Readings & Reflections: Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time & Blessed Antonio Lucci, July 27,2016
We want to do with Jesus’ words what the people in the Gospel do with the buried treasure and the pearl of great price: “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart.” For when we do everything in our power to put them in our possession, Jesus promises, “In my presence you shall stand. I am with you to deliver and rescue you.”
“Lord Jesus, reveal to me the true riches of your kingdom. Help me to set my heart on you alone as the treasure beyond compare with any other. Free my heart of any inordinate desires or attachment to other things that I may freely give to you all that I have in joy and gratitude for all that you have given to me. May I always find joy and delight in your presence.” In your Mighty Name, I pray. Amen.
Jer 15:10, 16-21
Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!
a man of strife and contention to all the land!
I neither borrow nor lend,
yet all curse me.
When I found your words, I devoured them;
they became my joy and the happiness of my heart,
Because I bore your name,
O LORD, God of hosts.
I did not sit celebrating
in the circle of merrymakers;
Under the weight of your hand I sat alone
because you filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain continuous,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?
You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook,
whose waters do not abide!
Thus the LORD answered me:
If you repent, so that I restore you,
in my presence you shall stand;
If you bring forth the precious without the vile,
you shall be my mouthpiece.
Then it shall be they who turn to you,
and you shall not turn to them;
And I will make you toward this people
a solid wall of brass.
Though they fight against you,
they shall not prevail,
For I am with you,
to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD.
I will free you from the hand of the wicked,
and rescue you from the grasp of the violent.
The word of the Lord.
Ps 59: 2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18
R. (17d) God is my refuge on the day of distress.
Rescue me from my enemies, O my God;
from my adversaries defend me.
Rescue me from evildoers;
from bloodthirsty men save me.
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.
For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
mighty men come together against me,
Not for any offense or sin of mine, O LORD.
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.
O my strength! for you I watch;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
As for my God, may his mercy go before me;
may he show me the fall of my foes.
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.
But I will sing of your strength
and revel at dawn in your mercy;
You have been my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of distress.
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.
O my strength! your praise will I sing;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
my merciful God!
R. God is my refuge on the day of distress.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1: Treasure buried in the field
What do we consider our treasures in this lifetime? What are the strong attractions in our present world that would motivate us to work night and day just to get them? What do we do to assure us that we will possess them, not for a while, but for generations to come? What price do we pay to guarantee us the peace of mind that no one will ever get them from us? What are these treasures that we keep so close to our hearts that all we do is admire their beauty and the prestige that they give us?
Have we given second thought that all these treasures are God given gifts and are not to be kept but shared? Or does the possession of such worldly treasures motivate and empower us to reach out to share it with others? Does it embolden us to give them away knowing that it is in giving and sharing them with those who need them more that will make it grow a hundredfold?
Today in Matthews’s gospel, the “kingdom of God” is likened to a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Its is like a merchant searching for fine pearls and when he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Then the Kingdom of God is a treasure that cannot be kept in isolation or kept in the privacy of peoples’ minds and hearts. The Kingdom of God should be shared and be brought to the ends of the earth.
As I traveled and journeyed from one life to another, I have considered God’s Word as the pearl of great price. It has made me move to extraordinary activity to obtain it, know more about it and apply it to my life but most importantly to share it with everyone. Such is my treasure and my having God’s Word in my heart has brought me to experience His kingdom even in this lifetime. God’s Word has drawn me to Jesus and has deepened my relationship with Him and His brethren. Possessing my pearl of great price has made me understand the supreme value of total self-giving for it is in my nothingness that peace and joy abound in my heart.
Let us be more prayerful and be discerning in all our ways as there are many imitation pearls that will lure our lustful senses. The world we live in will always provide us ample occasions to dig for buried treasure of many descriptions but we need to have the pearl of great price. This is the reason we should be in a close prayerful relationship with God as we need His guidance and wisdom to discern what He wants for us.
By the way, it is time to examine what we have in our hearts. How genuine is the treasure we keep in the jewelry box of our hearts? Let us remember that not all that glitters is gold in the eyes of our Lord.
Direction: We need to give up ALL to follow Jesus.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the grace not only to deepen my love for your Word but to be able to share it with everyone. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, I hope and pray. Amen.
