"3 Million?! I didn’t realise there were 3 million young Catholics in the world!” This was the usual response when I told my friends and family back home about my experience of going to Krakow this summer to celebrate World Youth Day. And to be honest, when I actually saw 3 million people all around me, I didn’t realise there were this many young Catholics in the world either! As a young person, it can be so easy to feel like you’re the only Catholic of your generation when you go to mass at home. But experiences like World Youth Day, or going to Lourdes or Youth 2000 events, or even just going to Castlerigg, remind you that you are by no means alone, that you are part of something that spans the Earth; that the Catholic Church is very much alive and full of youthful energy!
In that field in Krakow, Pope Francis told us how sad it makes him to see young people who have given up on life by the age of 25. This is perhaps a consequence of the society we live in, which bombards us with consumerism and materialism; telling us to have as much of whatever we want whenever we want it. But ultimately, this leaves us dissatisfied, wanting more. This is what our Catholic faith offers us, truths that don’t spin like a weather vane with whichever way the social or political winds of the day are going, but truths from the Gospels, from God, which are just as relevant today as they were in the time of Jesus.
This was the message that Pope Francis gave us in Krakow. He asked us if we wanted to change the world; to replace despair and hatred and greed with what Jesus offers us in the Gospels- mercy, hope and love. Hearing 3 million people, in hundreds of languages, with flags waving and hands clapping; respond to that question with a resounding ‘YES!’- tells me that there is still a lot to be hopeful for in this world, and the Catholic Church may have a lot of work to do, but also has a long future ahead of it with its young people, but we must go out and be that mercy, that hope, that love in the world. St Teresa of Avila said:“God has no hands on Earth but yours, no feet on Earth but yours.”This is what motivates me in my faith.
Harry, 19, Preston