A few days ago, when I was in catechesis with a group of young people I accompany to the sacrament of confirmation, I asked what the gifts of the Holy Spirit were. As usual, Francis began firing back: “I know! It is service, understanding …”
It was not the first time that Francis ‘ answer to this same question about the gifts of the Holy Spirit had “service”as its answer. After the proper explanation, the idea that surely also wandered in the head of that 14-year-old remained in my mind: service as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Not present in the usual definition of the 7 gifts, but as a gift that is given to every Christian and that calls him to assume his role in the life of the Church.
Having the opportunity to put my gifts at the service of the great epic, which is the organization of World Youth Day 2023, is undoubtedly a unique and unrepeatable opportunity. As Don Bosco said ” youth is the most delicate and precious part of human society”. It is this same youth that listened to the challenge of Pope Francis, launched at the end of wyd in Panama, to host, in Lisbon, the largest event in the world. This youth (which does not exist by itself, but is formed by the diversity of each one of those part of it) is different from the one that met Don Bosco in the streets of Turin. It is different in time and place, in challenges and opportunities, but similar in one regard: it is summoned to holiness. This is the enormous challenge that I feel as a member of the Salesian Youth Movement and as coordinator of WYD DON BOSCO 23: to walk towards holiness, guided by the pillars of Salesian spirituality, inviting all those who cross paths to join the jorney.
I feel at a unique point in history in which, at the same time, I am the recipient and promoter of the event that I was invited to collaborate in organizing. I feel part of a youth who feels looked at by society. With great hope and expectation for some, with some disdain and disbelief for others. I hear in echo many of the challenges that Pope Francis has called upon the church since the beginning of his pontificate: to get up from the couch; go out into the streets; go out to the peripheries; do not be afraid to get dirty because you tried to get out of comfort; take care of the social economy; strive for the common good!
All this gives us the strength to listen to the other voices, those that are rising up against the Church at this moment and that point, with certainty, in the direction of wyd. “Stand firm in the faith! Do not let the wind and rain bring you down,” Pope Benedict XVI said at the wyd vigil in Madrid in 2011. Here it is not the wind and rain that threaten to bring down, but all those who cannot see beyond the immediate, the economic return and the end of the week in August 6. A World Youth Day makes its fruits known in each one, in communities, in movements and in particular groups long after the event itself. Let me not forget that the mission does not end when WYD is over, but that this is just another milestone (and a very big one!) on my route.
When I embraced this challenge, to plunge headfirst into the preparation of wyd, and above all in the organization of Salesian participation, I was far from imagining how impactful this path would be. The main motivation is undoubtedly the will to give, contributing to a better WYD in all its aspects. May all participants have the same opportunity to experience the friendship with Jesus and the spiritual and human growth that I have had along this journey. May the will be born in each of us to put our gifts to good use, doing what we know best and seeking to build bridges with those who are close to us, wether closer or further from our reality. It has been with true enthusiasm (a true divine inspiration) being able to share my time with the pilgrims who, coming from the 4 corners of the world, are preparing their participation in this great event.
But this service is not only about celebrations and goals achieved. The service inspired by Jesus and Mary, as we are reminded in the theme of this edition “Mary Rose and departed in haste”, is that which leaves behind its own motivations and integrates them in the construction of a greater good. Mary, as inspiration, gives me the strength to move forward, more and more, and the wise discernment to balance action with Proclamation, impetus with reflection, and immediate results with expectation.
I expect from myself the great capacity, through my service and dedication, to show everyone that it makes sense to follow Jesus! It makes sense to respond to his infinite love for us by offering our daily work and prayer. May this announcement take effect through acts and words like these that I write.
I know many other young people who also dedicate their time to this great service of preparing for WYD in its most diverse areas: logistics, communication, events, pastoral care, transport, accommodation and others. How good it is to see ourselves dedicated to a cause that is not just a hobby, a task or a simple fulfill of the church calendar. I like to think that the sum of all our gifts is far greater than the sum of its parts; that in church we are much more than just individuals.
Many more reasons and challenges exist in this path of service, but the company of those who share it with me and those who support me, help to bear all the complaints, demotivations and lack of spirit. I am convinced that the idea that hung in Francis ‘ mind really makes sense: service is the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is the path to holiness and only when it is fulfilled does it make sense to walk.