COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Flying hats, spinning soccer balls and bowling pins going round and round in circles will all be part of Saturday’s celebrations at World Youth Day.
World-class juggler Paul Ponce will perform during the youth day vigil in the presence of Benedict XVI and hundreds of thousands of youths.
The occasion “will be for me one of the most important moments of my whole professional career, because of the importance that living my faith within the Catholic Church has for me,” Ponce said to ZENIT.
Ponce was invited to perform at the youth event last winter after he was seen performing in Cologne.
Heiner Koch, secretary-general of World Youth Day, and the liturgical committee of the event, were impressed by the young performer who often mixes messages of faith with his performance, and asked Ponce to do an adapted version of the “Juggler of Notre Dame,” which he will perform before an image of the Virgin Mary.
The young Argentine juggler, part of the sixth-generation of a family of performers, has never lived more than 10 months in the same city. He was raised Catholic, but never had the opportunity to attend catechism classes.
Working in a show at a Nassau casino in the Bahamas — “the only time I spent 10 consecutive months in one place” — Ponce, then 21, experienced what he terms his “conversion.”
In order to receive confirmation, the parish priest sent him to a catechesis course with 14- and 15-year-olds.
“It all started there,” he said, “I began to ask myself very serious questions which I had never asked myself before: Why was I a Catholic? What did God and the Church mean to me?”
“Something I cannot forget about this process of my conversion are the times I went to church alone and fixed my gaze on the crucifix. Looking at it, I wondered: Why so much pain and suffering?” he said.
Ponce continued: “I realized then that God had inundated my whole life with graces and gifts, and I was very far from my duty to God as a baptized Christian.
“What is incredible is that the more I tried to understand and to do good to God and others, the happier and more fulfilled I felt.
“The culmination of all this was when I decided to stop working in the performing world for a whole year to give a year as a lay missionary to the Church, saying to myself that God had done a lot for me, and now I wanted to do something for him.”
In God’s hands
“At the end of the year I realized that that year had been the happiest of my whole life, as during that year I learned where happiness is found: in seeking God and the good of others,” Ponce stated.
“Now I work in the artistic world with a new ideal,” he said, “to see how I can be an instrument of God to my companions, not because of what I can do for them, which would be nothing, but what God can do for them, making use, as he always does, of unworthy instruments.”
Ponce said that he wants to say a few words to the Pope: “My life would have not meaning without faith. I pray every day for you, for your difficult work, which the Holy Spirit undoubtedly illuminates, so that the love of God and the culture of life will reign in the hearts of this humanity, so thirsty to know Christ.
As part of his work in Cologne, Ponce will be selling T-shirts with messages of faith. The proceeds will go toward schools in Latin America which offer educational opportunities to children of poor families.