Young pilgrims and their families celebrated a 'Departure Mass' at St Mary's, Lowe House, St Helens on Sunday 7 August prior to leaving for Madrid for the World Youth Day.
Leaving on Tuesday 9 August the young people from the Archdiocese of Liverpool will spend their first few days in the Diocese of Ciudad Real before travelling to Madrid for the celebrations of the following week which culminate in an all night vigil followed by Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday 21 August.
At the Departure Mass Father Simon Gore, who will be travelling to Madrid on the pilgrimage, gave the following homily:
A good few years ago now I went with my parents and grandparents to Jersey for a summer holiday. On the way out to Jersey we caught a catamaran. It only took about two hours and it was fine - a nice journey.
The journey back, though, was very different! The sea was too rough for the catamaran so we had to get the ferry. It was six or seven hours on the high seas. The ferry pitching and rolling as the waves buffeted it from all sides.
I must admit I felt a bit ill at first, but after a while I got my sea legs and thought the whole thing was great fun - all part of an adventure. But I think I was in a minority. There were some green faces on that ferry.
And when I think of that journey and those green faces I almost see a mirror image of the journey and the faces of Peter and the other disciples on the Sea of Galilee. They too were being buffeted by the strong winds and the waves. And it must have been bad - remember these were hardened fishermen, used to being adrift on the open sea. For them to be afraid the weather must have been particularly cruel.
But there is one very crucial difference in these two tales of people at sea amidst high winds. And that is that in the Gospel Matthew is not just relaying meteorological details but is also trying to tell us something about the nature of the Church.
Sometimes the Ark of Salvation, the Church, can seem storm-tossed, can seem to be in trouble, clouds can be seen to be gathering, people aboard can begin to worry. And most alarmingly of all, Christ does not appear to be in our midst, onboard, worrying like the rest of us. He seems to be safe ashore, secure, isolated from all that is thrown at us.
But then, when all seems at it's darkest, it is then that Christ comes striding out to meet his people: 'Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid'.
And Christ speaks those words to us today - an especially appropriate message as we prepare to leave for Madrid and World Youth Day. 'Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid'.
Because we must remember that there are great things happening in the Church and in the World today. You know yourselves the many gifts and graces you have received as individuals, as part of your families (and it is great so many are here with us for this celebration), and as part of your Parish community.
And now we go to become part of another great event, a huge gathering, we become a pilgrim people.
Where will this pilgrimage ultimately lead? No one really knows! All we know is that Christ calls out to us, 'Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid'.
Do not be afraid to find God in the gentle breeze of a stranger also attending World Youth Day.
Do not be afraid of seeing God in the gentle breeze of the families we stay with - of looking at these strangers who open their lives and homes to us and seeing in their face the face of God.
Do not be afraid of being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit - laying our lives before the Lord and saying 'Here I am. I come to do your will'.
Do not be afraid of the unknown and the challenging.
For it is then that Christ comes to us across the stormy waters and reaches out to us and urges us to be brave, to follow him and place our trust in him who offers us life to the full.
It is then that we hear the Lord say, 'Courage. Do not be afraid. It is I. And I am with you to the end of time'.