By Hannah Brockhaus
More Serving others first requires listening to God in prayer, so that one can give the same 'yes' to God's will that Mary gave, Pope Francis said in a message for World Youth Day 2019.
“To be at the service of others does not only mean to be ready for action. It means also to be in conversation with God with an attitude of listening, just like Mary,” the pope said in a video message Nov. 20.
“[Mary] listened to what the angel said to her and then she responded,” he said. “It is by relating to God in the silence of our hearts that we discover our identity and the vocation to which God is calling us.”
Whether one's vocation is marriage, consecrated life, or the priesthood – “all these are ways of following Jesus,” he stated. “The important thing is to discover what God wants from us and to be brave enough to say 'yes.'”
Pope Francis will visit the small Central American country of Panama in January for World Youth Day, an international gathering of young people which was begun by Pope St. John Paul II in 1985. Ordinarily held sometime in the summer months, in 2019 it will take place Jan. 22-27, to avoid Panama's rainy season.
In 2019, the theme for World Youth Day is Mary's fiat from the Gospel of Luke: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
In his message in anticipation of the event, Francis said there are many young people, both believers and non-believers, who have the desire to do something good for others, especially for the suffering.
“This is a strength in young people, a strength that all of you possess. It is a strength that can change the world,” he underlined.
God's plan is “meant to make our lives fruitful and produce many smiles and happy hearts. To respond to God positively is to take a first step towards being happy and towards making many people happy,” he said.
“May Our Lady be with you on this pilgrimage,” he concluded, “and may her example encourage you to be brave and generous in your response.”
Mary, under the title of Santa Maria la Antigua, has been an important figure in the Catholic Church in Panama for centuries. She was officially declared the country's patroness under that title by the bishops' conference in 2000.
Pope Francis will be in Panama for World Youth Day from Jan. 23-Jan. 29, 2019. After a nearly 13-hour flight, he will land in Panama for the official welcoming ceremony at the airport Jan. 23.
The next morning, the pope will meet with Panama's president Juan Carlos Varela, followed by a meeting with authorities, the diplomatic corps, and other representatives of Panamanian society.
The same day he will meet with the bishops of Central America. The official opening of World Youth Day at Santa Maria La Antigua field will take place that afternoon.
Friday, January 25, the pope's schedule will begin with the celebration of a penitential liturgy with young detainees at a juvenile detention center and in the afternoon, he will lead the Way of the Cross for the young people of World Youth Day in Santa Maria La Antigua field.
The next day will begin with Mass with local priests, consecrated, and members of lay movements. At this Mass there will be a dedication of the altar of the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria la Antigua.
That day Pope Francis will eat lunch with the seminarians of the Major Seminary of San Jose, followed by a prayer vigil with youth in San Juan Pablo II field in Metro Park.
His final day, Sunday, Jan. 27, Francis will celebrate Mass for World Youth Day at 8 a.m. in the same park as the prior evening's prayer vigil.
He will afterward visit a home for the needy, called “Good Samaritan House,” where he will lead the Angelus. His final speech will be in a meeting with the volunteers of World Youth Day in the Rommel Fernandez stadium before departing Panama for Rome, where he should arrive shortly before noon Jan. 29.
Pope Francis will give a total of seven speeches, three homilies, and one Angelus during the five days he is in Panama.