Just as pilgrims in Portugal are blessed by pope's presence, 'each of us is blessed by the observance of all of us,' archbishop says
BRIGHTON — World Youth Day isn't a place. It's a spirit.
As an estimated 1.5 million young people gathered with Pope Francis in Lisbon, Portugal, for the 17th World Youth Day, 62 more gathered in solidarity alongside Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron for the Archdiocese of Detroit’s World Youth Day Home event.
Young people from 11 parishes gathered from all four regions of the Archdiocese of Detroit at Our Lady of the Fields Camp in Brighton, arriving Saturday, Aug. 5, and staying overnight until Sunday, Aug. 6. Like their brothers and sisters abroad, they also participated in a walking pilgrimage, traveling around the lake while praying the rosary, celebrated Mass with their shepherd, and slept under the stars.
The home event gave young people a chance to play a small role in World Youth Day, said Samuel Wrigley, a high school senior from St. Anastasia Parish in Troy.
“Even if I'm not in Lisbon, I am happy to be united with the young people in Portugal,” Wrigley told Detroit Catholic. “(World Youth Day) is about evangelization and the spread of Catholicism throughout the world.”
The event is about unity, and just as it happens in a different location each time — the pope announced it will be hosted in Seoul, South Korea, in 2027 — it can also happen at home in Michigan, said senior Sharon Ward from St. Mary Parish in Port Huron, who was one of three teens who attended from the parish.
“We said a prayer of unity to connect us with the people that are all celebrating in Lisbon,” Ward said.
Archbishop Vigneron reiterated that message of unity in his homily during Mass, celebrated at St. George Shrine alongside Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat of the Chaldean Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle, which owns and operates the camp.
“By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are very much in communion with all the pilgrims gathered around our Holy Father the pope, in Lisbon,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “And so we are the recipients of graces poured out there, but also we ought to understand that they are blessed by our observance of World Youth Day. In fact, each of us is blessed by the observance of all of us. So whatever your own particular intentions or aspirations are, as you come to this pilgrimage, remember, be assured you are not alone.”
The weekend retreat took place on the feast of the Transfiguration, which Archbishop Vigneron pointed out is an appropriate feast day for an event celebrating the young, as it focuses on a “vision.”
“Youth is very much time for when visions are appropriate,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Do well to be attentive to this mystery of the Transfiguration because it is a kind of a lamp, St. Peter says, lighting our way and helping us understand who God is and who we are in relationship to God.”
Pope St. John Paul II often told young people that now was the time for visions because the future lay in front of them as a possibility, Archbishop Vigneron explained. In contrast, Archbishop Vigneron said that, at his age, life is more about reminiscing.
“Your life is not so much reminiscence as it is facing a wide-open future,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “What is your vision for that? Each of you, each of us, is made by God for some particular purpose.”
The elements of the Transfiguration offer us guideposts for how to envision the future, Archbishop Vigneron said. The Transfiguration makes clear who Jesus is as the Son of Man, God the Father’s only begotten son, the one promised by the law and prophets and by whose death and rising we will have eternal life.
“You are Jesus the messiah’s disciples, and to be disciples of Jesus, you need to put everything into his hands,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “You should think about your future, whatever that might be, and say, ‘Lord, whatever you want, I can do.’”
Through the elements of the Transfiguration, the Holy Spirit is inviting each person to envision their future as a participation in the Lord’s own efforts to build in the world a kingdom for the Father.
“You have an essential and indispensable role to play in the history of the world,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “You are agents in the work of salvation alongside Jesus Christ. And that's true in the great things you will try to achieve and in the small things as well. It's what gives purpose to our lives — that we are not simply anonymous elements in the mass, but our lives have meaning. Indeed, every element of your life, even when it seems to be trivial, has meaning because it can advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the mystery of the Transfiguration, young people should be reminded that their future vision will always involve dying to self and sharing in Christ’s cross, he added.
“Jesus says all of us disciples must bear the cross and walk after him, and it is only by doing that, that we will find eternal life,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. Our sharing of the death and rising of Jesus is inescapable. So you must, as disciples, be realistic and understand that the future you envision for yourself cannot be a future that is simply about comfort, which is so much the goal of our age, but it is a future about love, self-giving — that's the source of joy.
“Give God praise and thanks," the archbishop concluded. "(Jesus) invites you to make a gift of yourself along with him to the Father. Know that he will give you his help because the future you should envision for yourself is beyond your capacity and can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
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