'The world needs the witness of your youth'- Bishop Davies at Walsingham Youth 2000 festival

Walsingham, UK (Tuesday, August 30, 2016, Gaudium Press) Holiness can be attained through simple Christian witness in everyday life, the Bishop of Shrewsbury has told members of Youth 2000. Preaching on the final day of an annual five-day prayer festival in Walsingham, the Rt Rev Mark Davies reminded participants that the “world needs the witness of your youth” and gave them advice on effective evangelisation.bmdavies.jpg

The Bishop said that genuine Christian witness did not entail “becoming weird or fanatical” but by “struggling in our own lives for holiness” and by trying to become the best Christians they can be in their ordinary daily lives. He said one lesson that young people could draw from the recent 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was to “be inspired” to be more than “armchair” observers. A Catholic should instead strive be a “real participant in a mission much greater than Olympic gold”, the Bishop said.

Bishop Davies encouraged participants to seek grace in their struggle for holiness by regularly going to Confession and adoring and receiving Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. He also urged them to become better acquainted with the Gospel.

Bishop Davies said: “The ancient world was first converted, not so much by the preaching of bishops, but by the daily witness of Christians in every walk of life who wanted to quietly share their faith often in quiet ways with those around them.

He said: “most often we are called to give a quieter witness to our faith in the circle of our own family and friends, in our work and our parish – the place where we can each have an influence. It’s an influence which flows from aiming, like the Olympic athletes, to be the best we can be as a student, a worker, a son or daughter, a friend or as a husband, wife or parent, a priest or a bishop! This is the call to holiness. It is call never to settle for second best but to aim high as Pope Benedict reminded the youth of Britain six years ago.

“Responding to this call involves a struggle as we have been reminded this weekend. A struggle in which we receive grace in regular Confession to become the best Christian, the best person we can be, and it is this that will have the greatest influence on those around us.”

The Bishop said: “We can only effectively share our faith, if we genuinely pray for the people around us; perhaps offering up for them things we find difficult in the day; and waiting for that moment when, in a natural way, we can give our testimony, by a word of hope and encouragement.”

The prayer festival is held over the August bank holiday each year at the Marian shrine of Walsingham. This year it took the theme “Conquerors” under the inspiration of the verse 5:5 of the Book of Revelation which reads: “Do not weep, see that the lion of the tribe of Judah … has conquered.”

It is open to young Catholics aged between 16 and 35 years and includes talks, workshops, live music, and opportunities for prayer, Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and the for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The homily of Bishop Davies follows in full

Homily for the close of the Youth 2000 Prayer Festival Monday 29th August 2016

Today our Prayer Festival comes to its end, and soon this field will seem very empty! Yet we are never meant to stay in a field, to remain permanently at a prayer festival. We are now called to return to wherever our lives are lived. This is the field of your mission where you are to become in the words we have heard so often in this festival: ‘more than conquerors’.

At the end of every Mass, we hear the words which the Mass takes its name. In Latin ‘ite missa est.’ We are told not just to go but to go with a mission. And we go with the promise Jesus give us: ‘I am with you.’ It is a promise we have together recognised in the Eucharist in the long hours of adoration here 24/7; it is the same promise we receive in every Mass and in the tabernacle of every Catholic church: ‘I am with you.’ This is the fulfilment of the promise the young prophet, Jeremiah received in the first reading: ‘they will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you’ (Jer. 1:19) it is this assurance which enables us to overcome every obstacle in our lives to become truly ‘conquerors.’ Jeremiah was afraid he was too young to be taken seriously.

Yet the world needs the witness of your youth. In all the coverage of the Rio Olympics and the record-breaking achievements of a generation of athletes, you will have noticed the call to ‘Be Inspired’! This expresses the hope that people will become more than armchair observers but active participants in every field of sport. We could say this prayer festival ends with a similar call: to be inspired to become active, to be a real participant in a mission much greater than Olympic gold! At World Youth Day in Krakow, Pope Francis gave the same message to the youth of the world when he said to you: “following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes … to blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love …” (Address World Youth Day Prayer Vigil, 30th July 2016).

Today the Church celebrates the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist. Saint Mark describes how John was true to his mission to the very end – the silent, sordid end when a high-life party had deadly consequences. The Gospels tell us how John’s words and witness had shaken an entire nation, and yet it was hidden from the world that he would die witnessing to the truth about marriage. In this way he points you and I to the two ways we give witness: sometimes publicly on the streets whether in global gatherings like World Youth Day or local events like the March for Life or Night Fever.

Yet most often we are called to give a quieter witness to our faith in the circle of our own family and friends, in our work and our parish – the place where we can each have an influence. It’s an influence which flows from aiming, like the Olympic athletes, to be the best we can be as a student, a worker, a son or daughter, a friend or as a husband, wife or parent, a priest or a bishop! This is the call to holiness. It is call never to settle for second best but to aim high as Pope Benedict reminded the youth of Britain six years ago.

Responding to this call involves a struggle as we have been reminded this weekend. A struggle in which we receive grace in regular Confession to become the best Christian, the best person we can be, and it is this that will have the greatest influence on those around us. It is not by becoming weird or fanatical but by struggling in our own lives for holiness. The ancient world was first converted, not so much by the preaching of bishops, but by the daily witness of Christians in every walk of life who wanted to quietly share their faith often in quiet ways with those around them.

If we are to do this we have to know our faith and be confident in it! I remember not long after I was made Bishop of Shrewsbury being asked at Shrewsbury’s Railway Station for directions to the Cathedral. I barely knew the way myself but couldn’t explain it to my enquirer. I didn’t dare tell him that I was the bishop who didn’t know how to get to the Cathedral! In the same way, if you and I don’t know the Gospel and the Catholic faith we cannot help others, which is why we’ve taken time this week to know our faith better. Yet we are to be more than just guides giving out directions. We can only effectively share our faith, if we genuinely pray for the people around us; perhaps offering up for them things we find difficult in the day; and waiting for that moment when, in a natural way, we can give our testimony, by a word of hope and encouragement.

In this, let us look to the example of Mary, Our Lady, as we meet her in the Gospel and the life of the Church. Her gentle, faithful presence shows us how to be evangelisers in the middle of ordinary life. As we leave her national shrine at Walsingham, let us be inspired; and let us commit to our mission in all the fields of our ordinary lives to which we now return. Knowing we will always find in the Eucharist the great promise fulfilled for us “I am with you to deliver you” (Jer. 1:19). In this strength we find in this Blessed Sacrament will be “more than conquerers” (Rom. 8:37).

Source Independent Catholic News

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