With
your gaze set firmly on Him, you will discover the path of forgiveness and
reconciliation in a world often laid waste by violence and terror. Last year
we saw with dramatic clarity the tragic face of human malice. We saw what
happens when hatred, sin and death take command. But today Jesus' voice
resounds in the midst of our gathering. His is a voice of life, of hope, of
forgiveness; a voice of justice and of peace. Let us listen to this voice!
friends, the Church today looks to you with confidence and expects you to be
the people of the Beatitudes. Blessed are you if, like Jesus, you are poor in
spirit, good and merciful; if you really seek what is just and right; if you
are pure of heart, peacemakers, lovers of the poor and their servants. Blessed
Jesus is the true Master, only Jesus speaks the unchanging message that
responds to the deepest longings of the human heart, because He alone knows ‘what
is in each person’
(cf. Jn 2:25). Today He calls you to be the salt and light of the world, to
choose goodness, to live in justice, to become instruments of love and peace.
His call has always demanded a choice between good and evil, between light and
darkness, between life and death. He makes the same invitation today to you
who are gathered here on the shores of Lake Ontario.
call will those on early morning watch choose to follow? To believe in Jesus
is to accept what He says, even when it runs contrary to what others are
saying. It means rejecting the lure of sin, however attractive it may be, in
order to set out on the difficult path of the Gospel virtues.
“Young people listening to me, answer the Lord with strong and generous hearts! He is counting on you. Never forget: Christ needs you to carry out His plan of salvation! Christ needs your youth and your generous enthusiasm to make his proclamation of joy resound in the new millennium. Answer His call by placing your lives at His service in your brothers and sisters! Trust Christ, because He trusts you.”
of the crowd at Downsview Park on Sunday, July 28
Be builders of the city of God
During the Vigil held on Saturday evening at Downsview Park, the Holy Father continued to develop the theme of the World Youth Day (“You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world”) by asking the youth to “build the city of God within the city of man”:
young people, dear people of the Beatitudes! The new millennium opened with
two contrasting scenarios: one, the sight of multitudes of pilgrims coming to
Rome during the Great Jubilee to pass through the Holy Door which is Christ,
our Savior and Redeemer; and the other, the terrible terrorist attack on New
York City, an image that is a sort of icon of a world in which hostility and
hatred seem to prevail.
question that arises is dramatic: on what foundations must we build the new
historical era that is emerging from the great transformations of the
twentieth century? Is it enough to rely on the technological revolution now
taking place, which seems to respond only to criteria of productivity and
efficiency, without reference to the individual's spiritual dimension or to
any universally shared ethical values? Is it right to be content with
provisional answers to the ultimate questions, and to abandon life to the
impulses of instinct, to short-lived sensations or passing fads? The question
will not go away: on what foundations, on what certainties should we build our
lives and the life of the community to which we belong?
friends, spontaneously in your hearts, in the enthusiasm of your young years
you know the answer, and you are saying it through your presence here this
evening: Christ alone is the cornerstone on which it is possible solidly to
build one's existence. Only Christ – known, contemplated and loved – is
the faithful friend who never lets us down, who becomes our travelling
companion, and whose words warm our hearts.
twentieth century often tried to do without that cornerstone, and attempted to
build the city of man without reference to Him. It ended by actually building
that city against man! Christians know that it is not possible to reject or
ignore God without demeaning man.
aspiration that humanity nurtures, amid countless injustices and sufferings,
is the hope of a new civilization marked by freedom and peace. But for such an
undertaking, a new generation of builders is needed. Moved not by fear or
violence but by the urgency of genuine love, they must learn to build, brick
by brick, the city of God within the city of man.
me, dear young people, to consign this hope of mine to you: you must be those
‘builders’! You are the men and women of tomorrow. The future is in your
hearts and in your hands. God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult
and uplifting, of working with him in the building of the civilization of
young people, let yourselves be taken over by the light of Christ, and spread
that light wherever you are. ‘The light of the countenance of Jesus – says
the Catechism of the Catholic Church – illumines the eyes of our heart, and
teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for
all’ (n. 2715).
your friendship with Christ, your knowledge of His mystery, your giving of
yourselves to Him, are genuine and deep, you will be ‘children of the light’,
and you will become ‘the light of the world’. For this reason I repeat to
you the Gospel words: ‘Let your light so shine before others, that they may
see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt
say to you this evening: let the light of Christ shine in your lives! Do not
wait until you are older in order to set out on the path of holiness! Holiness
is always youthful, just as eternal is the youthfulness of God. Communicate to
everyone the beauty of the contact with God that gives meaning to your lives.
