World Youth Day: cringing at times but rejoicing overall

The world's press is reporting enthusiastically about 3 million people on the beach at Copacabana, participating in the celebration of Mass at the end of World Youth Day. (See for example Daily Mail We need a bigger beach ...) This is delightful to see, and as with previous World Youth Days, I trust that God will bless us with many vocations from this event.

It is heartening to see so many young people gathering for an event explicitly designed to motivate them to evangelise. Much of the good work will be done between themselves, encouraging each other in the Catholic faith and showing that they are not alone in that faith. They also love the Pope because he is the Vicar of Christ - they loved Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul, and now they love Pope Francis, and they want his blessing and his encouragement.

To be honest, I find myself covering my eyes at times at some of the events though not necessarily the Mass (you can download the booklet with the texts of the Liturgical Celebrations.) Many of the events were greetings and blessings around which there can be a certain leeway, rather like a large-scale school assembly. Mind you, everyone has seen the embarrassing video of the Bishops practising for the arm-waving song which was apparently for Mass. Ho hum, all right then, cringe. Leaving that aside, it was moving to hear of so many young people gathered on the beach for Adoration and Benediction. I'd love to see this as the main event with the Masses held in Churches and broadcast on big screens - most of the crowds at events like this only see the screen anyway.

Following the various hashtags on Twitter, I did feel at times that the one-sentence soundbites extracted from the Holy Father's addresses were like a string of gospel-themed fortune cookies, so I have instead gone to the actual texts. There is a Vatican page with the list of events, and texts of the addresses. (Not all have English translations yet, but it is a convenient "one-stop" shop.)

 My favourite quotation so far is from the meeting with young people from Argentina:
Please do not water down your faith in Jesus Christ. We dilute fruit drinks – orange, apple, or banana juice, but please do not drink a diluted form of faith. Faith is whole and entire, not something that you water down. It is faith in Jesus. It is faith in the Son of God made man, who loved me and who died for me. So then: make yourselves heard; take care of the two ends of the population: the elderly and the young; do not allow yourselves to be excluded and do not allow the elderly to be excluded. Secondly: do not “water down” your faith in Jesus Christ.
So although I share some of the reservations people have about WYD, I am positive overall, both for the young people who were there and for the positive image that it gives of the Church to people around the world. I am told by friends in Rome that the Pope is known for regularly spending significant periods of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. (As he is living at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, this is not particularly a secret.) This should be a great consolation for all of us. Let us pray for him every day.

Thanks to NLM for The Part of World Youth Day that You Haven't Seen, Pontifical High Mass according to the usus antiqior, celebrated by Bishop Rifan.

Just for the record, the Apostolic Administration of St John Vianney does not only celebrate the liturgy, they also have schools, orphanages, a house for the elderly and they work actively with the poor.

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