Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
August 5, 2002
Let WYD's glow transform us all
World Youth Day 2002 may go down in history as one of the great successes of the Canadian Church. It was a success not because the pope came, gave good messages and we felt good about ourselves.
It was a success because of the palpable, intelligent and committed faith of the young people. It was a success because of the organization that was efficient, but more importantly so thoughtful that it found ways even in the little things to help people deepen their faith (see the story on food distribution on Page 9). It was a success because it was so beautiful and reverent and embodied an effervescent faith.
World Youth Day was also a success because of Pope John Paul, a more effective spreader of the Gospel at age 82 than when he came here full of vitality for 10 days in 1984. The pope's decision to walk down the stairway from the airplane on the day of his arrival cast the die for the whole trip.
Has anyone ever seen Pope John Paul angry or irritated at anything other than social injustice? Has anyone ever seen him complain about the cruel blows life has dealt him? Has anyone ever seen him take the path of personal ease and comfort when he could do something difficult to make the truth of the Gospel more evident to others? Is there a reason he never gets irritated, never complains and is always self-sacrificing?
This is a man whose whole life is totally given over to the Gospel and to the Beatitudes about which he spoke so eloquently on July 24. Couldn't we each be like that too?
Yes we could, if we made the effort and were as committed to Jesus Christ as he is.
And so when, at the Saturday evening vigil, he urged the young people to "build, brick by brick, the city of God within the city of man," he was talking about something that is possible, not a crazy pipedream. He was talking to people who see the futility of the moral relativism and watered-down faith of the last few decades.
People have long been wondering if World Youth Day would make a difference to our country and Church, or whether it would just be a weeklong Popestock. At this point, one would have to agree with Toronto's Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic: "These days have done untold good for the Church and for all of us."
Parishes that are cynical or discouraging towards returning pilgrims who want to give of themselves can deflate this hope. It can also be derailed by those who would confine the youth's new energies to churchy things, forgetting the crying need we have for doctors, lawyers, parents, journalists, politicians and people in every walk of life who make Christian principles the focus of their vocation.
And the young people themselves can also diminish it if they fall into laziness or are distracted by the glitz of consumer society.
"Keep alive the memory," the pope urged in his homily at the closing Mass - the memory of God's love and mercy, the word of life and Christ's presence in the Eucharist. "You have to change and improve the 'taste' of human history."
Indeed, that task is not only up to them. All of us, no matter what age, could help make the Gospel a more visible presence in our lives and in our society. What we are pursuing is holiness - not an easily attainable goal to be sure.
But the moment we begin making little sacrifices, such as the pope's walk down the airplane's stairs, we are on the way. Getting on the way and staying there is the most important thing. It's when we get too comfortable or too lazy that much is lost.
In the early part of the papal visit, much of the media attention was on "issues" - contraception, homosexuality, sexual abuse, married and women priests, etc. The young people gently pushed all that aside as irrelevant to why they came to Toronto. They were after something deeper, something that would root their approach to those issues.
World Youth Day has created a glow that will last a significant period of time. We want to make that glow last longer and transform a Church and a nation.
As Pope John Paul said, "You are our hope. Do not let that hope die."
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