In the quest for justice, in the promotion of peace, in your commitment to
brotherhood and solidarity, let no one surpass you!
beautiful the song that we have been hearing during these days: ‘Light of
the world! Salt of the earth! Be for the world the face of love! Be for the
earth the reflection of His light!’ That is the most beautiful and precious
gift that you can give to the Church and the world. You know that the Pope is
with you, with his prayer and fond blessing.”
Two voices competing for your souls
In his homily during Sunday Mass, still at Downsview Park, Pope John Paul II asked the young people to make a definite choice between “Jesus and the spirit of the world”:
young people, on a hillside near the lake of Galilee, Jesus's disciples
listened to His gentle and urgent voice; as gentle as the landscape of Galilee
itself, as urgent as a call to choose between life and death, between truth
and falsehood. The Lord spoke words of life that would echo for ever in the
hearts of His followers. Today He is speaking the same words to you. (...)
Listen to the voice of Jesus in the depths of your hearts! His words tell you
who you are as Christians. They tell you what you must do to remain in His
Jesus offers one thing, and the ‘spirit of the world’ offers another. In
today's Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul tells us that
Jesus leads us from darkness into light (cf. Eph 5,8). Perhaps the great
Apostle is thinking of the light that blinded him, the persecutor of
Christians, on the road to Damascus. When later he recovered his sight,
nothing was as before. He had been born anew, and nothing would ever take his
new-found joy away from him.
too are called to be transformed. ‘Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light’ (Eph 5, 14), says Saint Paul.
of the world’
offers many false illusions and parodies of happiness. There is perhaps no
darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people's souls when false
prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love. The greatest
deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding
life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and
Lord is calling you to choose between these two voices competing for your
souls. That decision is the substance and challenge of World Youth Day. Why
have you come together from all parts of the world? To say in your hearts: ‘Lord,
to whom shall we go?’ Who has the words of eternal life? `You have the words
of eternal life' (Jn 6,68). Jesus – the intimate friend of every young
person – has the words of life.
world you are inheriting is a world which desperately needs a new sense of
brotherhood and human solidarity. It is a world which needs to be touched and
healed by the beauty and richness of God's love. It needs witnesses to that
love. The world needs salt. It needs you – to be the salt of the earth and
the light of the world.
is used to preserve and keep. As apostles for the Third Millennium, your task
is to preserve and keep alive the awareness of the presence of our Savior
Jesus Christ, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, the memorial of
His saving death and glorious resurrection. You must keep alive the memory of
the words of life which He spoke, the marvellous works of mercy and goodness
which He performed. You must constantly remind the world of the ‘power of
the Gospel to save’ (Rom 1, 16)!
seasons and improves the flavour of food. Following Jesus, you have to change
and improve the ‘taste’ of human history. With your faith, hope and love,
with your intelligence, courage and perseverance, you have to humanize the
world we live in, in the way that today's Reading from Isaiah indicates: ‘loose
the bonds of injustice ... share your bread with the hungry... remove the
pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil... Then your light shall rise in
the darkness’ (Is 58,6-10).
a tiny flame lifts the heavy lid of night. How much more light will you make,
all together, if you bond as one in the communion of the Church! If you love
Jesus, love the Church! Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some
of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and
vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But think of
the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only
wish is to serve and do good! There are many priests, seminarians and
consecrated persons here today; be close to them and support them! And if, in
the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or
consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the
Cross! At difficult moments in the Church's life, the pursuit of holiness
becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a
matter of living in the Holy Spirit, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in
America and so many other young people have done.
are young, and the Pope is old, 82 or 83 years of life is not the same as 22
or 23. But the Pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations.
Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes,
I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no
fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs
eternal in the hearts of the young. You are our hope, the young are our hope.
not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our
weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our
real capacity to become the image of His Son.
finish with a prayer. O Lord Jesus Christ, keep these young people in Your
love. Let them hear Your
voice and believe what You say, for You alone have the words of life. Teach
them how to profess their faith, bestow their love, and impart their hope to
others. Make them convincing witnesses to Your Gospel in a world so much in
need of Your saving grace. Make them the new people of the Beatitudes, that
they may be the salt of the earth and the light of the world at the beginning
of the Third Christian Millennium! Mary, Mother of the Church, protect and
guide these young men and women of the Twenty-first Century. Keep us all close
to Your maternal heart. Amen.”
This article was published in the August-September, 2002 issue of “Michael”.
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