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Pope Talks About Marriage as a Vocation at World Youth Day
Young people heard a thing or two from Pope Benedict XVI about marriage as a Christian vocation during the Aug. 16-21 World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain.
One purpose of a World Youth Day is to help its young participants understand faith better. A point the pope wanted to drive home was that all the vocations together form a tapestry of life in the church.
A World Youth Day “is a practicum for the Christian life,” according to Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who directs the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Toronto, Ontario.
Writing on the network’s website, Father Rosica described how young people hear in various ways during a World Youth Day “that true freedom lies in commitment to Christ, to loving, just, honest relationships with others and to appreciating the beauty, sacredness and power of marriage, family life and human sexuality.”
Father Rosica served as national director of the 2002 World Youth Day in Canada and worked closely with World Youth Day teams in Germany (Cologne), Australia (Sydney) and Madrid.
When Pope Benedict spoke Aug. 21 with thousands of volunteers who helped facilitate this summer’s World Youth Day events, he mentioned priesthood, the consecrated life and marriage as forms of life in which Christians are called by Christ “to proclaim to the world the greatness of his love.”
Pope Benedict asked if the volunteers wondered after the week’s events what God wants of them in the future. They should realize, he suggested, that in the vocation that is theirs they can “become volunteers in the service of the One who ‘came not to be served but to serve.’” The pope emphasized that “Christ’s love can only be met with love.”
No Vocation Set Against Others
In Madrid the pope did not set one vocation over against others. In fact, he urged young members of women’s religious orders Aug. 19 to take an interest in others endeavoring to live their own vocations.
One way to express the “Gospel radicalism proper to the consecrated life” is through “communion with other members of the church, such as the laity, who are called to make their own specific calling a testimony to the one Gospel of the Lord,” Pope Benedict told the Sisters.
An important element of every World Youth Day is the prayer vigil the evening before the closing Mass. Pope Benedict had vocations, including marriage, well in mind in his prepared remarks for the Madrid vigil. If young people want to know what form of life the Lord wants for them, they “must remain in his love as his friends,” the pope said.
In marriage “a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh, find fulfillment in a profound life of communion,” the pope explained. He described this communion as “both bright and demanding.” Marriage, he said, “is a project for true love that is renewed and deepened daily” when a couple shares “joys and sorrows,” and marriage is “marked by complete self-giving.”
When “the beauty and goodness of marriage” are acknowledged, it becomes clear why “only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love,” the pope said.
Vocations Are Calls to Serve
It goes without saying that no form of life will prove immune to suffering. However, Jesus identifies with people who suffer, according to the remarkable meditations composed for the 2011 World Youth Day’s Way of the Cross by the Sisters of the Cross of Seville, Spain. These Sisters are in daily contact with people who suffer, World Youth Day planners said.
Jesus receives the suffering of anyone experiencing pain caused by the “nails” of difficult situations, the Sisters wrote. Thus, he suffers with those subjected to genocide, rape and sexual abuse, by which they are “stripped of their dignity,” innocence and trust in others.
The meditation for the 13th Station of the Cross — when Jesus, having died, is in his mother’s arms — remembered “the pain and solitude of so many fathers and mothers” whose children unjustly died of hunger.
Other meditations spoke of the weariness of those searching for jobs; the despair of immigrants offered “inhumane” work; those who stumble and, losing strength, collapse – victims of alcohol, drugs or other enslaving dependencies; and God’s power to change the hearts of those lacking the courage to defend life.
A cross is more that a structure of wood, said the meditations. The cross points to “everything that makes life difficult.”
As the Way of the Cross concluded, Pope Benedict said that “the different forms of suffering” that unfolded during it represented “the Lord’s way of summoning us” to become “signs of his consolation and salvation.”
After World Youth Day young people need to remember that:
– The form of life they will choose is a vocation.
– Suffering, despite its pain, does not represent abandonment by God.
– A vocation calls them to serve, not to be served.
Father Rosica told me that “World Youth Days offer time-released capsules to young people.” Thus, he said, “we should not look for immediate results or try to construct statistical “success charts.”
He agrees with Pope Benedict, who told reporters that the Gospel Parable of the Sower provides the context for understanding the seeds a World Youth Day sows.
“We cannot say straight away that there will be an immense growth of the church” immediately after a World Youth Day, the pope said. He insisted nonetheless that the ways the Lord’s seed actually does grow show that “these days do bear fruit.”