Yes, fields of the world have, and will continue to host the largest gathering of youth this earth has ever seen. This call to a communal Catholic festival every three years was conceived by the Second Vatican Council, now called World Youth Day. Do you know what a council is? To stay on track, lets just say important decisions are made at councils that affect the entire Church. The Catholic Church is 2,000 years old. There have been 21 councils of the Church, so about every 100 years the Pope convenes one, that is not very often. Now if you look back into the archives of the Second Vatican Council documents, which took place from 1962-1965, its closing documents are a direct call to the young lay faithful. Here is one excerpt.
‘Lastly, it is to you, young men and women of the world, that the Council wishes to address its FINAL message. For four years the Church has been working to rejuvenate her image in order to respond better to the design of her Founder, the great Living One, the Christ who is eternally young. Look upon the Church and you will find in her the face of Christ, the genuine, humble, and wise Hero, the Prophet of truth and love, the Companion and Friend of youth.’ ~ Drawn from final message of the Second Vatican Council ~
Clearly, the message’s mass is dense. The picture is focused. The ‘call’ is ringing. And twenty five years later, Pope John Paul II answered the Second Vatican convocation, by inviting all youth of the world to join him at the first ever World Youth Day, in 1986. The Second Vatican Council was the foundation for World Youth Day’s continued growth. From it’s humble beginnings of 300,000 participants in Rome, to its largest of 4,000,000 plus in Manila, World Youth Day took flight by John Paul II’s guidance, and the Second Vatican Council’s spirit.
So why a field? Why millions of human beings laughing, sharing, praying, crying, and worshipping together? The simple answer, we are one body. We are the Catholic Church. We are universal. And we literally have sunken roots in the most and least likely places on earth. World Youth Day is the one liturgy, once every three years, where the Pope, the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, and the humble servant to the Church, presides over the breaking of the bread with millions. The liturgical field of worship, the mass, is the apex of World Youth Day’s celebration, but there is more…