As time speeds by, World Youth Day gets closer and closer. The international gathering of Catholic teens and young adults will take place in less than eight months.
Now is a good time to begin learning about the patron saints of the 2016 event. St. John Paul II and St. Faustina, both Polish natives, have been selected to represent their homeland during the July 25-31 event.
"We are encouraging people to read about their lives and stories, to read any of John Paul's writings that they can, to start to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet to learn about that devotion that Faustina gave, and to begin to know them as people," said Michael Slish, program director for the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. "Often people know, especially John Paul II as a historical figure, but to know him as a person, to know him as someone who grew up in Poland during World War II and the Communist regime and what that meant to him and inspired him to have a devotion to mercy that drove so much of his life as pope."
Some suggested books include "Diary: Divine Soul of Mercy" by Maria Faustina Kowalska, herself; "The Life of Faustina Kowalska: The Authorized Biography" by Sister Sophia Michalenki, CMGT; "St. John Paul the Great: His Five Loves" by Jason Evert and "City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II's Kraków" by George Weigel.
Preceding the actual WYD festivities, the diocesan pilgrims will visit Wadowice, the birthplace of St. John Paul II and where he lived before moving to Krakow to attend Jagiellonian University. The hotel where the pilgrims will stay sits walking distance from the Divine Mercy Shrine, which holds the original Divine Mercy icon based on a description by St. Faustina, and the John Paul II Center, built on the grounds of a chemical factory where the late pope worked as a young adult layperson.
Pilgrims will also visit Częstochowa, home of the Black Madonna painting; St. Maximilian Kolbe's monastery, Niepokalanów, and the German concentration camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau before taking part in the Masses, catechesis session and festivals of World Youth Day.
As the theme for WYD is "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" and WYD 2016 will take place during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis suggested pilgrims do the corporal and spiritual works of mercy on a monthly basis.
"That's a concrete way that people may begin to look at what mercy really is, because it's a really deep and complex virtue in terms of our faith. It's for those who are going and also those who aren't going to Poland can enter and walk that journey," said Slish.