Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., is the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada. He is the Canadian Bishops' Conference national coordinator for World Youth Days in Canada. He also assists the Holy See Press Office with English language media relations.
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Blessed John XXIII speaks to young people
On the night of October 11, 1961, at the end of an historic day marking the opening of the Second Vatican Council, an aging and infirm Pope John XXIII appeared at the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace in answer to the request of nearly half a million young people who had gathered in the Piazza below and made a memorable impromptu speech. Known as the Discorso della Luna or 'Moonlight Speech', it lives on in peoples hearts and minds to this day.
Dear sons and daughters, I feel your voices! Mine is just one lone voice, but it sums up the voice of the whole world. And here, in fact, all the world is represented here tonight. It could even be said that even the moon hastens close tonight, that from above, it might watch this spectacle that not even St Peter's Basilica, over its four centuries of history, has ever been able to witness.
My own person counts for nothing -- it's a brother who speaks to you, become a father by the will of our Lord, but all together, fatherhood and brotherhood and God's grace, give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love, love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord's holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.
When you return home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: 'This is the hug and kiss of the Pope.' And when you find them with tears to dry, give them a good word. Give anyone who suffers a word of comfort. Tell them 'The Pope is with us especially in our times of sadness and bitterness.' And then, all together, may we always come alive -- whether to sing, to breathe, or to cry, but always full of trust in Christ, who helps us and hears us, let us continue along our path.
Blessed John XXIIIs impromptu window speech that night is now part of Rome's legends. On that first night of the Second Vatican Council, a new era began for the Church. The Holy Father thought that the Council would conclude within months, but instead he was to die before its second session. When he returned to the Father on June 3, 1963, he had won the widespread affection of Christians and non-Christians alike. "Papa Giovanni," as he was called, endeared himself to millions of people throughout the world. With an infectious warmth and vision, he stressed the relevance of the Church in a rapidly changing society and made the Church's deepest truths stand out in the modern world.
Venerable Paul VI
Here are the words of Pope Paul VI addressed to the Youth of the World on December 8, 1965, at the close of the Second Vatican Council in Rome:
The Church looks to you with confidence and with love. Rich with a long past ever living in her, and marching on toward human perfection in time and the ultimate destinies of history and of life, the Church is the real youth of the world. She possesses what constitutes the strength and the charm of youth, that is to say the ability to rejoice with what is beginning, to give oneself unreservedly, to renew one's self and to set out again for new conquests. Look upon the Church and you will find in her the face of Christ, the genuine, humble and wise Hero, the prophet of truth and love, the companion and friend of youth. It is in the name of Christ that we salute you, that we exhort and bless you.
Though first spoken in 1965, long before World Youth Days began, these words served as a leitmotif for Pope John Paul II as he would launch the great laboratories of faith twenty years later. Through these national and international gatherings, Pope John Paul II made it very clear: young people are not only the future of the church, but they are also its present. The experiences of World Youth Days in Argentina, Spain, Poland, theUnited States, the Philippines, France, Italy, Canada, Germany, Australia, Spain once again, and now Brazil have brought so much new life to each of the countries where the great events took place.
Blessed John Paul II's Testament to Young People of the World
The final words of Pope John Paul II during the concluding Mass of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto (July 28, 2002). This was Pope John Paul IIs last World Youth Day.
If you love Jesus, love the Church! Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good! There are many priests, seminarians and consecrated persons here today; be close to them and support them! And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! At difficult moments in the Church's life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in America and so many other young people have done.
You are young, and the Pope is old, 82 or 83 years of life is not the same as 22 or 23. But the Pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. You are our hope, the young are our hope.
Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.
I finish with a prayer.
O Lord Jesus Christ, keep these young people in your love. Let them hear your voice and believe what you say, for you alone have the words of life. Teach them how to profess their faith, bestow their love, and impart their hope to others.
Make them convincing witnesses to your Gospel in a world so much in need of your saving grace. Make them the new people of the Beatitudes, that they may be the salt of the earth and the light of the world at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium!
Mary, Mother of the Church, protect and guide these young men and women of the Twenty-first Century. Keep us all close to your maternal heart. Amen.
Cardinal James Stafford evokes the Council
On August 15, 2000, during the Opening Ceremonies of World Youth Day 2000 in St. Peters Square, Cardinal James Stafford evoked the memory of the Second Vatican Council in his memorable address to Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Stafford, an American, hosted World Youth Day 1993 in Denver, Colorado (USA) before serving as President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Addressing a visibly moved and aging Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Stafford said:
Holy Father! These young people come as pilgrims from 157 nations. They all have come to the eternal City at your invitation. They wish to be with you, their Holy Father and the successor of St. Peter, and to hear you proclaim afresh to them: "Dear young people! Do not be afraid! Jesus is risen! We are one body in Christ!"
Not too long ago, it was an ominous portent when thousands of young people moved across national borders. Citizens trembled in fear. They closed and barricaded their doors. For those hosts of young men signified armies of war, instruments of destruction, plague and darkness.
At your initiative, Holy Father, these young men and women of Europe and of the world have formed a different kind of army. Holy Father, you have seen clearly that these young people are the generation of the Second Vatican Council. They are "on pilgrimage from the Lord" (LG 6). They reflect the beauty envisioned by you and the Fathers of the Council. That beauty, still incomplete but ever orientated towards fullness, is found in the weaving of the various paradoxes of freedom and obedience, of faith and culture, of eros - passionate joy of living and asceticism.
Holy Father, as you walked in the 1960's to the Council's sessions to express again the mystery of the always-youthful Church, you experienced the embrace of these great colonnades many times. Today we all pray that your happiness may be full. For these youthful multitudes, now embraced by the arms of St. Peter also, are living witnesses to the Council's hope and to yours.
There could be no more fitting words to summarize the heart and soul of these extraordinary instruments of the New Evangelization that are now known as World Youth Days. Rios World Youth Day has three good shepherds of the Second Vatican Council looking down from heaven and watching over the great gathering on Copacabana Beach this summer. What a great joy it will be in Rio de Janeiro, when the Blessed founder of these events, and two of his predecessors, Blessed John and Venerable Paul, look upon the young people of the world and extend their arms in blessing over them from the window of the Fathers House!