By Claire Dulac
Claire Dulac, whose letter on WYD 2000 appears in this issue, gave this talk at a memorial Mass for Pope John Paul in her parish church, St Joseph’s, Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, on 4 April, two days after the death of Pope John Paul II.
I find it fitting that the youth of this diocese have been asked to speak about their experiences with the Holy Father when we could hear tens of thousands of young people singing in St Peter's Square as he lay on his deathbed. The Holy Father said then, ‘I sought you out and now you come to me. Thank you.’
This, to me sums up His Holiness. Beginning in 1985, the Holy Father called the youth of the world to come and join in a journey of faith as one community. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to attend four WYDs beginning with Denver, USA in 1993, Manila,Philippines in 1995, Paris, France, in 1997, and Rome, Italy 2000. Sadly, I was away for the WYD in Toronto, 2002, working on a special assignment in Thailand.
In each experience the humanness of the Holy Father never ceased to amaze me. He would laugh and sing with us but he would also cry with us. In Denver, 300,000 pilgrims were chanting ‘John Paul Two, we love you!’ and after a few moments of this he raised his hand and with tears in his eyes said, ‘and to my children, John Paul Two, He loves you!’ And at every following WYD he would reply to us in this fashion.
The highlight for me has always been my first glimpse of the Holy Father at each WYD which, no matter how far away from him you were, you would receive an overwhelming feeling of Love and Peace. The second highlight was always the overnight vigil with the Holy Father. They were truly awesome, with anywhere from 300,000 people to a record of five million in Manila all singing and praying together and sharing in the Mass.
The Holy Father’s messages were always powerful and fulfilling - he was always gentle and kind in his messages - but firm as well. He told us that ‘we, as the leaders of tomorrow, the saints of today, need to make this a better place for ALL in the twenty-first century. By saying “yes” to Christ, we are saying “yes” to the noblest thing that we will ever do. In return God will give us the strength that is necessary.’
In Paris, where my brother Marcel and I lead a group from our diocese, the Holy Father challenged us to recognize and serve Jesus in the poor and the marginalized. As youth, we are not immune to suffering and we needed to reach out and touch others, touch Jesus. His Holiness challenged us on the verses found in Matthew 25:42-43. He said that someday we will all meet Jesus face to face and at this meeting he will ask us: ‘I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was naked, I was a stranger and I was sick; what did you do? How will you answer him?’
In Denver the theme was: We are One Body, One Body in Christ, and at every WYD we would sing that song and, until Rome, when the Holy Father’s health was not as good, he would join in the actions with us. He taught us that we need to unite and be strong as One Body in Christ. I pray that the legacy that his Holiness left behind to the Youth of the world will continue and that we will recognize the urgency in His calling.
Viva il Papa! Viva!
John Paul II, we love you!