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World Youth Day. “There’s a Rush in the Air!”

The official anthem of World Youth Day is entitled “There’s a Rush in the Air!”. We talk about it with Father João Paulo Vaz,
author of the texts.

There is an official anthem at every World Youth Day (WYD). It is a song that marks every meeting of young people from all over the world with the Pope. The anthem of the World Youth Day to be held from 1 to 6 August in Lisbon is entitled “There is a rush in the air!” The author of the lyrics is Fr. João Paulo Vaz, a diocesan priest of the diocese of Coimbra, with music by Pedro Ferreira.

For the first time, the anthem was chosen through a competition. In previous editions, an artist or a musical group was always asked to compose the official anthem.

Father João Paulo Vaz does not hide the emotions he feels as his song has been chosen as the official anthem. He says: “I have attended six WYDs and the anthems have always been a milestone in the history and lives of those who have attended. It is almost a memorial to every WYD. The fact that the chosen anthem was the one we performed together with the parish band and that it could become a memorial for millions of young people from all over the world really moved us!”.

The priest continues: “The hymn is an important sign in every edition; music has the power to mark memories: if I hear a song, I remember the moment I heard and sang it. It carries the memory of the heart, the memories and the experiences. In all the involvement and preparation, the anthem becomes a great crescendo culminating in the WYD.”

The author of the WYD anthem also says that every time he hears the anthem of one of the six editions in which he participated, the whole journey comes to mind, the “process and the adventure is one of growth and remains for a lifetime.”

The WYD hymn makes concrete the dream of universal fraternity to which Pope Francis appeals so much. WYD is undoubtedly a meeting of peoples and a communion that can only be experienced here, in this global youth event.

Father João Paulo Vaz underlines the universal and fraternal dimension of the anthem, “once the anthem is accepted as the official anthem of a WYD, it is no longer mine or Pedro’s; it becomes the anthem written and composed by young people from all over the world and it is the young people who sing it and live it. The WYD anthem is the anthem of the Church! A legacy that becomes everyone’s inheritance.”

Proof of this is that it has already been translated into Spanish, French, English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Polish and Thai, not forgetting sign language – this is also an innovation of the organization
of WYD Lisbon 2023!

The musical styles of the various versions of the anthem also abound, from pop-rock to rap to electro. Another expression of this universality and fraternity is the fact that this hymn will now be officially sung not by its authors, but by the WYD Lisbon 2023 choir which is preparing to sing at the central WYD events. This choir is made up of young people from all the dioceses of Portugal and some foreign countries.

Father João Paulo Vaz explains to us how the entire process of composing the text of the hymn was born. “The genesis of these texts, because I took it as a very great challenge, is in the journey travelled in recent years since the last WYD in Panama in 2019. The themes of WYD 2019 with ‘Mary’s yes’ and that of 2023 ‘She got up quickly’
are two Marian themes.

Then the themes of the intermediate WYDs celebrated at the diocesan level, in 2020 and 2021, showed us a direction. The first was ‘Young people, get up and go!’; the second was ‘Young people, I make you witnesses of what you have seen and heard!’. So, in addition to the central theme which was Mary, we had ‘Get up’ and Mary’s ‘Yes’. Making these reflections, I said to myself ‘This is the key to this hymn!’

What message does the hymn ‘There’s a rush in the air’ contain? The author of the WYD hymn explains: “In the four verses of the hymn there are the four themes: Panama, the two intermediate ones and that of WYD 23. So, all this has been left here as a catechesis of the themes of the previous WYDs. In 2019, the theme of WYD was ‘May it be done to me according to your Word!’. The hymn of WYD 23 already invites in the first verse to say ‘Yes’ with Mary. A Yes to serve and do the will of the Father wanting to give, to be willing to say yes to imitate Mary.”

In 2020, on National Youth Day, the theme invited young people to ‘Get up and go’, thus setting out to discover, come, see and bear witness to what each one has seen. It is an invitation to come with others and to “look beyond what you do that does not allow you to smile and love” in order to “Go fearlessly on this mission”.

In 2021, with the theme “Young people, I bear witness to what you have seen and heard”, the hymn of WYD 23 states that it was Mary who was the first to bear witness and to welcome “the great surprise of life without end”. And like her, I am urged “not to be silent, not to be able to stop saying: ‘My Lord, count on me, I will never be silent again’”.

The priest points out: “Once we have experienced God’s unconditional love for each of us, we can no longer stand still – the invitation to be missionaries of God’s love with all whom we meet on our way, but also to go far and proclaim this love to those who don’t know him yet. This was the experience of Mary who set off in haste to announce to her cousin Elizabeth the great news that she had just received from God”.

Father João Paulo Vaz concludes: “Without a doubt, music and art are one of the most efficient and effective means and languages to bring the Good News to everyone today, but above all to young people. It is one of the new languages of evangelization. May we all learn to “do the will of the Father” by setting out quickly, full of happiness and enthusiasm”. (Photo: Sebastião Roxo)

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