Maria Byrne, 21, is from Surbiton Surrey and works as a Lay Chaplain in a primary school. She is involved with Youth 2000 and the youth initiative, Take A Stand.
“A meek man of mighty action” – When I first read these words in a newspaper, describing Pope Benedict, at the time of World Youth Day in Madrid, it hit me: this summed him up so well! Not a mighty man, but a humble one, who nonetheless didn’t shy away from showing courage, taking great action and bringing change.
September, 2010 saw me running down Millbank in London, like a crazed fan, to catch a glimpse of the Pope-mobile driving by. In the few seconds of the Holy Father passing by where I was stood, I looked at his face and could just see love. Even though it was a moment that seemed like it was over before it had even begun, my friend and I both had tears in our eyes, moved by this man we knew hardly anything about. I began to realise that there was something really special about this man, a true, authentic representative of Christ on earth.
I travelled to World Youth Day for the first time in 2011, and again I just couldn’t help but be moved by this gentle man, who could draw hundreds of thousands of young people, even in the midst of mighty storms. The words he spoke almost seemed to be spoken to me directly, and his chosen motto for World Youth Day that year, “Rooted and Built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith” really struck a chord within me. One of the gifts I received in Madrid was, of course, a YouCat. I had heard about the Youth Catechism before going to Spain and was really excited to see it, so when my group were given ours, I eagerly flicked through it. I was immediately struck by how accessible and attractive it seemed, and looked forward to using it.
Little did I know that, in a different group to the one I was with, other young people from my parish were having similar experiences and being greatly inspired by World Youth Day! Through sharing our stories and experiences when back home, we all suddenly felt that the time had never been better to start a youth group in our parish. And so, Take A Stand was born (although we actually credit its birthplace at WYD in Madrid, as that is where the Holy Spirit was really working on our hearts individually and giving us inspiration…)! Stirred by the words of our Holy Father and our WYD experiences, the four of us felt that our mission should be threefold: to build solidarity among young Catholics, to catechise (using the YouCat) and to evangelise. Pope Benedict’s words in the very beginning of the YouCat most especially spoke to us, and we really wanted to accept his invitation!
So I invite you: Study this Catechism! That is my heartfelt desire. This Catechism was not written to please you. It will not make life easy for you, because it demands of you a new life. It places before you the Gospel message as the ‘pearl of great value’ (Matt 13:46) for which you must give everything. So I beg you: Study this Catechism with passion and perseverance. Make a sacrifice of your time for it! Study it in the quiet of your room; read it with a friend; form study groups and networks; share with each other on the internet. By all means continue to talk with each other about your faith.
Forward to YouCat
– What a challenge!
Since its launch one year ago, Take A Stand initiatives have included setting up The Pentecost Project, uniting young people thousands of miles apart in prayer over Skype and holding YouCat in the Park, faith discussion using YouCat in Hyde Park, London. Take A Stand are also currently preparing for WYD in Rio De Janeiro, as there are over 30 young people going from the group. Take A Stand would not exist in its current form, was it not for Pope Benedict and his inspiration in our lives. Even though we now won’t be seeing our beloved Benedict in Brazil this summer, his inspiration, encouragement and legacy continue to spur us on as we journey on the road to Rio. One of his parting phrases will really stick with me: “Remember, Jesus wins!” May we never forget that truth – thank you Holy Father!
Pentecost Project: www.thepentecostproject.weebly.com