Before Rio, there was Krakow

About 50 pilgrims from the Diocese of Peoria are among the throngs shown walking to the Field of Mercy near Krakow, Poland, for a prayer vigil and Mass with Pope Francis to conclude World Youth Day. (Provided photo/Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary)

By the time this is read, there will be all sorts of familiar storylines and images from the Olympic Games in Rio. Already as of Tuesday morning, just three days in, we’ve become acquainted with athletes from around the world in pools, on balance beams, and even on the beach.  We’ve been dazzled by the opening ceremonies, gasped as a cyclist from Netherlands crashed, and smiled with understanding as gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents did nervous contortions watching their daughter perform.

Many of us will invest hours following the Games and basking in the spirit of unity, youthful vigor, and global friendship they instill.

A week before the Olympics, the spirit of Catholic unity, youthful vigor, and global friendship were on mighty display in fields, stadiums, and holy sites around Krakow, Poland, where nearly 2 million youths gathered for World Youth Day with Pope Francis.  Like the Olympics, this kind of gathering isn’t frequent — occurring usually only every three years — but unlike the Games, it receives little attention from the secular media.

Whether or not we are hooked on the Olympics, Catholics would do well to devote generous time to the coverage of World Youth Day in this issue of The Catholic Post. We should applaud and admire those from central Illinois who sacrificed to go to Poland just as we do our national athletic heroes competing in Rio, if not more. For if their efforts to seek Christ and follow in the footsteps of Mary and the saints win them the gold of faith, the silver of hope, and the bronze of love — and then translate into lives of service — our parishes, our communities, our families also win for decades to come.

Diocesan World Youth Day pilgrims, before you continue lives of humble service to which you’ve been called, allow us to put you on the podium of our admiration and gratitude. We hope you hear our applause, and feel our prayers. — Thomas J. Dermody



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