Youth, lights in the dark night

We live in an increasingly secular world. Pope Francis has stated that modern societies belittle the practice of the faith through cultural irony, considering faith something for the old to practise.

Aug 04, 2023

2019.01.27 Santa Messa GMG Panama

By Leela Ramdeen
We live in an increasingly secular world. Pope Francis has stated that modern societies belittle the practice of the faith through cultural irony, considering faith something for the old to practise. Faith, he says, “is a sign of strength and not of weakness. Faith deserves respect and honour. It has changed our lives, purified our minds, and taught us to adore God and love our neighbour. Faith is a blessing for everyone!”

To revitalise ‘Catholic Culture and Identity’, we must help to build up the faith of our youth. This is an ongoing process and elders play a key role in passing on the faith to youth. Pope St John Paul II instituted the first World Youth Day (WYD) on December 20, 1985. The first official WYD was held in 1986. It’s an international event, held every three years, bringing youths and young adults together for prayer, worship, and celebration of the Catholic faith. The 37th WYD is taking place in Lisbon, Portugal – from August 1 until August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration. It was originally scheduled to be held from Aug 2-7, 2022, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

This is the fourth WYD over which Pope Francis is presiding. The theme this year: Mary arose and went with haste (Luke 1:39) is the scriptural quote chosen by Pope Francis as the motto of WYD 2023. As the Vatican states: “The biblical phrase opens the account of the Visitation (Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth), a biblical episode following the Annunciation (the angel’s announcement to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God, and the theme of the last WYD, in Panama” (Jan 2019). During WYD, there are Catechesis sessions that challenge young people to reflect on major themes such as integral ecology/climate change, conflict, social friendship, and mercy.

In his 2019 post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit (Christ is alive), addressed to young people and to the entire people of God, Pope Francis reminded youths: “The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them! And when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us”.

In June, Pope Francis told young people they have “three languages of life” on their side: the language of the head to think clearly, the language of the heart to feel deeply, and the language of the hands to put what they think and feel into action. But our youths need a supporting environment in which they can let their lights “shine” in the dark night that threatens to overwhelm them and us.

Youth can and do make a difference in our country and in our world. The challenge for us is to review policies, systems, structures and practices that will allow our youths to thrive. As one youth said to me: “Being young in Trinidad & Tobago is hard. The challenges we face are complex.” The reasons he gave to justify his statement are reasons that are well known ? crime and violence, including the proliferation of gangs, guns, substance abuse; poverty, social exclusion, unemployment/underemployment, failure of the education system to meet the needs of 21st century students, poor parenting, housing and infrastructural problems, lack of programmes providing mentors and role models to support youths, lack of opportunities to develop non-cognitive and soft skills e.g. via apprenticeship schemes, peer pressure, mental health challenges, the pressure of materialism, body image anxieties, the potential risks that are involved with the internet e.g. cyberbullying, pornography etc.

Every youth matters! Our task is to remove the barriers that stand as obstacles in their way. Pope Francis highlights the fact that WYD offers young people the chance to expand their horizons and to “look beyond”. He recognises that they are “thirsting for horizons.” In one of his messages to youth as they prepared to participate in WYD, he urged them to open their horizons and hearts to other pilgrims. He said: “Don’t put up a wall in front of your life. Walls close you in; the horizon makes you grow. Always look at the horizon with your eyes, but look, above all, with your heart.”

Let’s create conditions that are based on the interconnected concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion, so that each one can live out his/her life with dignity.

I end with some wise words by Pope Francis in his Message for WYD 2023: “In this beautiful season of your lives, press ahead and do not postpone all the good that the Holy Spirit can accomplish in you!”-- ICN ((https://

Leela Ramdeen is Consultant of Trinidad & Tobago’s Catholic Commission for Social Justice & the Archdiocese’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees.

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