Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
July 22, 2002
And our youth shall lead us . . .
Pope John Paul this week begins his third, and probably final, visit to Canada. His 1984, 10-day cross-Canada tour was a love fest, with large crowds wherever the pope visited. He was wonderfully received and he spoke strongly, especially in Edmonton, about the various ways the Gospel calls us to deepen our faith and transform society.
The pope's 1987 visit to Fort Simpson, N.W.T., was a leftover from 1984 when the papal plane could not land there due to heavy fog. Three years later, the pope made good on his promise to return.
The 1984 trip was a great event. Yet, it was also a disappointment. For all the awe inspired by the pope, our Church and our nation remained untransformed by his visit.
If anything, we have drifted further from our missionary mandate in the last 18 years and have become an even more marginal part of Canadian society - although there have been significant small-scale signs of progress.
Through much of that time, the Church has been fighting a defensive action against the clergy sexual abuse crisis and now the residential schools lawsuits. We have seen an amazing degrading of the human person with the rapid growth and acceptance of in vitro fertilization and other reproductive "technologies" that separate sexual love from the birth of a new child. We have seen poverty grow - both at home and abroad - and corporate and individual greed lionized as a sign of entrepreneurial initiative.
Internal to the Church, the number of priests and religious has dropped sharply due to a lack of new vocations. Churches have had to be closed and parish communities merged. Fortunately, after a precipitous drop following the Second Vatican Council, church attendance has stabilized.
Now, the pope comes into our midst again, this time as an old man who can barely speak or walk. Yet, we are more ready for him now. Canadians are sickened by corporate excess and the greed for power among some politicians. The planet is seriously ill, a fact about which important politicians seem indifferent.
Meanwhile, the Catholic youth of this country have been brought together by the cross-Canada tour of the Pilgrim Cross and preparations for World Youth Day. Something new is in the air. A new era of Catholic leaders is being formed who are enthused by their faith rather than embarrassed by its teachings.
Pope John Paul will come into this situation this week and he will bring the youth of the world to be salt and light. He will tell them they cannot be satisfied with what the world wants them to be. It is the Gospel that shows a better way, even if at times that way seems difficult. It is light that shows that Gospel message to the world and salt that changes the taste of life for those who believe.
World Youth Day holds forth a promise for a nation. It calls forth not just the youth, but all Catholics, to be a missionary people. It calls forth not just youth, but all Catholics, to live the values of the Gospel and to spread them.
This "spreading" of the Gospel means bringing converts to the Church, but it also means much more. It challenges Catholics to make their values effective in the workplace, in the family, in politics, in how we do business, and in how we practise medicine, teaching and other professions. It calls us to transform Canada.
Canada has sometimes been called the best country in the world. Well, it could be so much more. It could be better if we made the Gospel the driving force of each of our lives.
World Youth Day could be the catalyst for that to happen. And it is youth who are being called to take a leading role. Youth, because once they believe in something, they make it happen with great enthusiasm. Youth, because even though they do not hold the reins of power in society, they are being formed for the day they will.
We pray that World Youth Day will lead to more priests and religious who are zealous in their ministry. We also pray WYD will give us more committed Catholic laity who permeate Canadian society with the spirit of the Gospel. And finally, we pray that World Youth Day will lead to the transformation of our nation.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.