Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
July 21, 2003
Reaping WYD benefits takes time
One year ago next week, Pope John Paul urged the young people of Canada and the world to "build, brick by brick, the city of God within the city of man."
It's been a year since 2,000 young Albertans journeyed to Toronto for World Youth Day and more than 19 months since the Pilgrim WYD Cross made its way through dozens of Alberta cities, towns and villages.
During that time we have heard the stories of many individuals who were touched by World Youth Day and about how WYD groups have hung together and performed acts of faith and love in their communities.
We have also heard the news of how the event left the Church with a $38 million debt.
It's too early to measure the "success" of World Youth Day: We will never, in this world, be able to see all the lives that were changed for the better, even the lives that changed course with World Youth Day one of the causes for that change.
There are certain results we long to see - more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, a stronger adherence of Catholics to the Church's teachings, new energy in our parishes, a stronger Church commitment to social justice, even a shift in the direction of society.
But while our Church tried and tries to use the World Youth Day experience to achieve certain results, it cannot guarantee those results will occur. In large part, they are the responsibility of the individuals who attended or were touched by WYD. Will they respond in the ways that God is calling them?
At this point, we can say only a couple of things. First, World Youth Day was a tremendous celebration. It brought together 50,000 Canadian youth with young people from the United States and all over the world. Youth learned they are not alone in their faith. They experienced the joy of that faith. They experienced the joy of joining in a common project with people of many nations.
Second, our country needs the witness of people of faith more than ever. The Ontario Court of Appeals' ruling on same-sex marriage and its unquestioned acceptance by most Canadians was but the latest sign that we need a shift in values in this country.
We need to become a country that does a better job of caring for its own poor, of working to build solidarity with the poor of other nations, of realizing the importance of unchanging moral values, of protecting the lives of the unborn, and of strengthening the family.
We are materially rich, but we are spiritually poor.
Perhaps World Youth Day can help. But as the pope implied in his talk at the WYD vigil, the city of God is built one brick at a time, not in one fell swoop. Each of us has to add our own brick or two to this new edifice. It is a task for the multitude more than for an elite. But it would surely help to have a Canadian elite that is formed by Christian values.
We ask too much if we want to see concrete evidence of a societal change a year after World Youth Day. But although the city of God is built brick by brick, there are also moments of huge societal transformation.
The collapse of Soviet bloc communism over a matter of months is an example of what can happen when masses of people decide not to believe the lies their rulers have told them and demand a society that respects human dignity.
The collapse can come quickly, but the job of building a new society will go on for a long time and will not be without major setbacks.
We must have hope. Pope John Paul told those at the Toronto WYD, "You are our hope. Do not let that hope die."
A year after the event that hope is still burning. May God grant us the grace to reap the full fruits that World Youth Day is meant to accomplish in our midst.
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