Reflection 2 – The heavenly treasure and the pearl of great price
What do you most treasure and how do you keep it secure? In a peasant community the best safe was often the earth. The man in the parable “went in his joy” to sell everything. Why? Because he found a treasure worth possessing above everything else he had. He did not, however, have enough to buy the treasure. Fortunately, he only needed enough money to buy the field. In a similar fashion, God offers his kingdom as incomparable treasure at a price we can afford! We can’t pay the full price for the life which God gives us; but when we exchange our life for the life which God offers, we receive a treasure beyond compare.
Searching for the greatest treasure of all
The pearl of great price also tells us a similar lesson. Pearls in the ancient world came to represent the supremely valuable. Jesus remarked that one should not cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). Why would a merchant sell everything for a peerless pearl? No doubt because he was attracted to what he thought was the greatest treasure he could possess.
Discovering heavenly treasure
Discovering God’s kingdom is like stumbling across hidden treasure or finding the one pearl of great price. When we discover the kingdom of God we receive the greatest possible treasure – the Lord himself. Selling all that we have to obtain this incomparable treasure could mean many things – our friends, job, our “style of life”, what we do with our free time. Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure.
In this parable what does the treasure of the kingdom refer to? It certainly refers to the kingdom of God in all its aspects. But in a special way, the Lord himself is the treasure we seek. If the Almighty is your gold and your precious silver, then you will delight yourself in the Almighty (Job 22:22-23). Is the Lord the treasure and delight of your heart?
“Lord Jesus, reveal to me the true riches of your kingdom. Help me to set my heart on you alone as the treasure beyond compare with any other. Free my heart of any inordinate desires or attachment to other things that I may freely give to you all that I have in joy and gratitude for all that you have given to me. May I always find joy and delight in your presence.” – Read the source: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/jul27.htm
Reflection 3 – When I Found Your Words, They Became My Joy
According to the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Jerusalem will be punished for their abominations, adultery and harlotry (13:27). During the drought to be inflicted on the people, God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the welfare of the people (14:11). Jeremiah intercedes anyway (14:19-22), asking God to remember his people and keep the covenant. God reminds Jeremiah that even Moses and Samuel stood before him and were unable to turn his heart (15:1). The sins of King Manasseh, the son of the good king Hezekiah, are cause for Jerusalem’s destruction.
Manasseh rebuilt all the pagan sanctuaries his father, Hezekiah, destroyed. He erected altars for Baal and set up a pagan pillar (Asherah) in the temple. He worshiped false gods and served them. Manasseh burned his son as an offering, and practiced soothsaying and augury, and dealt with mediums and wizards; He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking the Lord to anger (2 Kings 21:3-9). Through the prophets, the Lord says: “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations, and has done things more wicked than all tat the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah .also to sin with his idols, therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of every one who hears of it will tingle” (2 Kings 21:10-12).
Jerusalem has rejected the Lord and brought destruction upon themselves. Jeremiah is undeterred and continues his intercession for the people. He asks the Lord to remember him and visit him and take vengeance on his persecutors. He tells the Lord that when he found his words, he devoured them and the words became a joy to him and the delight of his heart.
In response, God promises to protect Jeremiah: “I am with you to save you and deliver you. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (15:20-21). Today’s psalm manifests the heart of those who truly trust in the Lord: God is our stronghold, our refuge in the day of distress. The merciful God is our strength and we sing his praise.
Just as Jeremiah rejoiced when he found the words of God and abandoned himself to God’s protection, so also the person who finds the Kingdom of God rejoices and abandons themselves to God’s providence. When we encounter the Kingdom of God, the appropriate response is to sell everything and place our hope and trust completely in the Lord. It is an image of abandonment to God. “Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs: ‘therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?”… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (CCC, 305).
The parable of pearl can be read from our perspective or from God’s perspective. From our perspective, we are the merchant and God is the pearl. From God’s perspective, he is the merchant seeking us. We are the pearl of great price and God is willing to send his only-begotten Son to redeem us from the ancient curse of Adam. The Son emptied himself and took the form of a servant. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8). Through his Son, God delivers us from our enemies and is our refuge from evil. In this mass, then, we ask the Son, our redeemer, to intercede for us at the right hand of the Father, and we offer, with the Son and in the Holy Spirit, praise and thanksgiving to God the Father.
