SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher’s July 20 address at the “One Year to World Youth Day Celebrations.”
Bishop Fisher is the coordinator of World Youth Day 2008, which will be held in Sydney next July.
* * *
Address at the One Year to World Youth Day Celebrations
St Patrick’s Church Hill [After the playing of Benedict XVI’s General Audience Message of July 4, 2007]
By Most Rev. Anthony Fisher OP
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney
One year to go! One year from today the Holy Father and half a million or so young people from around the world, the nation and the city — and some old guys like me — will celebrate the 23rd World Youth Day here in Sydney and offer the greatest Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the history of our country.
The first pilgrim has already arrived for that Mass: a simple wooden cross given to the Youth of the World by Pope John Paul II in 1984. The Young People’s Cross is already making an extraordinary impact as it makes its pilgrimage around Australia, just as it did over the past two decades as it travelled around the world on its way to Sydney. It will complete its journey among us by standing proud in the sanctuary for our Papal Mass at Randwick.
When the cross arrived at the start of this month it brought a friend, an icon of Our Lady and the Child Jesus. Together they are reminders of the Young People’s God: the God who took flesh for us as a baby and lived all his life with us in the World Youth Day demographic of 16 to 35 or even younger. That life was cut short on a simple wooden cross, in solidarity with all those who suffer and for the salvation of the world. But that the cross is now empty as it makes its journey around Australia is a sign of our faith that the young man-God rose again and our hope that the bright promise of immortality is held out to every person whose life is cut short, indeed for every person united to Christ.
The Young People’s God died upon the Young People’s Cross to bring salvation to the world. But before he returned to the Father, he promised us one last gift, the Holy Spirit, to unite us as one people under God and to give us the power to be witnesses to him. That Spirit-filled people of faith and testimony, of hope and witness, of love and action, is the Young People’s Church, and like the Young People’s Cross it is huge, it is international, and it has arms wide open for every one.
Tonight is a very special night for the Young People’s Church here in Sydney and in Australia. Tonight we gather at St. Patrick’s Church Hill, the oldest shrine in our land. In the Davis home on this land the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in a pyx after the only priest, Father Jeremiah O’Flynn, was deported. Robbed of priest and sacraments, the laity kept the Church alive in the new colony by gathering regularly for prayer in the presence of the Sacrament, praying the Rosary and rehearsing their Catechism. Here the Blessed Sacrament remained reserved until the chaplain of a French ship passing through Sydney came here to consume it and offer the Holy Sacrifice anew. A year later the people’s prayers were answered and Australia was allowed to have priests and Mass regularly. But for a time, at least, it was ordinary lay faithful, including convicts or ex-cons, many of them young, who kept alive the flame of faith by praying in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.
What better place, then, to launch our World Youth Day Eucharistic Adoration program for Australia? From tonight we ask every parish, school, university and other chaplaincy to hold a “Holy Hour of Power” each week in the lead up to WYD. For those that already have such an hour, we challenge them to increase their time and fervor in adoration. This will allow us an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ as we pray with and for all our young people, for WYD, and for the future of our Church and country.
Benedict XVI just reminded us that WYD is “much more than an event. It is a time of deep spiritual renewal. … Young pilgrims are filled with the desire to pray … to be nourished … to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the wonder of the human soul and shows the way to be the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ.” We must get ready now to be renewed, nourished, transformed, illuminated: Prepare now to be images and instruments of God’s love, witnesses to Jesus Christ in this new millennium!
So excited is the Pope about coming to “WYD-SYD” that he has already made another speech about it since the one we just saw which he recorded two weeks ago! Only this week he recalled the theme of our WYD: “You Will Receive Power When the Holy Spirit Has Come Upon You, and You Will Be My Witnesses” (Acts 1:8) He then said “I ask you, my dear young people, to reflect on this theme in the coming months in order to prepare yourselves for the great event that will take place in Sydney, Australia, in a year’s time, precisely in these July days.” Well, how better to reflect, how better to prepare, than by joining those first disciples with all their doubts and confusions, their awe and excitement, as they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room and awaited the Spirit of Pentecost?
This is our time to do the same. It’s your turn to spend a weekly Holy Hour of Power with Christ and Mary and the saints, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit at WYD. It will give you the quiet time, the thinking time, the praying time, the emptying-your-head time, the pouring-out-your-heart time, that you need. It will give you the encouragement and inspiration and support that you need to go out to all the world, and to build a new civilization of justice, peace and reconciliation, of truth, life and love. If you would like to receive the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, there are priests hearing confessions both upstairs here in the church and downstairs in the crypt; after benediction, confession will continue to be available up here in the Church; feel free to move to the back of the church during adoration if you would like to receive this wonderful gift of “God the Father of mercies who has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins” (Formula of Absolution).
In our video tonight Benedict XVI talked about the “sense of awe and eager anticipation” he felt — we feel — as he and we make our preparations for WYD. He offered his “heartfelt thanks” to all those working so “very hard to ensure an exceptional experience for us all”. Again this week he said that “The Christian communities of that beloved nation [Australia] are working hard to welcome you and I am grateful to them for the efforts they are making to organize it.” When I spoke to the Holy Father about all this recently, he told me that mine is a very big job. Coming from him, that was quite a statement! I told him and I want all of you to know that we have a team of generous, professional, faithful people in the WYD office, in the diocese and beyond, working very hard for WYD. They need your prayers too.
One year to go and tonight we launch not only a year of prayer but also individual registration for World Youth Day. Now the names and details of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, our new friends, will start to flow in! The WYD Cross and Icon have already begun their pilgrimage — our pilgrimage — to ‘WYD08’. Tonight Benedict XVI is registered as Pilgrim No. 1. You will be not far behind him on the list. Help extend the arms of the Young People’s Church to all the world. I challenge you, each one of you here tonight, to promise God and yourself, that every week from now until next July, you will spend an hour in prayer before Our Lord to pray for the efforts of the WYD organizers, for your generation, for your Church and your world. Be from tonight, for the year ahead and beyond, “images and instruments” of the Young People’s God![Text adapted]