Preparing for the Paschal Mystery With Youth

The Church Celebrates Palm Sunday, World Youth Day

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By Ann Schneible

ROME, MARCH 30, 2012 ( «Always be joyful in the Lord!» – Philippians 4:4

These words from St. Paul have been chosen for this year’s World Youth Day, which will be celebrated in Rome this weekend on Palm Sunday.

Although it is well known that World Youth Day takes place every two to three years in a different city – most recently in Madrid, Spain – what is not as well known is that, for all the other years, World Youth Day is celebrated on Palm Sunday, both in Rome and at the diocesan level.

It is for this reason that the young people are given the opportunity to participate in Palm Sunday Mass in a particular way, being asked to process into St. Peter’s Square carrying massive palms, in a poignant reminder of the first Palm Sunday which took place 2,000 years ago.

Carly Andrews, communications director of the Centro San Lorenzo International Centre for Youth in Rome, shares her experience in carrying the palms into St. Peter’s Square.

«I saw the youth of the Church,» she said, «the vibrancy of the Church, and the communion as well, all carrying a Palm together. And going out into a sea of hundreds and hundreds of Catholics, all there for the same reason, for Christ, and for the Church, it was really breathtaking. Overwhelming, in fact.»

«It was like taking a step into their shoes, like going back to the time of Christ, and being able to give a little gift of yourself to the Lord as He goes into making this massive sacrifice for us.»

World Youth Day

«Today you are here again, dear friends,» said Blessed John Paul II to the young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday, 1986, «to begin in Rome, in St. Peter’s Square, the tradition of World Youth Day, the celebration to which the entire Church was invited. From my whole heart I welcome you.»

During the 1983-1984 Holy Year of Redemption, a simple wooden cross stood in the center of St. Peter’s Square. At the conclusion of this Holy Year, Blessed John Paul II entrusted that Cross, now known as the World Youth Day Cross, to the young people of the world as represented by the youth of the Centro San Lorenzo. Then, as the 1985 United Nation’s International Youth Year came to a close, the Holy Father invited all of the young people of the world to gather in St. Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday, 1986. The following year, the Holy Father and the WYD Cross traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the first WYD to take place outside of Rome.

«A day which is dedicated to the youth,» explains Andrews in speaking about Palm Sunday as WYD, «is a real gift for the youth because it’s a day in which we can all come together as one body in Christ, as brothers and sisters of our mother Church, and to really live this Holy Week together with the Lord, to prepare for his passion, death, and resurrection. It enables us to enter into this journey, and this way of salvation through the meditation of his passion.»

«World Youth Day means just this,» concluded Blessed John Paul II at WYD, 1986 «going to encounter God, who entered into the history of man by means of the Pasqual Mystery of Jesus Christ. He entered in a way that cannot be undone. And he desires to meet you above all. And to each and every one of you he wants to say: «Follow me,» Follow me. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.»

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