Fireworks filled the sky over The Domain in Sydney on Saturday evening as 15,000 young people, families and singles celebrated what it means to be Catholic in the most public of ways.
At the closing Mass for the Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) the crowd roared repeated chants of “yes” as Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP asked them if they had grown closer to the Lord over the past three days of the festival and whether they had made the decision to strive to become saints.
Scenes of jubilation and dancing erupted as they enthusiastically sang along to the theme song for ACYF during what was an extraordinary night of faith, music and reflection.
Festival headliners proved a popular entrée, with Canadian singer-songwriter Matt Maher delivering another powerful performance, along with fellow festival stars Emily Wilson and Steve Angrisano.
About 30 bishops concelebrated Mass against a backdrop of digital stained glass windows replicating those in St Mary’s Cathedral while the liturgy was aided by a cultural procession of the gospel courtesy of Sydney’s thriving Tongan community.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP delivered a humour-filled homily that was in equal parts inspiring and challenging.
He began with a reference immediately understandable not only to the thousands of ACYF attendees but to their parents.
“When I was your age, in my last year of school, ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’, the first Star Wars film was released,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“It’s influenced our popular lexicon with phrases like ‘evil empire’, ‘I am your father’ and ‘The force be with you’ – to which Catholics instinctively respond ‘And with your spirit’.”
In speaking about the blockbuster movies, the Archbishop said its enduring popularity demonstrated the ongoing currency of questions about good and evil and what it means to be heroic.
“Am I asking too much, in asking ordinary young people to be spiritual heroes?” he said.
“Don’t swallow the line that millennials are all self-obsessed and idle. Be proud to be millennials because that means you are children from the cusp of the third millennium of grace, and may yet usher in a new era of ideals, virtue and hope.”
At the conclusion of Mass, Archbishop Fisher announced Perth will host the next ACYF in 2019.