A Eucharistic Youth Congress, which I attended at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, from 20-23 January 2005, was called Adore 05 and attracted more than 700 young people, keen to learn more about their faith and in particular about the core truth that Jesus Christ is truly present - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity - in Holy Communion.
There were excellent speakers each day, including Cardinal George Pell, who visited us on the first day and celebrated Mass in St Mary's. My brother, sisters and I were privileged to meet him.
Father Edgardo M. Arellano, better known to young people as "Fr Bing", is the Spiritual Director of Holy Family International. He delivered powerful, forthright talks on topics such as "The Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist" and the influence of the Devil on society - reminding us that "we are living in a culture of death, through euthanasia, abortion, contraception, prostitution and murder".
Fr Arellano pointed out: "Young people are blinded and lured into the evil things of this world by society. Society damages young people's minds and souls by convincing them to believe it's OK because it's cool!" This can apply to drugs, stealing and loss of purity. Young people, he emphasised, should think for themselves and not allow the secular culture to manipulate or hypnotise them into conformity with its false values.
Raymond de Souza was another featured speaker. He focussed on purity and the sins committed against it. He also discussed abortion, and our need of the Eucharist.
I was asked by Brother Stephen of the OATH Brothers if I would present a testimony of my experiences during Adore 04 and of issues concerning our Catholic faith. I did not have anything planned and was hesitant and very nervous. However, Fr John told me to first pray to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, which I did. Fr John then heard my confession and I went ahead! With God's help, we can do seemingly difficult or impossible things.
One speaker from the United States told us about the persecution we have to contend with if we are to defend our faith and stand up for Our Lord who is continually offended in the Holy Eucharist.
Each day there was Eucharistic Adoration, and when the Blessed Sacrament was brought out of the chapel, everyone present bowed reverently. Songs of praise and worship were also part of the daily program, as were games, in which all of us were actively involved.
The MHCC - Mary Help of Christians Crusade - performed plays of real life situations and dangers to which young people these days are exposed, and of the power and necessity of the rosary, scapular and crucifix. It was emphasised that a communion of reparation - rosary, adoration, confession and Mass - is vitally important for the conversion of the world and the sanctification of families.
The Holy Eucharist was carried through the streets of Sydney in a procession of about 700 people on the Saturday night. This was truly the best witness of all.
On the final day, about 40 young people came forward after Fr Arellano's talk on vocations and the need to be open to these before considering marriage.
It was another very successful conference, providing solid instruction on the faith and presenting those who attended with the challenge to be holy - something God is calling all of us to be.
In this regard, we need to make the rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, confession and Mass regular parts of our lives. Through these, we can deepen our love and reverence for Jesus while making up for the many acts of sacrilege committed against Him in the Eucharist.