Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 12, 2001
The Call of the Pilgrim Cross
The pilgrimage of the World Youth Day Cross across Canada is the closest most of us will ever get to World Youth Day. And so this pilgrimage has a flavour and meaning of its own. When it crosses the Edmonton Archdiocese, over the next two weeks - touching virtually every corner of this far-flung diocese - it will visibly unite us as one body of Christ, as one local Church.
We have had major diocesan get-togethers previously - large Eucharistic celebrations at the Skyreach Centre, the synod on the family, Assembly 2000 at the Shaw Conference Centre. But never has there been anything like this. The cross comes to us in our home parishes; we don't have to travel far to it. The cross comes to us as a centre of prayer uniting us with those in faraway lands.
Our contact with the cross will be personal. We will bring to it our hopes and fears and offer them to the Lord. Those cries of the heart will remain personal, without being absorbed into a supposed consensus. And by being personal, they may energize a new era of evangelical action. This pilgrimage of the cross is a time of hope, of great promise for the future of our diocesan Church.
The cross takes us to the root of our faith - Christ's dying and rising so that all might be one with him. The cross is a clear sign that there is much more to life than our own plans and desires. The cross inspires us to turn away from self and toward Christ. Sometimes that involves painful renunciation. But it also brings consolation - the consolation that with God all things that really matter are possible.
In his July 31 message to the youth of the world for the 2002 WYD in Toronto, Pope John Paul said, "Faith is a personal decision which involves your whole life." Not just the parts of my life I want it to involve; not just when it feels good; not just when I am in the mood. But my whole life.
In his message, the pope encourages young people to be disappointed with "hollow entertainment and passing fads" and with personal mediocrity and conformism. He called us to greatness: "Do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals."
Lives totally committed to Christ - that is what the world most needs now. In fact, it is what the world always needs. But it needs that commitment even more now in the midst of war when human life is treated even more callously than in ordinary times.
The late Father John Hugo, an American peace activist and associate of Dorothy Day, recalled the efforts of the Church in Germany following the First World War to attract youth with a relaxed "positive Christianity." The Church emphasized the dignity of being Christian while placing the sacrifices and demands Christ places on us in the background.
At that post-war period, another movement was attracting young people by urging them to make great sacrifices to build a better Germany. People in this youth movement sacrificed their careers, wore uniforms, slept in barracks and lived a hard, laborious life. They were even taught that they must be prepared to give their lives for their country.
This movement, the Nazi youth movement, won the hearts of youth of that country because they had done what Catholic leaders refused to do - ask youth to be heroes. Today, it stands as a reminder of what can happen when we do not preach the Gospel in its fullness.
The Pilgrim Cross does not soft sell Christianity. It points to Jesus' ultimate sacrifice and to the sacrifices - small or large - we are called to make as his followers. The world needs sacrifice and renunciation in the spirit of the cross. The Pilgrim Cross will come to our towns and cities and remind us of that. It will help to make us more dedicated to following Jesus.
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