Interview about World Youth Day in Panama, Zenit Italy (January 28, 2019)

The Prelate of Opus Dei didn’t want to miss the great gathering of young Catholics from all over the world in World Youth Day, celebrated in Panama from January 22nd to 27th, 2019.

The Prelate had a catechetical get-together with many young people, mainly from the Prelature, on Friday, January 25, 2019, at the Hotel Panama. Opus Dei was founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá in Spain in 1928, and is present in 68 countries.

Msgr. Ocáriz participated in the Way of the Cross, presided over by the Holy Father on Friday, in the Santa María la Antigua Camp, among a number of other events during these days

The Argentinean priest Claudio Caruso, who was present at the historic world meeting in Panama, interviewed Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz exclusively for Zenit. The interview is reproduced below:

In public discussions today, religion sometimes seems to be presented as something of the past, old-fashioned. What do you think is the best way to show young people that happiness lies in focusing their lives on imitating Christ?

Perhaps that perception is born of a vision of Christianity as a set of precepts and obligations, or as the commemoration of past events. On the contrary, Christianity is a personal encounter with Christ’s love, a love that gives the deepest meaning to each one’s life. Certainly some people present religion as outdated. However, we see in our day and age many people thirsting for peace, for happiness, thirsting for God. God’s action in the world is silent; it takes place in the intimacy of people’s hearts, in personal relationships. I think that giving testimony to this very personal encounter with Jesus and the profound joy it produces, is a good way for young people—and for any person—to discover the happiness of living close to Christ. This has been the case since the very beginning of Christianity, as St. John wrote: “We have known and believed in the love that God has for us.”

How can we make known the marvelous virtues of our Lady, Queen of Peace, better known to young people today?

Although only a few passages in the New Testament explicitly mention our Lady, a careful and meditative reading of these texts can teach us a lot about our Mother. On the occasion of World Youth Day, Pope Francis is highlighting for young people Mary’s “yes” to God’s invitation: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). It is a “yes” that implies an attitude of listening to God’s will, a determination to put oneself at his service and the service of our fellow men and women. The Virgin Mary is a mother, she is our Mother. We will learn from her by getting to know her. In one of his books, St. Josemaría advises us to have a personal experience of Mary’s motherly love: “It is not enough just to know she is our Mother and to think and to talk about her as such. She is your Mother and you are her son. She loves you as if you were her only child in this world. Treat her accordingly: tell her about everything that happens to you, honor her and love her. No one will do it for you or as well as you, if you do not do it yourself.”

How can we help young people not to become discouraged at the lack of unity among Catholics or when reading certain news items, sometimes scandalous, that have as protagonists pastors of the Church? How can we help people not to lose their peace and instead spread serenity and hope?

On other occasions I have reminded people that it can help us to consider that the Church is not only the group of men and women who have joined her, but above all, as St. Josemaría said, it is “Christ present in our midst; God who comes down to us to save us, calling us with his revelation, sanctifying us with his grace, sustaining us with his constant help” (Christ is Passing By, no. 131). Even if we, the men and women who are part of the People of God, make mistakes and err, God is with us, in his Church.

In the face of these difficulties, which are evident to everyone, Pope Francis invited all Catholics, in the month of October, to recite the Rosary daily, ending it with the invocation Sub Tuum Praesidium, and with the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. This is another key aspect: offering prayer and penance is a wonderful way to love the Church and the Pope ever more effectively.

You are urging us to ask for light to see and strength to want to do God’s will. How can we help channel the enthusiasm of young people and lead them to dream high?

Indeed, World Youth Days are a sign of the joy that marks young people who have ideals, a joy they should spread throughout the whole Church. The Pope encouraged them to transmit this enthusiasm with his famous remark, “Make a mess!” So it is something positive.

At the same time, each young person will also need help so that these days in Panama don’t remain an isolated event in their lives, but rather help enkindle in each person the desire to deepen the true origin of that joy, which is being close to Christ. Ordinary life—with its good and less good moments—can sometimes seem arid, a desert for those whose faith is enkindled only in moments of enthusiasm. But as St. Josemaría reminds us: “There where your fellow men and women are, where your aspirations are, your work, your loves, there is the place of your daily encounter with Christ.”

Young people live their lives with great intensity, so sometimes they may find it difficult to “see” Christ who is accompanying them. Some simple and practical advice might be to read the Gospel every day for a few minutes. If they don’t have that habit, they can start with the Gospel of St. Mark, which is short and direct. Those few minutes can have a great impact on their life.

Romana, n. 68, January-June 2019, p. 92-94.

Send to friend