World Youth Day Final Mass

A friend who has no religious affiliation remarked to me today that she was amazed that World Youth Day had been such a big event. She was particularly impressed by seeing part of the World Youth Day Mass on TV. “I had no idea”, she said, “that so many young people would want to travel from all around the world and all parts of Australia to attend a religious festival and to go to Mass with the pope!”

Many of those who were cynical about WYD before it began were won over by the sight of enthusiastic young people from every corner of the globe who delighted in coming together to celebrate their common faith.

Getting to Sydney involved enormous amounts of dedication and commitment by many of the pilgrims. The young men from Ebb and Flow in northern Manitoba whom we were privileged to welcome to our house in Brisbane for Days in the Diocese had worked for two years to raise the funds needed to attend WYD, their first trip out of Canada.

The final Mass of World Youth Day was a great spectacle and a grand celebration. Full, conscious and active participation is difficult to achieve when the assembly is so large and spread out over so great an area, but providing the texts and music in the liturgy guide book helped overcome some of these difficulties.

As was evident from the concelebrants’ red vestments with the image of the Holy Spirit by Tiwi artist Marjorie Liddy on the back, the Mass picked up the WYD theme: You will receive POWER when the HOLY SPIRIT has come upon you; and you will be my WITNESSES (Acts 1:8). The Preface for the Eucharistic Prayer, for example, was the Preface of the Holy Spirit I.

Because the Sacrament of Confirmation was conferred during the Mass, the readings and prayers used were not those of the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time but were chosen from those provided for the celebration of Confirmation.

Instead of the Profession of Faith being recited, all pilgrims were invited to renew their Baptismal promises, in their own language, along with the confirmation candidates.

Seeing represented physically the ‘catholic’ aspect of the Roman Catholic Church was the most striking element for me of the final Mass of WYD. Here were tens of thousands of people from many nations and cultures gathered with the Bishop of Rome around the table of the word and the table of the Eucharist to offer prayer, praise and thanksgiving to God.

As the body of Christ in all its diversity, they together professed one faith, experienced Christ present in their midst in the proclamation of scripture in several different languages, and shared in the one bread, the Body of Christ, at communion.

WYD 08 will have ongoing impact if all pilgrims and those who watched the final Mass on TV take to heart the words of the final Commissioning based on 1 Thessalonians 5:15:

“Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage, hold fast to that which is good, render to no one evil for evil, strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak, help the afflicted, honour all people, love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Elizabeth Harrington