By Doris Yu
July 16, 2016 — Jesuit Father Tomasz Kot, former provincial of the Northern Poland Province and current assistant to Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, answered questions from participants at MAGIS 2016 Saturday morning. Fr. Nicolás was required to remain in Rome instead of attending MAGIS as previously planned due to health concerns.
Delegations were drawn from a hat at the opening ceremony the previous evening, and those selected sent representatives to ask Fr. Kot questions on stage. Pilgrims from Poland, Italy, Cambodia, Australia, Spain, Malaysia and Singapore, Portugal, Slovenia, Taiwan and Slovakia were brought up one at a time in front of the entire MAGIS audience — some proudly cloaked in their nations’ flags, some not, but all honored by the opportunity.
A pilgrim from Spain asked Fr. Kot for pointers on feeling distant from God. In response, Fr. Kot asked the pilgrims to be attentive at all times, even outside of prayer. “Sometimes I sit to pray and there’s nothing, but then you have to keep your eyes wide open because I receive a lot outside of prayer. God gives you His presence not only during prayer — sometimes more outside of prayer.”
Pilgrims from Portugal cheer for their delegation’s representative.
a pilgrim from Slovenia asked about a moment that brought him closer to God, Fr.
Kot mentioned a moment in his early priesthood where he heard a confession from
a young woman. “If you look for it in your life, you can find people
discovering how God has worked in their lives. If it’s a really authentic
experience, it touches you so deeply that you can’t forget it,” he said.
Fr. Kot asked pilgrims to rise to the challenge of maintaining a positive Catholic identity in an increasingly secular world. “If you are a person that really brings something new or gives hope, I think people are going to question why you do this, and then you can tell them your story, your faith,” he said.
Saint Louis University pilgrims at Mass.
He acknowledged the difficulty of being religious in the midst of anti-religious sentiment. “Keep in touch with other young people as you do here at MAGIS to feel like you’re not alone,” he advised.
“Sometimes people don’t like religious stuff because for them it’s connected to violence or a kind of separation, even terrorism,” he said, in light of recent terrorism in Turkey and France. “I think the best answer to this is to work to change this perception of religions, a very good point for interreligious dialogue.”
The Q&A session was followed by a Mass. A special icon of the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa, was brought on stage, which Fr. Kot referenced in his homily, calling pilgrims to “be Jesus’ mother.”
An icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was displayed next to the altar at Mass.
“Whenever we are seeking the will of God and we do it … we can give birth to Jesus in our times, in our countries, in the contexts we are living in,” he explained. “The Virgin Mary did it first, but soon the apostles, the very first generation of the church, understood that every generation can experience this grace of giving birth to Jesus. You are this woman, Jesus’ mother … when you seek God’s will and put it into practice.”
Fr. Kot called on pilgrims to celebrate and be happy, as they have traveled to MAGIS and World Youth Day to do. “The situation in the world does not offer much space for joy. There are wars … unemployment touching young people … lack of meaning, hope, and even joy itself. And yet God tells us to sing and rejoice.”
A pilgrim from Loyola University Chicago receives communion.