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Whether you are going to celebrate World Youth Day this summer in Kraków or at a stateside celebration in the USA, prior spiritual preparation for this special week is so very necessary.
As Bishop Caggiano said at the inauguration of the Pilgrim Year of Preparation, "My friends... the journey begins today, not a year from now. ... And it begins in prayer." One way we can join thousands of others in this journey of preparation is to participate in "9 Days for Life: Prayer, Penance & Pilgrimage."
So often, we base our worth on our abilities, appearance, social status, and other factors that can change from one moment to the next. We may even begin to believe that if our lives, or those of others, don't "measure up" to a certain standard, they are somehow less valuable or less worth living.
But our true identity is found in the unchangeable, permanent fact that we are created in God's image and likeness and called to an eternal destiny with him. Because of this, absolutely nothing can diminish our God-given dignity, and therefore nothing can diminish the immeasurable worth of our lives.
The theme of World Youth Day 2016 is "Blessed are the Merciful, for They Shall Receive Mercy" (Mt. 5:7). As missionaries of mercy, let us bear witness to the truth that every life is worth living. Let us cherish and protect this precious gift of life even in the midst of fear, pain, and suffering. Let us help others to encounter the outstretched hands of God's mercy, reassuring them they are not alone.
In preparation for World Youth Day, you may consider making a pilgrimage. One possible site is the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, located in Washington, D.C. where generations of Americans have marched for life each January. Understandably, traveling to Washington, D.C. is not always possible, but there are many opportunities for pilgrimage.
A list of sites of Catholic heritage in the U.S.A. has been compiled by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and making a mini-pilgrimage anywhere within the United States--during 9 Days for Life in January, or at a time most fitting to individual circumstances--can be a great way to witness to and celebrate the gift of life through prayer and movement.
Additionally, by participating in 9 Days for Life, we can embark together upon a "digital pilgrimage"-- a prayerful and sacrificial journey for a special intention. 9 Days for Life offers opportunities to grow in a life of prayer, raises awareness a variety of life issues, and encourages us to joyfully put our faith into action. Coming together in prayer and loving action for the protection of life at all stages, we can share with the world the joyful truth that every life is worth living.
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