Read the source text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/daily-homily-when-i-found-your-words-they-became-my-joy
Reflection 4 – Risk and gain
In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, there is a famous scene in which the Prince of Morocco gets to choose among three small jewelry boxes – one made of gold, another of silver, and a third made of lead – one of which contains a picture of Portia. If he selects the box with the picture, he wins Portia’s hand in marriage. But there’s more to the wager than that, for if he chooses incorrectly, he must swear never to seek another woman for his wife.
Each of the boxes bears an inscription that may serve to help (or perhaps hinder) the person making the selection. The writing on the leaden box reads: “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” Pondering those words, the Prince of Morocco asks himself, “Must give – for what? For lead! This casket threatens. Men that hazard all do it in hope of fair advantages.”
His logic is solid. He realizes a fundamental principle of human nature. People may be willing to risk everything they have, but only if there is promise of some great return. He chooses, logically he thinks, the golden box, only to learn that he has lost his suit with Portia. Part of the scroll inside the box reads: “All that glisters is not gold – often have you heard that told; many a man his life hath sold, but my outside to behold.” Morocco has been seduced by superficial value.
Today’s gospel confirms the prince’s logical deduction that people who risk everything do so in hope of “fair advantages.” There is some speculation that the two main characters in these parables come at this issue of risk from different perspectives. The man knocking around in the field was probably a farm laborer (why else would he be digging in the ground?), while the merchant seems to have been a man of considerable means, wealthy enough that when he liquidated his assets he could afford a very valuable pearl.
The message of this parable, then, is for everyone – those who have much to lose and those who have little. What is to be gained here, the kingdom of Heaven, is worth the risk. No one who risks all to win the kingdom will, upon gaining it, feel that he or she has been “sold short.” The trick is to make sure that we’re going after the right thing. (Source: Jim Johnstone, Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, July 30,2008).
Reflection 5 – Blessed Antonio Lucci (1682-1752 A.D.)
Antonio studied with and was a friend of St. Francesco Antonio Fasani, who after Antonio Lucci’s death testified at the diocesan hearings regarding the holiness of Lucci.
Born in Agnone in southern Italy, a city famous for manufacturing bells and copper crafts, he was given the name Angelo at Baptism. He attended the local school run by the Conventual Franciscans and joined them at the age of 16. Antonio completed his studies for the priesthood in Assisi, where he was ordained in 1705. Further studies led to a doctorate in theology and appointments as a teacher in Agnone, Ravello and Naples. He also served as guardian in Naples.
Elected minister provincial in 1718, the following year he was appointed professor at St. Bonaventure College in Rome, a position he held until Pope Benedict XIII chose him as bishop of Bovino (near Foggia) in 1729. The pope explained, “I have chosen as bishop of Bovino an eminent theologian and a great saint.”
His 23 years as bishop were marked by visits to local parishes and a renewal of gospel living among the people of his diocese. He dedicated his episcopal income to works of education and charity. At the urging of the Conventual minister general, Bishop Lucci wrote a major book about the saints and blesseds in the first 200 years of the Conventual Franciscans.
He was beatified in 1989, three years after his friend Francesco Antonio Fasani was canonized.
As Pope Paul VI wrote in 1975, people today “are more impressed by witnesses than by teachers, and if they listen to these it is because they also bear witness” (Evangelization in the Modern World, #41).
When Francis of Assisi learned that Anthony of Padua was teaching theology to the friars in Bologna, Francis wrote: “It pleases me that you teach sacred theology to the brothers, as long as—in the words of the Rule—you do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion with study of this kind.”
Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1089
SAINT OF THE DAY
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint.
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The Blessed Antonio Lucci, O.F.M. Conv., (1682–1752) was an Italian Franciscan friar and bishop. Serving as spiritual leader of an impoverished region, he spent his life caring for and improving the lives of his flock. He has been beatified by the Catholic Church.
