“What a fantastic spectacle is presented on this stage by your gathering here today! Who claimed that today’s youth has lost their sense of values? Is it really true that they cannot be counted on?”

Those words, spoken by the Holy Father Pope St. John Paul II in 1984 before a huge crowd of youth gathered in St. Peter’s Square, can be applied to the 600 participants gathered for the 6th IVE Youth Day in the Holy Family Academy in Padre Garcia, Batangas. They hailed from the barangays around the area and the city of Lipa, Padre Garcia and even from as far as Caloocan, Manila and even Malaysia.

The quiet grounds of the Holy Family Academy in Padre Garcia bustled with activity on Sunday, February 11th, with the arrival of many youth. After the simple registration, they were able to take advantage of the time to visit several informational booths and counters set up within the premise.

The main one was a display of all the missions of the Institute throughout the world, showing the statistics and activities of all our work throughout 38 countries on all 5 continents.

There was also a Bible Booth displaying the time line and events of Salvation History and showing the many versions of the Sacred Scriptures, for example, in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Malay, Chinese, Telugu, Tamil, Spanish and others. A pro-life station and a counter promoting the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola also attracted many visitors.

The Youth Day proper began with 4 youth who delivered brief orations on the state of the youth today, the challenges facing them and the purpose that this gathering has. This was followed by a talk delivered by Atty. Jo Aurea Imbong. She is, among other things, the Executive Secretary of the Legal Office of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and a Lecturer of Digital Media Law and Media Ethics, Education Law, Family Rights at the ‎Ateneo de Manila University and the University of Asia and the Pacific. Focusing on the dehumanizing effects that internet anonymity produces and the privacy concerns that are inherent in such networks, her talk was an eye-opening wake up call for responsible internet use.

After the talk, the everyone adjourned for some sports and games. Anima sana in corpore sano, the adage goes. A healthy soul in a healthy body. Hence, physical activity is an important component of the Youth Day as these activities promote healthy competition and sportmanship and allows the youth from different places to mingle with each other and bond. It was indeed a heartening sight to see how quickly people from different backgrounds can unite around a single purpose.

Three separate sessions followed and the Youth were able to choose which of the talks they would like to attend. Br. Andrew gave gave a presentation on the central place that the Resurrection of Our Lord occupies in the faith and in the Christian apologetic. Br. Jasper Santos gave a talk about Filipino civilization, including the great Spanish contributions to the overall culture of these islands from the multiple aspects such as food, architecture and education.

Fr. Salvador Curuchet, IVE, spoke about vocations, beginning with the universal call to holiness and the particular vocation that each person has in order to attain his end of union with God.

A simple lunch then followed. During the lunch, different groups performed. The talent of the youth was on display through a wide variety of songs and other artistic offerings such as traditional cultural dances. The performers by the youth from the different apostolates and localities included a performance of a Malay song by the Malaysian delegates.

The highlight was the humorous play, which always carries a profound moral message pertinent to the youth of today. All the effort that went into the choreography was well appreciated by the audience who responded very well to production.

Another round of sports and games followed before everyone adjourned to the assigned starting point for the beginning of the procession. The Holy Father, in that first gathering in 1984, entrusted to the youth the World Youth Day Cross, saying, “I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ! Take it around the world as a sign of the love of the Lord Jesus for humanity and proclaim to all that only in Christ, dead and risen, is there salvation and redemption.””

And so too, the participants of the IVE Youth Day 2018 in Padre Garcia took up the call and bearing before them the Cross of Christ, that clearest manifestation of the love of God, and the image of Our Lady of Luján, his Blessed Mother so united to the Cross, processed while praying the Holy Rosary.

After the procession we had time to spend with Our Lord in adoration when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. During the exposition, which concluded with the Solemn Benediction, a Eucharistic Dialogue, putting forward our essential beliefs on the Most Holy Eucharist, was recited.

Another important moment of grace from this Youth Day were the many confessions heard by the priests available, from the beginning of the procession all through until the end of the Holy Mass. Thus, many of the Youth left that gathering reconciled to God and in communion with Him. We account this as one of the chief fruits of the Youth Day, an immense grace.

During the Mass, several lay people were received into the Third Order and enrolled into the Institute of the Incarnate Word, sharing our spirituality and charism in a particularly close way in accordance with their state of life.

Being the Spiritual Father of our small Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, we inherit from St. John Paul II the Youth Days as part of our spiritual patrimony and each year, we organize the IVE Youth Days as local manifestations of the World Youth Day to give an opportunity to those who might otherwise not have the chance to share in the spirit of those days, of fellowship and camaraderie with fellow young believers who are comrades on the journey to eternity, facing the same temptations and difficulties and yet striving their best to bear their crosses and walking in the path trod by Our Lord. By meeting each other, they can realize that they are not alone, that holiness is difficult but now made possible and that, although in isolation, they might seem week, but standing together and in the grace of Our Lord, they are strong and can do all things in Christ.
In Toronto, the last International WYD in which Pope St. John Paul II was present he told the 800,000 gathered with him at the vigil, “When, back in 1985, I wanted to start the World Youth Days… I imagined a powerful moment in which the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and could learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people.”

Truly, the IVE Youth Day 2018 in Padre Garcia encapsulated all that the Pope had hoped for, and more. May it ever be so!