A photo that marks its silver jubilee

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A photo that marks its silver jubilee

By Fr. Rif’at Bader

This photo is 25 years old. It coincides with the time when John Paul II presided over the International Youth Day in Czestochowa in his country of origin, Poland, marking the 7th anniversary of the day he himself launched in 1985 for the first time for the youths in Rome. This anniversary, then, was marked every two years in all countries of the world.

The year 1991 was remarkable in Poland, as it marked the public emergence of Christian faith after the faithful had enormously suffered due to the Communist political system that later collapsed with the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989. East Europe, at the time, was looking forward to returning to the springs of pure faith.

I was at the time with a number of seminary students, accompanied by then Fr. Paul Marcuzzo (he is currently bishop). After spending some time in France, they proceeded by bus with some 600 French people from Toulouse Parish, crossing Germany, and then proceeding to Poland. This was designed to participate in a youth meeting, which was called the International Youth Day. This very day became universal since this universal gathering--which was attended at the time by more than two million young people from around the world--was not merely focused on celebrating massive Mass by the time it concludes, as it serves nowadays as an opportunity to receive Christian education and the various liturgical practices such as the Way of the Cross, the rosary, and other collective prayers. The International Youth Day is definitely preceded by a special evening prayer where the participants spend the night under the same sky in the city of Czestochowa which is renowned by the Polish shrine of the Virgin Mary and one of the country's places of pilgrimage. The image of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa, to which miraculous powers are attributed, is one of Jasna Góra's most precious treasures. They spent the night in sleeping bags which signify the spirit of the one family that distinguished that day.

What impinges on the mind is the universal hymn Abba Ojce which is derived from the slogan adopted on those days from: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba Father.” (Romans 8:14-15) It is worthy to note that this hymn was recited with Arabic words in the year 2000 during the Mass the Pope celebrated at the Amman International Stadium and was titled, “Oh Father”.

After quarter of a century, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media has been asked to prepare the calendar of the year, the Year of Mercy. Thus, this photo is posted for the month of July 2016 (with special thanks to the management of Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano) because Pope Francis, the successor of John Paul II, has chosen Poland itself to be the location for the celebration marking the youths’ Jubilee of Mercy. There is no place better than this East European country. It is the homeland of John Paul II, who became saint, in addition to being his capacity as the initiator of the Feast of the Divine Mercy (celebrated on the Sunday after Easter) to whom Lord Jesus Christ instructed the special emergence of Polish Saint Faustina. Both of them were chosen as heroes and patrons of mercy for this year.

Consider the several significances this photo bears, as its silver anniversary is being marked this year… it pronounces unanimously with the youths the slogan of their universal celebration this year: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

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