He was born Angelo Nicola Lucci on 2 August 1682 in Agnone, in the Province of Isernia, on the eastern coast of Italy, then a part of the Kingdom of Sicily. He attended the local school run by the Conventual Franciscans and joined them at the age of 16. He completed his studies for the priesthood in Assisi, where he wasordained in 1705. Further studies led to a doctorate in theology and appointments as professor in Agnone, Ravello and Naples. He also served as Guardian of the friaryin Naples.
Lucci was elected Minister Provincial in 1718; the following year he was appointed professor at St. Bonaventure College in Rome, a position he held until Pope Benedict XIII chose him in 1729 as Bishop of Bovino, in the Province of Foggia. The pope explained, “I have chosen as bishop of Bovino an eminent theologian and a great saint.”
Though he had a reputation for being shy and reserved, Lucci’s 23 years as bishop were marked by visits to local parishes throughout his diocese and a renewal ofgospel living among the people under his care. He dedicated his episcopal income to works of education and charity. At the urging of the Conventual Minister General, Lucci wrote a major book about the saints and blesseds in the first 200 years of the Conventual Franciscan friars.
Lucci studied with and was a close friend of St. Francis Fasani, O.F.M. Conv., who, after Lucci’s death on 25 July 1752, testified at the diocesan hearings regarding the holiness of Lucci’s life. Lucci was beatified in June 1989 by Pope John Paul II, three years after Fasani himself had been canonized.
The World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow begins!
July 26, 2016. Cardinal Dziwisz presided over the inaugural Mass. Pope Francis will arrive tomorrow.
WYD: Seminarians get young men to ask themselves the hardest question in life
July 26, 2016. “Why Not Priest” uses natural talents as the best testimony of joy and enthusiasm in life.
Stopover in Rome for pilgrims traveling to WYD in Krakow
July 26, 2016. Youth from all over the world visit the Eternal City to make the most of their trip.
Text of Cardinal Dziwisz’s Intro and Homily at Opening Mass of #WYD2016
Below is Cardinal Stanislas Dziwisz, (Archbishop of Krakow) Introduction and homily at today’s opening mass for World Youth Day 2016 in Blonia Park in Krakow.
My Dear Friends!
The moment we have been waiting 3 years for has arrived. We have been waiting since the day Pope Francis announced in Rio de Janeiro that the next World Youth Day would take place in Poland – in Krakow.
The clock fitted on the facade of St. Mary’s Basilica in the heart of historic Krakow counted the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the moment which we are now experiencing. But a more important clock, registering the thoughts and feelings in our hearts, spiritually prepared us for the meeting of young disciples of the Master of Nazareth that we are beginning today.
You have come from all continents and nations, from the East and West, the North and South of our globe. You bring with you many experiences. You bring many desires. You speak numerous languages. But starting today we are going to communicate with each other in the language of the Gospel. This is a language of love, brotherhood, solidarity and peace.
I welcome you all most cordially in the city of Karol Wojtyła – Saint John Paul II. It is here that he grew up to serve the Church, and it is from here that he set off to the ways of the world to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I welcome you in the city where we especially experience the mystery and gift of Divine Mercy.
Cari amici – benvenuti a Cracovia!
Dear friends – welcome to Cracow!
Chers amis – bienvenus à Cracovie!
Liebe Freunde – herzlich willkommen in Krakau!
Queridos amigos – bienvenidos a Cracovia!
Queridos amigos – Bem-vindos à Cracóvia!
Дорогие Друзья! Добро пожаловать в Краков!
Дорогі друзі, вітаємо у Кракові!
Drodzy Przyjaciele – witajcie w Krakowie!
Brothers and sisters, let us open our hearts to receive the word of God and the gift of the Eucharist. May the crucified and risen Lord, the saviour of the world, stand among us. Let us commend to Him all our thoughts and feelings, hopes and expectations regarding the festival of faith of the young church that is beginning. But because we are aware of our sins and our disloyalty to the ideals of the Gospel, let us apologize to God so that we could jointly celebrate the Most Holy Sacrifice of this Mass with pure hearts.
