In just a few days, thousands and thousands of youth from around the world with gather in Madrid, Spain to celebrate World Youth Day 2011, sharing with the whole world (and with each other) their hope of committing themselves to Christ. Our kids are still too little to participate, but my husband and I have amazing memories of attending past World Youth Days, back when we were “youth”. Way, waaay back.

Rome, 2001. One of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’m cropped off the photo, to the right. My knees were shaking uncontrollably.

On the occasion of this summer’s WYD, the Holy Father prepared a message reflecting on this year’s theme: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). A fellow parishoner forwarded it to me, suggesting that it would be timely to share a bit of it with you.

We too want to be able to see Jesus, to speak with him and to feel his presence even more powerfully. For many people today, it has become difficult to approach Jesus. There are so many images of Jesus in circulation which, while claiming to be scientific, detract from his greatness and the uniqueness of his person. That is why, after many years of study and reflection, I thought of sharing something of my own personal encounter with Jesus by writing a book. It was a way to help others see, hear and touch the Lord in whom God came to us in order to make himself known. Jesus himself, when he appeared again to his disciples a week later, said to Thomas: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” (Jn 20:27). We too can have tangible contact with Jesus and put our hand, so to speak, upon the signs of his Passion, the signs of his love. It is in the sacraments that he draws particularly near to us and gives himself to us. Dear young people, learn to “see” and to “meet” Jesus in the Eucharist, where he is present and close to us, and even becomes food for our journey. In the sacrament of Penance the Lord reveals his mercy and always grants us his forgiveness. Recognize and serve Jesus in the poor, the sick, and in our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and in need of help.

WYD will take place between the 16th and the 21st of August – a good time to say a small prayer for the youth who will be, as the Holy Father puts it, wanting something great, something new, wanting to discover life itself.