Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Pope on World Youth Day

Just as a short followup on my two small articles on the Epiphany and the need for relevance of God in our lives, I like to quote a short paragraph out of the 'controversial' address of the Pope to the Roman Curia before Christmas. The part I wanted to quote is about the World Youth Day:

"What and wherefore was the nature of this success of the World Youth Day? What were the forces which drove it? Popular analyses tend to look on these days as a variant of modern youth culture, like a kind of rock festival, modified in church wise, with the Pope like a star. With or without faith, this festival is at root always the same thing, and so the question of God can be sidelined. There are also Catholic voices which move in this direction, seeing it all as a great spectacle, even beautiful, with having little significance for the question of faith and the presence of the gospel in our time. They could be moments of festive ecstasy, which however when all is said and done leave things as they were, having no bearing in any depth on life itself."

I do agree that a lot of people look at the success of such events, and also for example the retreat Youth 2000 had in Newbridge of which some video footage will hopefully follow shortly, is in this popular way, and indeed we even find this trend among ourselves. I just want to say that we should reflect on this and what the pope says next... do these events make a difference in the lives of these young people? Is there something more than just a 'festival'?

"With this, however, the peculiar nature of such days and the particular character of their joy, their creative force for communion, find no explanation. Above all, it is important to take account of the fact that the World Youth Days do not consist of one single week in which they become public and visible to the world. There is both a long external and internal journey leading to them. The Cross, accompanied by the image of the Mother of the Lord, goes on pilgrimage in different lands. Faith, in its own way, feels the need to see and to touch. The encounter with the cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the cross for us. The encounter with the Cross arouses in the depths of youth the memory of that God who willed to become man and suffer with us. And we see the woman whom He has given us as Mother. The solemn Youth Days are only the culmination of a long journey, along which they meet one another and together they go to Christ. In Australia, not fortuitously, the long Way of the Cross through the city became the culminating event of those days. It recapitulated once more all that had taken place in the preceding years and pointed to the One who unites us all together: the God who loves us to the extent of the Cross. And so even the Pope is not the star around which everything happens. He is simply and solely Vicar. He defers to Another who stands in our midst. Finally, the solemn liturgy is the centre of everything, because there takes place in it what we are unable to accomplish and of which, however, we are always in expectation. He is present. He enters into our midst. Heaven is rent, and this makes the earth glow. It is this which makes life joyful and open and unites one to another in a joy which cannot be compared to the joy of a rock festival. Friedrich Nietzsche said on one occasion: “The ability is not to be found in organising a festival, but in finding people who can enjoy it.” According to Scripture, joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22): this fruit was abundantly visible during those days in Sydney. Just as a long journey preceded the World Day of Youth, so successive journeys flowed from it. Friendships were forged which encouraged a single, diverse style of life and supported it from within. The great Days have, not as their ultimate reason, the intention to create such friendships and in this way they bring about areas of life in faith, which are simultaneously arenas of hope and of a charity experienced."

As my previous articles on this blog give way, I do think or even know from own experience, that there is a difference, that these gatherings are only visible signs of a much deeper inner journey. Again we should be very careful that we don't sideline God as does a lot of society, but keep Him in the center of everything we do, and that will make a difference!!

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