Listening to the dialogue of the risen Jesus with Simon Peter on the bank of the Sea of Galilee, hearing the triple question about love and the answer to it, we have in mind the hardships of the life of this fisherman of Galilee that preceded this crucial conversation. We know that he one day left everything – his family, boat and nets – and followed an unusual Teacher from Nazareth. He became His disciple. He learned His way of looking at the matters of God and people. He lived through His passion and death, as well as through a moment of personal weakness and betrayal. Afterwards, he experienced a moment of astonishment and joy connected with Jesus’ resurrection, who appeared to His closest disciples before ascending into heaven.
We also know the continuation of the conversation, or rather the trial of love that today’s Gospel speaks about. Simon Peter, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, became a brave witness to Jesus Christ. He became a rock of the emerging Church. For all this he paid the highest price in the capital city of the Roman empire – he was crucified like his Master. Peter’s bloodshed in the name of Jesus became the seed of faith and initiated the growth of the Church, which engulfed the whole world.
Today, Christ speaks to us in Krakow, at the banks of the Wisła river, which flows through all of Poland – from the mountains to the sea. Peter’s experience may become ours and inspire us to reflect. Let us pose three questions and look for the answers. First, where do we come from? Second, where are we today, in this moment of our lives? And third, where are we going to go and what are we going to take with us?
Where do we come from? We come from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), like those who came in great numbers to Jerusalem on Pentecost Day, but there are incomparably more of us now than two thousand years ago, because we are accompanied by centuries of preaching the Gospel, which since then has reached the furthest ends of the world. We bring our experience of various cultures, traditions and languages. What we also bring are testimonies of faith and holiness of our brothers and sisters, followers of the risen Lord, of past generations as well as the current generation.
We come from such parts of the world where people live in peace, where families are communities of love and life and where young people can pursue their dreams. But among us are also young people from countries whose people are suffering due to wars and other kinds of conflicts, where children are starving to death and where Christians are brutally persecuted. Among us are young pilgrims from parts of the world that are ruled by violence and blind terrorism, and where authorities usurp power over man and nations, following insane ideologies.
We bring to this meeting with Jesus during these days our personal experiences of living the Gospel in our difficult world. We bring our fears and disappointments, but also our hopes and yearning, our desire to live in a more human, more fraternal and solidary world. We acknowledge our weaknesses, but at the same time believe that “we can do all things through Him who strengthens us” (Phil. 4:13). We can face the challenges of the modern world, in which man chooses between faith and disbelief, good and evil, love and its rejection.
Where are we now, at this moment of our lives? We have come from near and far. Many of you have travelled thousands of kilometres and invested much in your journey to be here. We are in Krakow, the former capital of Poland, to which the light of faith reached one thousand fifty years ago. Polish history was difficult, but we have always tried to remain faithful to God and the Gospel.
We are all here because Christ has gathered us. He is the light of the world. Whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness (Jn. 8:12). He is the way, and the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6). He has the words of eternal life. To whom shall we go? (Jn. 6:68). Only He – Jesus Christ – is able to satisfy the deepest desires of the human heart. It is He who has led us here. He is present among us. He is accompanying us like He accompanied His disciples headed for Emmaus. Let us entrust Him in these days our matters, fears and hopes. During these days, He will be asking us about love, like He asked Simon Peter. Let us not avoid responding to these questions.
Meeting with Jesus, we simultaneously realize that we all make up a great community – the Church – which surpasses the boundaries established by people and which divide people. We are all God’s children, redeemed by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Experiencing the universal Church is a great experience associated with World Youth Day. The image of the Church depends on us – on our faith and sanctity. It is up to us to ensure that the Gospel reaches those who have not yet heard about Christ or have not learnt enough about Him.
Tomorrow, the Peter of our times – Pope Francis – will arrive among us. The day after tomorrow, we will greet him in this same place. In the following days, we will listen to his words and pray together with him. The presence of the Pope at World Youth Day is yet another beautiful and characteristic feature of this celebration of faith.
And finally the third, last question: where are we going and what will we take with us from here? Our meeting will last only a few days. It is going to be an intense, spiritual and, to a certain extent, physically demanding experience. Afterwards, we will return to our homes, families, schools, universities and to our places of employment. Maybe we will make some important decisions during these days? Maybe we will set some new goals in our lives? Maybe we will hear the clear voice of Jesus, telling us to leave everything and follow Him?
