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Pope Enlists Catholic Youth For Training

Tuesday night Pope John Paul II met with over 20,000 enthusiastic youth at the Kiel Center in St. Louis. Wearing a red stole given to him by a St. Louis, Vietnamese family with images of American saints, the Pope used a sports theme to challenge America’s youth. "We are here in the Kiel Center where many people train long and hard in order to compete in different sports. Today, this impressive stadium has become another kind of training ground—not for hockey or soccer or basketball, but for that training that will help you to live your faith in Jesus more decisively. This is the ‘training in devotion’ that Saint Paul is referring to - the training that makes it possible for you to give yourselves without reservation to the Lord and to the work that He calls you to do!"
  The Pope went on to say, "I am told that there was much excitement in St. Louis during the recent baseball season, when two great players (Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa) were competing to break the home-run record. You can feel the same great enthusiasm as you train for a different goal: the goal of following Christ, the goal of bringing His message to the world. This is the time of your ‘training’, of your physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual development. But this does not mean that you can put off until later your meeting with Christ and your sharing in the Church’s mission. Even though you are young, the time for action is now! Jesus does not have ‘contempt for your youth’. He does not set you aside for a later time when you will be older and your training will be complete. Your training will never be finished. Christians are always in training. You are ready for what Christ wants of you now. He wants you - all of you - to be light to the world, as only young people can be light. It is time to let your light shine!"

The Pope, who smiled at the chants, cheers, singing and dancing of the youth, told the crowd, "Remember, Christ is calling you; the Church needs you; the Pope believes in you and he expects great things of you."

Carrying out the sports theme, the youth gave the Holy Father a hockey stick and   St. Louis Blues hockey jersey in papal colors with the number one (1) and John Paul II printed on the back. The Pope responded jokingly, " So I am prepared to return once more and play hockey!".

As the Holy Father entered Kiel Center, he briefly met with Mark McGwire, St. Louis baseball star, who knelt to kiss the Pope’s ring. Archbishop Justin Rigali, Archdiocese of St. Louis, welcomed the Holy Father in behalf of the youth saying, "All the young people are happy to be with you and have you with them. They know when you come, you never come alone; you come with Christ, you bring Our Lord Jesus Christ to our midst and make present His Love."

During the rally, the Pope also prayed with children from Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and gave a letter for them to take to those who could not attend. In his letter, the Holy Father stated, "You are all dear to my heart, even if I have not been able to see all of you today. I want the young boys and girls being taken care of at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and all sick children everywhere to know that the Pope prays for each one of you. You know how much Jesus loved children and how pleased he was to be with them. You too are very special to him. Some of you and your friends have suffered a lot and you feel the burden of what has happened to you. I want to encourage you to be patient and to stay close to Jesus, who suffered and died on the Cross out of love for you and me."