By Fr. Uju P. Okeahialam, CSSp
World Youth Day (WYD) just ended in Poland where the world's Catholic youth met with the Pope, our faith leader. Among the harvest of stories about the event, I tell mine from the perspective of a church elder, young at heart and in drive. Krakow, Poland is a land immersed in all that is Catholic and has the marks of the triumph of faith. Around it, too, smells all that can be abhorred by people of goodwill in the concentration camps. However, the city and the nation gave birth to the best people that have revolutionized the faith in the papacy of St. John Paul II and reinvigorated it through the Divine Mercy devotion from St. Faustina.
Although the cost to attend WYD was much, the urge to be aflame by the fire of others’ faith was worth everything. Many times some young people sit in their little corners and parishes thinking that they are alone in this journey but WYD tells them that they are not alone. At other times some of us older people think that our faith has no future because we see only older people in the pews, but WYD tells you it’s not true. Severally, many think that their experiences cannot be validated by the tenets of our faith, but the testimonies of others who have passed through similar dark-nights only remind us to be still and know that God is our God in spite of ourselves.
Thanks to the US Catholic Bishops and the unflagging support of the Knights of Columbus an impressive arena was devoted to our catechesis, testimonials, and spiritual edifications. There was something that spoke to the hearts of all. Unless the crowd hid them, there were only seven of us from the Diocese of Pueblo (five from St. Francis Xavier Pueblo and two from St. Paul the Apostle Pueblo-West) among the over 40,000 participants from across the USA. Encouraging? There were people from places like Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates; where many imagine that Christian faith has no home. The indictment of it all is seeing the enthusiasm and sacrifices people from these nations, hostile to the faith, made to attend while many of us have chosen not to be moved. It is for this that Pope Francis warned us no longer to remain as “couch potatoes.”
By this he persuaded the young people in attendance and all of us to wake up to make our Church young again. Unfortunately, many of us are not excited about our Catholic faith and care less about moments of revivals. We just want to remain in our corners to maintain what we have. Worse still are the many leaders whose only outreach is “Sheep-Stealing.” There are many out there who need to be brought to the faith or encouraged to take pride in the faith they received. But we fail to reach them because we are too sensitive of taking the good news beyond frontiers, lest they be offended. The truth is that, “Any faith that is not evangelical soon dies.” So using the image of Zacchaeus and his encounter with Jesus the Pope urged us to rise to overcome the handicaps we feel, the shame we feel, and the fear of what others will say to rise and make the Church young again. Don’t think you are alone. We are together in this divine project and look forward to the next renewal in Panama.