With what will we return? It is better to not anticipate the answer to this question. But let us take up a challenge. During these days, let us share with each other what is most valuable. Let us share our faith, our experiences, our hopes. My dear young friends, may these days be an opportunity to form your hearts and minds. Listen to the catecheses delivered by bishops. Listen to the voice of Pope Francis. Participate wholeheartedly in the divine liturgy. Experience the merciful love of the Lord in the sacrament of reconciliation. Discover also the churches of Krakow, the wealth of the culture of this city, as well as the hospitality of its inhabitants and of those of neighbouring towns, where we will find rest after a day’s rigors.
Krakow is alive with the mystery of Divine Mercy, also owing to humble Sister Faustina and John Paul II, who made the Church and the world sensitive to this specific trait of God. Returning to your countries, homes and communities, carry the spark of mercy, reminding everyone that “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). Carry the flame of your faith and ignite with it other flames, so that human hearts will beat to the rhythm of the Heart of Christ, which is “a flaming fire of love.” May the flame of love engulf our world and rid it of egoism, violence and injustice, so that a civilization of good, reconciliation, love and peace will be strengthened on our earth.
The prophet Isaiah tells us today “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news” (Is. 52:7). John Paul II was such a messenger – He was the initiator of World Youth Day, a friend of youth and families. And you be such messengers. Carry the good news about Jesus Christ to the world. Give testimony that it is both worth it and necessary to entrust Him with our fate. Open wide the doors of your hearts to Christ. Proclaim with conviction like Paul the Apostle, “that neither death, nor life, […] nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)
This week, Pope Francis will make his 15th apostolic visit outside Italy, and his first to the Eastern European nation of Poland. He arrives Wednesday and departs Sunday, here for the World Youth Day already underway.
In an exclusive interview with ZENIT this week in Krakow, Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, the spokesman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, shared not only what’s on the agenda, but some scoops.
ZENIT: What should we expect this World Youth Day (e.g. How many people, from which countries, countries sending the most, etc)?
Father Rytel-Andrianak: We expect at least 1.5 million people to come to Krakow, mostly from Poland, but many from Italy, France, the United States (which is number five in terms of countries sending the most), the UK and Portugal. In fact, the “least young” person to be registered in the World Youth Day is 71, from one of the countries in Latin America, which just goes to show that youth is not counted by age but by heart. [smiling]
For the first time in Poland’s history, for one meeting, people are coming from at least 187 countries and regions. The people accredited to the World Youth Day are more than those [nations with a diplomat] accredited to the Holy See, which just goes to show that this event, the World Youth Day, is going beyond diplomacy. This will be one of the most well-attended World Youth Days.
Something really worthy of noting is that this WYD will be different than all those before this one in that it will be very “social.” Now the main source of everyone’s information will be in their pocket, if you will, their cell phones, through social media, all its forms, but especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, among others. You cannot ignore World Youth Day. This is significant because on these social networks, which now reach an unprecedented number of people, the people who see the posts are not just Catholics, but anyone connected. Hence, this makes it possible to transmit these messages of this WYD and the Pope beyond religion, but to touch the peripheries and those who are different, as Pope Francis wants. So this is very unique, and marks a new start and a new era of the World Youth Days.
ZENIT: Are there any specific ‘social network’ initiatives taking place that come to mind?
Father Rytel-Andrianak: There should be about 60 young people who through the Bishops Conference of England and Wales are coming to Krakow and through social media will make it possible for all those who wish to follow the events, but can’t be present, to keep up through their social media postings. They’ve prepared and been trained specifically to do this. To further lead and spiritually strengthen the young people, there will be bishop catechists leading discussions. Looking at prelates present, there should be 801 bishops participating as catechists and nearly 50 cardinals present from around the world.
ZENIT: What is the significance of it taking place in John Paul II’s homeland, especially now that he is a saint?
Father Rytel-Andrianak: This is following in the footsteps of John Paul II. As Pope Francis said in his video-message before his visit to Poland, “John Paul II is the architect of the World Youth Day.” Pope Francis really underlines that this initiative is of JPII as the mind behind this occasion bringing the world’s young people together.
