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‘Preach the real Christ,’ Bishop Barron tells thousands of U.S. youth at WYD

Bishop Robert Barron speaks to tens of thousands of young people at a World Youth Day gathering in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event, hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference, culminated in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. / Credit: Nuria Chiccon/EWTN News

Lisbon, Portugal, Aug 3, 2023 / 08:30 am (CNA).

“When you preach the real Christ, not a watered-down Christ, it lights a fire in people,” Bishop Robert Barron said to applause from tens of thousands of young people at a World Youth Day gathering in Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday evening.

The event, hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference, culminated in a eucharistic procession and holy hour, which prompted a profound silence among a crowd that had been singing, dancing, cheering, and chanting “U.S.A.” just an hour before.

An estimated more than 10,000 teens, young adults, and their leaders, as well as 30-some U.S. bishops, adored the Eucharist to silence, worship music, and meditations in Lisbon’s Parque da Quinta das Conchas e dos Lilases Aug. 2.

The crowd cheese as Bishop Robert Barron speaks to tens of thousands of young people at a World Youth Day gathering in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event, hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference, culminated in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. Credit: Claudette Jerez/EWTN News video screen shot

The national gathering for U.S. pilgrims to WYD also attracted some people from outside North America, including some German, Austrian, and Irish pilgrims, who came to the event to hear the keynote delivered by Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.

In his speech, Barron emphasized that every person has a unique mission from God and that money and popularity are not what will make you happy.

“What will make you happy is finding your mission,” he said.

The almost three-hour event began with musical performances by DJ Ivan Diaz and Catholic worship music artist PJ Anderson.

A pilgrim listens as Bishop Robert Barron speaks to tens of thousands of young people at a World Youth Day gathering in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event, hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference, culminated in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. Credit: Nuria Chiccon/EWTN News

Tony Meléndez, a Nicaraguan-American guitar player and singer-songwriter born without arms, also played. Meléndez played the guitar with his feet in a special performance for St. John Paul II in September 1987. John Paul II, visibly moved, embraced the musician.

An enthusiastic crowd waving U.S., state, and diocesan flags danced and sang along to the music.

The three artists also provided background music in English and Spanish during parts of eucharistic adoration.

The evening closed with a “vocations call” from Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas. He started by explaining that based on U.S. surveys, an estimated 38% of men in the priesthood, and women and men in religious life, attended a World Youth Day.

Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas holds the monstrance at a World Youth Day event in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event was hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference and featured a talk by Bishop Robert Barron culminating in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. Credit: Nuria Chiccon/EWTN News

He invited any of the young people present considering a priestly or religious vocation to stand or raise their hands to be recognized and applauded. He said those present, including the bishops, would be praying for the many youth who raised their hands.

“Our future religious brothers and sisters, 38%, are here in our midst!” Burns pronounced to the sound of cheers. Most of the bishops seated on the stage gave a standing ovation to the young people in the crowd.

Earlier in the evening, the U.S. bishops’ conference had handed out holy cards with an icon of the face of Jesus and a QR code on the back to be scanned to find out more information about vocations.

More than 28,600 teens and young adults, most between the ages of 18 and 25, and their leaders traveled from across the United States to attend World Youth Day 2023, according to the bishops’ conference.

Pilgrims kneel in adoration at a World Youth Day event in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event was hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference and featured a talk by Bishop Robert Barron culminating in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. Credit: Claudette Jerez/EWTN News video screen shot

In addition to numerous priests and religious brothers and sisters, 61 U.S. bishops also traveled to Lisbon, many of whom were present at the Aug. 2 national gathering.

More than 35 bishops from the U.S. are also leading some of WYD’s daily “Rise Up!” sessions Aug. 2–4, which are intended to be conversation-style catechesis.

Bishop Barron, the founder of the Word on Fire ministry, is also the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, which oversees the U.S. involvement in WYD.

Bishop Robert Barron prays at a World Youth Day gathering in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event, hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference, featured a talk by the Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, prelate and culminated in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. Credit: Nuria Chiccon/EWTN News

In his speech Aug. 2, one of five he has given or will give during the week in Lisbon, he quoted from a homily by St. Paul VI given in Manila, Philippines, during an apostolic visit in November 1970.

“Jesus Christ: You have heard him spoken of; indeed the greater part of you are already his: You are Christians. So, to you Christians I repeat his name, to everyone I proclaim him: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega; he is the king of the new world; he is the secret of history; he is the key to our destiny. He is the mediator, the bridge, between heaven and earth. He is more perfectly than anyone else the Son of Man, because he is the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary, blessed among all women, his mother according to the flesh, and our mother through the sharing in the Spirit of his mystical body,” Barron quoted the late pope.

“Jesus Christ is our constant preaching,” he continued the quotation. “It is his name that we proclaim to the ends of the earth and throughout all ages. Remember, remember, remember this and ponder on it: The pope has come here among you and has proclaimed Jesus Christ!”

“That’s the new evangelization, that’s the pattern, that’s the message,” Barron commented, adding that that is how Jesus wants to be known.

“When you preach the real Christ, not a watered down Christ, it lights a fire in people” and they want to know more, he said.

Pilgrims kneel in adoration at a World Youth Day event in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2, 2023. The event was hosted by the U.S. bishops’ conference and featured a talk by Bishop Robert Barron culminating in a eucharistic procession and Holy Hour. Credit: Nuria Chiccon/EWTN News

The bishop noted that another popular value in our culture today is safety. Safety is not a bad thing to consider, but a religion that had its God hang on a cross “is not a religion putting a high priority on safety,” he added to applause.

The main thrust of the popular speaker’s address was a reflection on the road to Emmaus episode in chapter 24 of the Gospel of Luke.

He observed that “we’re all sinners here, which means we all walk the wrong way,” and invited those present to think about the people in their lives who have walked with them in their journey of faith, who were “Christ in hidden form,” just like Jesus was for the disciples walking to Emmaus.

“Thank God for those people,” he said.

Barron also noted the example of Pope Francis, saying he believes in 200-300 years, Francis will be remembered as “a great pope of the merciful Christ who accompanied sinners.”

He went on to tell the young people that like “God listens to us: The Church should listen to you.”

The bishop invited them to also share with others the real Jesus, not just the facts or “data” about him, following the example of the Lord on the road to Emmaus: first walking with them and listening to them, and then speaking to them about the truth.

“The Church has imitated the Lord over the centuries,” he said. “The Church teaches.”

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