Thursday, August 25, 2005

My Article for the Irish Rover on World Youth Day

Here are my more prominent thoughts on the reaction of the youth to Pope Benedict XVI that I wrote down for one of the newspapers at ND:

The media had said that it was his charisma with the youth, or maybe his age - his frailty invoking a sort of sympathetic response from the young people of the world – or perhaps even his battle with Parkinson’s. Some wondered whether any youth would make the trek to the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany if the beloved John Paul the Great was not in attendance. In their misunderstanding, many asked if the youth would remain in the Catholic Church after the death of their “charismatic leader.” After all, the youth loved the man, but they did not believe his message, right?

In the end, 1 million pilgrims from 164 countries traveled to Cologne to greet the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on his first international trip since he ascended to the papacy in April, 2005. They arrived with great enthusiasm, waving the flags of their respective countries proudly, and on the day of the Pope’s arrival shouted “Benedetto!” relentlessly as they waited in the crowded streets. Many wore shirts proclaiming their love for the new Pope and their support for this man who had so long protected the Church from heresy as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. “I love my German Shepherd” was a popular slogan, along with “Papa Ratzi.” Some pasted pictures of Benedict to their flags or wore hats with “Habemus Papam” written across the front.

As I witnessed this outpouring of support from the world’s Catholic youth, it struck me that the media, not surprisingly, had gotten it all wrong. The youth were not attracted to JP II’s charisma, his quiet face or his love for the outdoors. They have all along been attracted to the idea of Christianity and the papacy itself. Their response proved that the youth are not drawn to a rock-star persona but to the message of Christ in the Catholic Church. When Benedict told those gathered that attending Sunday Mass was absolutely crucial, the crowds cheered. When he told them that “cafeteria Catholicism” was unhealthy and dangerous, they cheered even louder. The youth want the undiluted Truth of Christ. Period. Benedict represents this truth, so the youth respond.

The second tangible response to Benedict was one of a victorious shout for the Church triumphant. While John Paul II displayed the humility and love of the Church, Benedict put forth the strength and Truth of it. For once, the youth witnessed a Pope who could get up and walk around, participate in Benediction, stand for the Mass and speak in a clear and unfaltering voice. His physical strength was perhaps a manifestation of the nature of Catholicism at the dawn of his papacy. The Church that gathered around Benedict for this World Youth Day was one that survived the sexual revolution and Vatican II. It was the Church that had been restored through the papacy of JPII, and was now a Church victorious, a Church that was strong and ready to greet the secular, anti-life and anti-Christian trajectory of the 3rd millennium. The Church that JPII was given in 1978 was a Church that needed a charismatic leader to draw them back to the beauty of the teachings. The young Church that stood before Benedict XVI last week loved the teachings first, and therefore, loved the man who is the ultimate servant of them.

Benedict brought with him some changes to World Youth Day that were welcomed by the youth with open arms. In contrast to WYD 2002, the Vigil with the Pope included a time of adoration and benediction, with the Blessed Sacrament residing in a tent for the duration of the night. Benedict did not play the crowd or wait for the cheering of his name to cease before beginning prayer. We were given the impression that the Mass was of such importance that silence and reverence from even the most excited of youth was required. His homily focused on the importance of the Eucharist in the life of Catholics. He wore traditional papal garb, in contrast to the more plain style of John Paul II. All of this was welcomed and applauded.

This World Youth Day should send a strong message to the generation of Catholics that attempt to attract youth with a message of watered-down Christianity and dissent from Church teaching: the young people want the Truth of the Gospel. They want the Sacraments. They are not attracted to a rock-star, but to Christ himself as he grants us salvation through his Holy, Apostolic Church. The Church is young, and its strength grows each day.

Habemus Papam! Viva il Papa! Long live the Pope!

10 Comments:

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Courtney said...

What a wonderful article and an awesome experience!

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger Anonymous said...

are you coming to Sydney in 2008? I'm organising a blogger get together for it ...

 
At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Becky said...

I'll be there. I've been dreaming about going to Australia my whole life.

 
At 10:35 PM, Anonymous T said...

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati....Pray for us!!
Great article Becky :).

 
At 7:59 PM, Anonymous TJJC said...

Nice article Becky. God Bless you.

 
At 11:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are awesome Beck! Nice article..and nice quote in the paper the other day! Let me know if you haven't seen it.

 
At 11:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above was MJ by the way :)

 
At 7:20 AM, Anonymous Becky said...

MJ! I haven't seen it. Could you send me a copy? Call the Monts for my address.

 
At 8:48 AM, Anonymous jj said...

I'm glad that there was more of a "worship the Church" rather than a "worship the Pope" feel to WYD. Probably a more fitting sense about it, don't you think?

 
At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Becky said...

Well, I don't think it was ever a "worship the Pope" kind of event, in truth. The media kind of played it up that way, and I think that this WYD showed them that the hype was about Christ all along, not some man. (Although the Pope is pretty awesome!!)

 

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