ZENIT: How is the Jubilee of Mercy impacting this year’s World Youth Day?
Father Rytel-Andrianak: This Jubilee for Young People is celebrated in the Capital of Mercy and it shows the human face of John Paul II, because the Mass will be in the Shrine dedicated to John Paul II, where there had been the salt mine, where Wojtyla worked. Also, the fact that he will hear confessions in the Shrine of Divine Mercy, dedicated to St. Faustina, who Pope John Paul II canonized is also very significant this Jubilee Year.
ZENIT: How are Christian youth from the persecuted countries (Middle East, Northern Africa, Holy Land, Ukraine, etc) participating or being considered, remembered?
Father Rytel-Andrianak: They’ll find the Church in Poland to be very supportive because the Church in Poland, in the Second World War, saw every fourth or fifth priest be killed. And, in Poland, 6 million Poles were killed or died. Of this number, 3 million were Jews and the other half, the other 3 million, were mostly Catholics. During the Holocaust, in addition to the 3 million Polish Jews killed, there were another 3 million Jewish people from other countries of Europe killed, so about 6 million Jews killed in total. We understand. We welcome those who experience persecution and suffering now and we will see youth from such countries present and participating, for example from Syria, the Middle East, and Africa, particularly South Africa. For example, a young man who will speak and ask Pope Francis a question is from Syria. So this will make his voice heard in the world. There also will be many Ukrainians.
ZENIT: How is the Holy Father participating? Why is his presence significant?
Father Rytel-Andrianak: This is Pope Francis’ first visit to the country and, taking a look at all his travels in Europe, outside of Italy, it marks the first time he has passed more than 24 hours in a given country in the continent. He will pass some days here. His presence and participation shows his love for the young people and for Poland, for the beloved land of his saint-predecessor … I think Pope Francis looks at Poland through the lenses of John Paul II.
ZENIT: For the events of the WYD, who are some of the famous people, artists, who will perform? Be present?
Father Rytel-Andrianak: There will be various personalities, but I wish to point out one in particular that will be incredibly memorable. Achinoam Nini Noa, the Israeli artist who sang Ave Maria in the presence of Pope Francis. Before Sunday’s Mass, for the first time in history, she will sing Ave Maria in Hebrew and in English. She has prepared this specifically for the World Youth Day. This was organized by the institutions of the Catholic Church in Poland and the Israeli embassy. This is very good and important.
ZENIT: What do you think will be some of the highlights this year? What have been some of the challenges?
Father Rytel-Andrianak: What I’d consider the highlights would be the events in Krakow, especially the main Mass in the Campus Misericordia on Sunday, and Czestochowa, for the 1050 years since the Baptism of Poland. Pope Paul VI wanted to be in Poland for the 1000th anniversary but the Communist Party government forbid it. But, it was worth waiting, because now Pope Francis is coming and will celebrate Mass during his visit. Obviously, there is Auschwitz, and notably his silence there, is significant. Pope Francis’ silence at Auschwitz will be like a cry for peace. Actually, that day, there is a moment many may not be aware of. There is a woman who, on the 28th, will have her 101st birthday, and, the next day, will meet Pope Francis at Auschwitz, because she is a survivor of it. Before this encounter, in the days leading up to her moment with the Pope, she’ll, interestingly enough, be hosting a World Youth Day pilgrim herself. This Catholic woman, Helena Niwinska, who lives in Krakow, was a singer and also wrote the book ‘The Ways of My Life.”
But let’s also not forget the joyful moments, like Francis riding the tram –at least in Poland – for the first time.
As far as the challenges, I would say logistics. This is especially because Krakow has never had more than 1 million people for such an extended period of time, as its number of inhabitants is roughly 750,000. But we are used to seeing lots of pilgrims, so we are pretty used to handling lots of visitors and pilgrims, so we feel confident we have it covered.
ZENIT: Are there security concerns? What is being done?
Father Rytel-Andrianak: The Minister of Internal Affairs Mariusz Blaszczak confirms that there is no signal of any danger in Poland. The Polish government ensures that there are not threats or concerns and that all is expected to take place in a safe and professional manner. The places of celebrations will be some of the safest places in the world at that time.