WYD was a revolution and learning experience for Liam Ryan
Redemptoris Mater Seminarian Liam Ryan spoke of his experience at this year’s World Youth Day in Poland as revolutionising. Mr Ryan was accompanied by some 50 youth from the communities of the NeoCatechumenal Way across Western Australia. Photo: Supplied.
‘Revolution’ is not a term that is usually mentioned in relation to religion and the experience of it by young people, but for World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrim and Redemptoris Mater Seminarian Liam Ryan, what he witnessed and learned in Poland indeed suggested a ‘revolution’ in faith among the other people present.
In a conversation with The eRecord, Liam described attending the vigil in Krakow, in which Pope Francis exhorted the millions of young people in the crowd to move away from the individualism and apathy that can sometimes plague wider society, and instead become more connected and caring, guided by Jesus.
“Somehow each person in this immense crowd had abandoned the couch, their homely comforts and familiar surroundings to be here now, to listen to these words of the Holy Father,” Liam said.
“Less than a week beforehand, we had celebrated Lauds in the Cathedral of Torun, the birthplace of Nicolas Copernicus. In a striking way, I felt that a ‘Copernican revolution’ was taking place in the lives of so many of the young people present,” he said.
“Immersed in a social culture of ego-centricity, we share the faith which constantly calls us to place God at centre of our lives, the call to move towards others in selfless love.”
Visiting other historic sites in Poland – including the concentration camp Auschwitz – had also allowed Liam to reflect on how a light can shine through even the darkest moments of humankind.
“As I ran my fingers along the barbed wire of Auschwitz-Birkenau, I wondered about the atrocities that these fences had witnessed, the horrors that humanity is capable of,” he said.
“An eerie silence followed us up until Block 11 which stood at the end of the compound gates. It was here that Saint Maximillian Kolbe was killed, after pleading to be exchanged with another inmate who had been sentenced to death by starvation.
“How is it possible that selfless love was present here in this living hell? Can the love of Christ really have moved a man to give his own life for a complete stranger? I reached out to touch the walls that were not only a witness to unimaginable misery but also a witness to this kind of love.”
Redemptoris Mater seminarian Liam Ryan described attending the World Youth Day vigil in Krakow in which Pope Francis exhorted the millions of young people in the crowd to move away from the individualism and apathy that can sometimes plague wider society, and instead become more connected and caring, guided by Jesus. Photo: Supplied.
Polish saint Faustina Kowalska was another figure of inspiration for Mr Ryan, but he said that it was by visiting the hometown of Pope John Paul II that he realised how ordinary pilgrims might connect with the saints, instead of simply being awed by them.
“Sometimes I have the temptation to think that they (saints) are otherworldly- some kind of alien race infused with holiness at birth,” he said.
“The small town of Wadowice changed my mind - it is the birth place of Poland’s favourite son, Karol Wojtyla.
“Standing in the square outside his childhood home I was keen to know the human side of the man who has become known to us as Saint John Paul II.
“Before there were Churches named after him, his monuments in town squares, banners, holy cards, episcopacy, papacy and sainthood, Karol was just a boy growing up in this small town. I saw his bicycle, watch and canoe. I touched his hat, skis and sleeping bag. It occurred to me that not so long ago he was a young man, full of hopes and dreams, confronted with fears and failures.”
During his time in WYD’s host city of Krakow, Liam took part in a vocational meeting of the Neocatechumenal Way, led by initiator Kiko Arguello and Father Mario Pezzi, and said the responses attendees suggested they had been inspired by Pope Francis’ earlier words.
“It was a strong sign for me of the willingness of the youth of this generation, in response to the call of the Holy Father, to risk everything for Christ,” he said.
“After hearing the proclamation of a gospel and the announcement of the kerygma there was a moment of silence before the vocational call.
“Thousands of young men and women felt that God may be calling them to a missionary life, either in the priesthood, convent or as itinerant missionaries and courageously went ahead to receive a blessing. In the presence of many bishops and cardinals we witnessed the power of God’s word among us.