As you read this today, there will be one priest from Augusta - assigned at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Lumpkin Road, named the Rev. Matthew Ericksen - traveling with about 16 youths to Madrid, Spain, Aug. 16-21, for World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI.
There will be more than 1 million youths from around the world attending this event to hear the pontiff of the Catholic Church hold Masses and speak to their minds, hearts and souls about one theme for those five days. The theme chosen by the pope this year is "Planted and Built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith."
Why this theme, and why now? Good questions.
Why this theme of being firm in the Catholic faith and in Jesus Christ? The answer is spiritually powerful. The reason the pope has chosen this theme for this year at World Youth Day is because he realized the prime opportunity he has as the Vicar of Christ on Earth to proclaim the Gospel value of worshipping God at Holy Eucharist each Sunday of the year and all holidays of obligation.
That is the central purpose we have as spiritual and earthly beings to give thanks to God for our life, our faith, our health and our vocation to be holy and loving and compassionate, so we all might be forever happy in heaven when our days on Earth are over.
The pope sees this chance to evangelize the more than 1 million youth gathered together in Spain to teach them and to preach to them, and to shepherd them with the teachings of Jesus Christ, who can keep us firm in our faith in His redemption on the cross, and with his resurrection and ascension, and sending us His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us to heaven.
Why now? The answer also is spiritually powerful. The pope knows that many youths are searching for an authentic way of life to give themselves a glimpse of revealed truth and love in the church.
So the pope will plan to teach and preach on the message that once we are baptized and immersed in our faith traditions, regulations and precepts, we must live them out with devotion, joy and happiness.
The pope wants to share the wonderful gift of Christian faith, which is our heritage and way of life.
The pope wishes to share with the more than 1 million youth how they, too, are sharers in the divine mystery to give of their time, talents and treasures for the well-being of themselves and the whole world.
So we are very grateful for our Pope Benedict XVI taking the time out of his busy schedule to spend five quality days in his summer to teach, preach and shepherd those coming to Madrid for World Youth Day.
May the Rev. Matthew Ericksen and all attending come back planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in their faith, to worship God and give thanks for their blessings here. Amen!
(The writer is parochial vicar of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta.)