World Youth Day 2016 Begins

World Youth Day 2016 begins Monday, July 25, and runs through Sunday, July 31. Our Editorial Department staffer Melanie Williams is en route and will be providing daily coverage all week long on this website. Here's her first dispatch:

Have you ever heard of World Youth Day?

Millions of young people from all over the world are making their way to Krakow, Poland, to gather for a week of prayer and catechesis with the Holy Father Pope Francis.

World Youth Day originated with Pope St. John Paul II in 1984, when he called for an "International Jubilee of Youth." In all, 300,000 young people came together in Rome for that day. Since then there have been a total of 13 World Youth Days that have been held all over the world, including in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Denver, Colorado; Manila, Philippines; Toronto, Canada; and Sydney, Australia to name just a few!

The location of this year's World Youth Day is extremely providential and fitting. After all, we're in the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and Krakow was home to the great Divine Mercy promoter St. John Paul II, and it's also where the "Secretary of Divine Mercy," St. Faustina, spent a good portion of her religious life.

Pope Francis himself is planning to visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy, in Kraków-Lagiewniki, which is administered by St. Faustina's religious order, the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. He'll also visit Our Lady of Czestochowa and Auschwitz, the site of a Nazi death camp. He will pray a Way of the Cross with the young people, hear Confessions, and have a night vigil in a large field with the youth. He will close World Youth Day on July 31 by celebrating Mass. It is estimated that more than 2.5 million people will be gathering for the celebration (although World Youth Days in the past have a tendency to draw more than expected, even up to five million people).

When St. John Paul II instituted World Youth Day, he blessed a wooden cross and an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which he entrusted to the young people. The cross and the icon are passed from the youth of each hosting city. Saint John Paul II said, "carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ's love for humanity, and announce to everyone that only in the death and Resurrection of Christ can we find salvation and redemption." The cross and icon will be present in Krakow to be a sign to all of the young people of the transforming power of Jesus Christ in their lives.

Each World Youth Day is given a theme based on Scripture, and this year the theme is, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy" (Mt 5:7). The Polish World Youth Day committee has written a song and created a logo. The city of Krakow has made extensive preparations for the millions of young pilgrims coming to their city in just a matter of days. The Father, who is rich in mercy, is ready to pour out an abundance of graces upon the youth of our world!

I am attending World Youth Day with my brother, and we are beyond thrilled and blessed to be going! I am looking forward to blogging, tweeting, and posting on Instagram so that you all can join us on this incredible journey of mercy!

Please keep us in your prayers, as we will be praying for you and all of our Marian Helpers while on pilgrimage!

In the meantime, listen to Pope Francis' words last week to young people who are preparing to gather in Krakow:
Pope's address on Vatican Radio.

Melanie Williams is a recent graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville and now works as a writer at the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, MA.

You might also like...

Father Chris Alar, MIC, was recently on EWTN to share about his upcoming book. Check out this short video to learn more.

Her husband's diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's blindsided her family. Then, Denise came upon something profound that "melted" her heart.

We continue in this month of July reflect on this poem written by St. Faustina in which she encourages us to trust in Jesus more and more.