PANAMA CITY — At the opening Mass of World Youth Day 2019, Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama told young people from across the globe that a life of holiness is really possible with the help of God’s grace.
“The Church is looking forward to this springtime of young people. We have confidence in you, we expect a lot from you, because we are fully convinced that ... the changes and transformations that humanity and the Church require are in your hands,” he said.
To prepare themselves for the responsibilities ahead of them, Archbishop Ulloa said, young people must learn their personal, familial, cultural and faith history. He emphasized the role of grandparents in transmitting family identity.
He encouraged the youth to swim against the tide of the culture, fighting for holiness rather than simply seeking the avoidance of suffering in life.
“Being holy leads us to break out of spiritual and material corruption, of all that which causes us evil and offends God,” he said. “A saint defends the defenseless — the unborn, but also the born child who is destitute; a saint defends migrants; seeks justice; prays; lives in and loves the community; is joyful and has a sense of humor; is always striving; breaks out of mediocrity; lives the mercy of God and shares it with his neighbor.”
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world are expected to flood Panama this week for World Youth Day, which culminates with an overnight prayer vigil and Mass with Pope Francis Jan. 26-27.
The opening Mass for the event was held at Santa María La Antigua Field in Panama City.
Archbishop Ulloa reminded those present that sainthood is “not a myth,” but a reality for their lives. He pointed to the witness of saints, including Martin de Porres, Rose of Lima, Juan Diego, José Sánchez del Río, John Bosco, Oscar Romero and John Paul II.
The archbishop of Panama expressed his hope that World Youth Day would be a “balm” for the plight of many young people, especially migrants, those from homelands experiencing violence and people suffering due to “drug trafficking, human trafficking, crime and so many other social evils.”
He encouraged young people to trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary, not only asking for her intercession, but also striving to imitate her virtues.
“Let’s not be afraid, dear young people, have the courage to be saints in today’s world,” he said, adding that, in doing so, “you’re not renouncing your youth or your joy; completely the opposite: You will show the world that it’s possible to be happy with so little, because Jesus Christ, the reason for our happiness, has already won for us eternal life with his resurrection.”