In his homily, Archbishop Gomez said the theme of this year’s World Youth Day, “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith,” was his prayer for the pilgrims.“I pray that your faith will be strengthened and that this journey will inspire you with new dedication for the mission that Jesus Christ has given to each one of us — to build up his Catholic Church in holiness and to establish the values of his Kingdom in our society and in our culture,” said the archbishop.Referring to the day’s first Scripture reading (from 1 Kings) in which God comes to Elijah in a tiny, whispering sound — and echoing Pope Benedict XVI’s call for prolonged moments of silence during every WYD liturgy he celebrates — Archbishop Gomez reminded the congregation that it is in quiet stillness where people find God in their lives.“My brothers and sisters, we must make room for silence in our lives,” said the archbishop. “Let’s make sure that there is a time every day when we set ourselves apart from the restlessness of our activities [and] have a place in the silence of our hearts where Jesus Christ can speak to us — and where we can listen and speak back to him.”He urged the assembly to get to know Jesus better by reading the Gospels and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which will be distributed to WYD pilgrims. “I understand that in your backpacks when you get to Madrid, you are going to have a new catechism, called YouCat! It’s a beautiful edition of the catechism that is adapted to a more youthful way of looking at the truths of our Catholic faith,” explained the archbishop.“My young friends who are going to Madrid, keep in mind that you are made for greater things. God in his great love has made each one of you for a special reason! Seek his will for your lives during this special pilgrimage of grace that you are about to make. May you find the joy and love that our Lord intends for each one of you!”Laura Amparo, 20, one of six red-shirted pilgrims from St. Genevieve Church in Panorama City who helped bring up the offertory gifts, said she is very blessed to be traveling to World Youth Day. “I am excited and open-hearted for God to be in my life and transform me,” said the college student.St. Genevieve chaperone, Elizabeth Sotoj, 28, deeply moved with tears in her eyes after receiving her special blessing from the archbishop along with the other pilgrims at the end of the liturgy, said this year marks the first time members of the parish youth group will be attending World Youth Day after working hard to raise money for the trip in less than 12 months. “We are just all in awe and in great gratitude for everything that we have experienced,” said Sotoj. “We really can’t wait to share in the experience of seeing the universal church there in Madrid.”Jennifer Rodriguez, 22, who drove from Riverside to be at the WYD special blessing Mass, said she is very much looking forward to the pilgrimage, led by Sister of St. Louis Karen Collier, parish life director at St. Agatha Church in Los Angeles.“I’m super excited about getting to meet other teens from all over the world and to go on this pilgrimage that I know is going to be a very great blessing,” said Rodriguez.Sister Collier, who has attended seven World Youth Days since Denver in 1993, said many of the local pilgrims, a majority of whom speak Spanish, are looking forward to speaking Spanish in Spain and visiting religious sites, such as Fatima in Portugal and the Spanish city of Avila, birthplace of St. Teresa, Doctor of the Church.“For a lot of these kids, it’s going to be their first and only trip to Europe,” noted Sister Collier. “During World Youth Day, there’s just a spirit of joy and excitement about being Catholic.” Also, she added, wherever World Youth Days have been held, the crime level reportedly goes down in every city. “The young people are there and they send a [peaceful] message,” said Sister Collier, who left with her group Aug. 10.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0812/wyd/{/gallery}