Rome (Italy). The XXXVII World Youth Day is celebrated on 20 November 2022 in the local Churches, while at the international level it will be celebrated in Lisbon, Portugal, from 1 to 6 August 2023.

For the first WYD celebration in 1986, the Bishops had, in fact, been invited to plan an annual event for young people, to be held every Palm Sunday in their own Dioceses. At the diocesan level, from 1986 to 2020, WYD was therefore celebrated every year in most countries of the world on Palm Sunday and since 2021, it has been celebrated on Christ the King Sunday. At the international level, it is held every two or three years in a place established by the Holy Father.

World Youth Day is a moment of strong spirituality in which young people from all over the world gather to meet Christ, eternally young, and can learn from Him how to be witnesses of the Gospel for other young people. It is open to all young people who want to participate, together with their peers, in a festive celebration with Jesus Christ at the center, meeting his Vicar, the Pope.

“Mary arose and set out in haste” (Lk 1:39): is the 2022 and 2023 theme of the Message of Pape Francis to young people, at the end of the cycle of three messages that accompanied them on the journey between WYD Panama 2019 and WYD Lisbon 2023, all centered on the verb to rise. The Gospel passage chosen is full of youthful characteristics:

The Young Mary, model for today’s youth

Preparing for the mission and competently assuming one’s responsibilities is a very important aspect in a person’s life. Being professional in one’s field and contributing one’s skills to the betterment and well-being of society, community, and the world is a strong need of the present moment.

Mary arose: It indicates the willingness to put oneself at the service of those in difficulty. Her human qualities are a model for today’s youth. Mary is attentive, alive, awake, and aware that her cousin needs her help. For this reason, she decides to go in haste to Elizabeth.

The Lord invites today’s young people to get up, to get out of their comfort zone, from the torpor of the ego and of their own self, to move on to the flexibility of us and of the whole, and to quickly reach the less fortunate in their own community, of society and of the entire human family.

Mary went in haste

When the angel Gabriel tells her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary as a young adult, does what most women would have done. She goes in a hurry, thinking that meeting and being with the pregnant Elizabeth would make her stronger spiritually and emotionally. She wastes no time and sets off quickly to see for herself what the Angel has told her. Sharing the wait with Elizabeth will strengthen her faith in God.

In haste, therefore, expresses all her solicitude, interest, enthusiasm, the caring attitude of a cousin. With her gratuitous love, closeness, openness to life, Mary generates new hope in her cousin Elizabeth. She gives her faithful service to her cousin Elizabeth, already advanced in years, but made by God capable of generating new life. The whole experience is characterized by a sense of trepidation and joy.

Went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah

The expression indicates a long, lonely, and difficult journey. This speaks of Mary’s courage, determination, and daring spirit; her willingness to face difficulties, challenges, to take risks, to be of help to others in times of need. Mary puts others first, before herself.

God invites today’s young people to welcome the Lord’s surprises with faith, courage, and fortitude, sometimes walking a lonely, difficult, risky road in the certainty that the Lord has traced it out for each one of us. Mary of Nazareth, the young woman, did it and she shows the way for all young people today to follow her in turn.

Pope Francis continually underlines the importance of fraternal relationships between young and old, of reciprocity, since both have much to give and to receive from the other.

In the case of Mary and Elizabeth, the fraternity is mutual. It makes that bond of life and understanding vibrate between them, as both have received a special blessing/favor from God, and have been entrusted with a particular mission.

The encounter between Mary and Elizabeth is an invitation to everyone, young and old, to build that same fraternal relationship and to look to the future with hope and responsibility, to cultivate more and more a life of service and grace like that of Mary and a mature life experience like Elizabeth’s believing, like them, that God speaks and always acts according to His Word.

The celebration of World Youth Day is a unique opportunity to deepen one’s faith and draw closer to Christ through prayer and the sacraments, together with other young people who share the same passions and desires. It is an opportunity to personally experience the universality of the Catholic Church and to share the hopes of many young people with the whole world.

When you have Christ, you cannot keep Him to yourself: you have to share this joy with others. This is what Mary did and it is an invitation to young people to bear witness to and proclaim Christ in their daily life.

On the website of the Dicastery of the Laity, Family, and Life you can download the Pastoral Guidelines for the celebration of World Youth Day in the local Churches.