From Tuesday August 04 to Monday 10 August, the members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement met in Rome to celebrate the centenary of the Movement. Roughly one thousand five hundred young people and supervisors turned up for this event. Seven African countries made the trip (Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mauritius, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo).
It was an intense moment of joy, sharing, pilgrimage and celebration of our belonging to Christ who gives himself daily to us and for us in the Eucharist. As part of this report, I would like to highlight some moments from this gathering, particularly the audience with the Pope and the meeting of the leaders with Father General. On Thursday, August 7, we held a meeting with Pope Francis in the Paul VI Hall in Vatican.
Adolfo Nicolas, Superior General of the Society of Jesus and Director General of the Apostleship of Prayer and of the Eucharistic Youth Movement took the floor first to introduce the youth of EYM from around the world to the Pope. Next, Father Frédéric Fornos S.J. acting Director General Delegate came in to present the Eucharistic Youth Movement to the Pope on the one hand and on the other to submit the Smartphone application project “Click to Pray” which will be operational in 2016. Some young people came up with questions and the Pope answered wholeheartedly.
As part of his replies, Pope Francis mentioned that tensions and conflicts are inevitable in our daily lives. As far as he is concerned, tensions enable us to grow; they enhance courage, and the youth need this courage. Dialogue is the key to bringing down tensions because dialogue leads to unity, be it in the family or within a group of friends; and it gives us the opportunity to walk together, without losing one’s identity. Conflicts are solved through mutual respect of identities. In order to be well handled, conflicts must gear towards unity. Likewise we should avoid clinging onto tensions, pope said, because they lead to suffering.
Indeed, “a youth who is void of tension is a retired youth, a dead youth; however, a youth who cannot do without tensions, is an insane youth.” Pope stated that discernment – between the peace that comes from Jesus and that which comes from the enemy – is the greatest challenge he has had to face in his ministry. He exhorted young people to always seek the peace that comes from Jesus as it is not misleading but rather uplifting.
Responding to a youth who wondered what his greatest joy was as Pope, the Holy Father said he found joy in seeing young people who believe that Jesus is in the Eucharist, who believe that Love is stronger than hatred, that peace is stronger than war, that respect is stronger than conflict, that harmony is stronger than tensions. This is the hope that brings joy. He showed how Jesus made himself manifest -to those he loves. «When you meet Jesus – in prayer, in good work, in your help to others… – you will experience peace and joy: That is the manifestation.” He also focused on the importance of the Eucharist. “It is the memorial of what Jesus did”, he said. Memorial: This is the advice Jesus gave to his disciples, “Do this in memory of me.” That is to say, each time you celebrate this, keep me in mind; whenever you go and pray before the tabernacle, keep that in mind. And do not forget what St. Paul said to his disciple: “keep Jesus Christ in mind!” Before giving his blessing Pope Francis invited the assembly to seek the help of the Virgin Mary through an “Ave Maria”.He finally greeted each of the disabled and shook hands with all the national leaders of EYM present at the audience.
On Sunday 09 August 10h30-11h30 National directors of the EYM met Father Adolfo Nicolas, Superior General of the Society of Jesus. In his message he urged us to make the Eucharist the center of young people’s lives. He exhorted us to provide young people with necessary resources so that they may experience the Eucharist and become Eucharistic people.
Eucharistic life is made manifest through joy, forgiveness, love and sharing. Where we experience the Eucharist, injustice, violence, and suffering are brought down. According to the Superior General, we ought to understand Eucharist at large. The Eucharist is not only the transformation of bread and wine. It is also a gift of oneself. The Eucharistic celebration is more about sharing the wisdom of God, he said. In his opinion, the Eucharistic celebration must be unique enough to meet the expectations of young people. The Eucharist comprises the faithful’s contribution on the one hand and God’s on the other hand. And the homily must be the opportunity for the priest to reconcile the needs of the faithful and God’s graces.
He invited us to try to meet the needs of young people today in their relationship with God. Almost everything in the people’s lives is linked to the Eucharist, he said. St. Ignatius had a great devotion to the Eucharist. He had delayed his ordination to better prepare and give greater depth to his first Eucharistic celebration as a priest. He recalled Pope Francis’ statement during the Thanksgiving Mass celebrated at the Gesù on the occasion of the canonization of Pierre Favre. Pope Francis had said: “A Jesuit is a person of an incomplete thought.” This is to say we must always seek what will help young people rediscover the Eucharist and to find joy thereto.
Father Adolfo also recalled that Pope Benedict XVI had said he preferred an Agnostic who is interested in seeking to a Catholic who believes he knows it all. Father Adolfo Nicolas recalled that today we no longer speak of the Jesuit mission or the Franciscans mission and so on. We talk about the mission of the Church. Every apostolic work should be the apostolate of the Church. Such was St. Ignatius view in what he required “sentire cum ecclesia”. The Apostleship of Prayer and its youth branch – the Eucharistic Youth Movement – are a mission of the Church entrusted to the Society of Jesus. The Superior General invited the leaders of the EYM to be flexible in their work. He called for their in-depth and creativity and asked them to work with young people and for young people so that they may transform the world. During our stay in Rome we jointly took part in five wonderful Eucharistic celebrations respectively in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and English. Each of these celebrations had a special cultural focus.
The Superior General did us honor to celebrate the last Eucharist which a Congolese choir based in Rome animated very well. The pilgrimage to holy places and Ignatian sites in Rome contributed to our spiritual renewal. Even though several African could not go to Rome for lack of visa, Rome 2015 will remain for us a great symbol of human encounter, the expression of the celebration of our joy of being members of the EYM and sharing of the faith of our mother the Catholic Church.
We want to give thanks to God who made this encounter possible. We give thanks to Father Frédéric Fornos, Reverend Sister Lourdes Varguez, Father Loris Piorar and his team for the smooth organization of this gathering in Rome in 2015.