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World Youth Days are not debauched rock festivals, but joyful encounters with Christ

Let’s cease the jeremiads

By on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Pope Benedict XVI leads Benediction at World Youth Day in Sydney (CNS photo)

Pope Benedict XVI leads Benediction at World Youth Day in Sydney (CNS photo)

When I blogged a few months ago about the enduring legacy of Blessed John Paul II, in particular the World Youth Day (WYD) that he began to hold every three years around the world during his pontificate, several posts that followed were severely critical. Was I not aware that these were simply youth rock festivals with the Pope as the main celebrity, places where all sorts of dodgy liturgical experiments and wholesale immorality took place? Actually, no I wasn’t.

It is always easier to be negative rather than positive – especially when it comes to the Church. I have a tendency to be like this myself, so I know this cast of mind well. But having known personally of several young people who have attended WYDs in the past and whose faith has been shaped by the experience, I share the mindset of the late pope and now of his successor, Benedict XVI, who see these occasions as a joyful public celebration of faith, capable of inspiring young people with memories that last the rest of their lives.

Three of my children were at the WYD in Rome in the year 2000 and were very moved to listen to the aged John Paul II and to witness his own strong faith. Now my grandson, aged 16, has gone to Spain with a party from the Oxford Oratory, led by several Oratorian priests, to attend the WYD in Madrid. My hope is that he will make lasting friends there and come to know and love his faith better. What more could a grandmother want?

Those who hoped that Pope Benedict would quietly drop the WYDs as not being part of his more low-key pontifical “style”, compared to his predecessor, have been disappointed. The Holy Father, in a recent speech, addressed such critics head-on: referring to the WYD in Sydney in 2008, he said: “Although fears were expressed beforehand that this mass influx of young people might create some problems for public order – clogging traffic, disrupting daily life, sparking violence and drug abuse – all these fears proved unfounded. The event was a celebration of joy, a joy that in the end spread even to the doubtful…”

The Pope then asked: “What really happens at a World Youth Day?… Popular analyses tend to view these days as a variant of contemporary youth culture, a sort of rock festival in an ecclesial key, with the Pope as its main attraction. Such analyses presume that, with or without faith, these festivals would be basically the same… Even some Catholics would seem to agree, seeing the whole event as a huge spectacle… [which] would really change nothing, nor have any deeper effect on life”.

The Holy Father then spoke of the spiritual preparation that preceded this event; the WYD Cross, carried by relays of young people “which becomes an interior encounter with the One who died for us on the Cross”; his own position, not as the star attraction, but as “a Vicar [who] points beyond himself to the Other who is in our midst”. Finally, he emphasised the “solemn liturgy [which] is the centre of the whole event: “Christ is present. He comes into our midst. The heavens are rent and the earth filled with light.” The “joy” of experiencing a WYD “cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival,” he said. The Pope concluded with pointing out that at WYDs “friendships are formed which encourage a different way of life and which give it deep support”.

The Holy Father’s words are spot on. Let’s cease the jeremiads then, and trying to ferret out anecdotes of youthful debauchery, and pray to Our Lady – as the Pope requests – “to bring the expected fruits to this meeting”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ODF5YAJCKG7WMJSJ2GFVSH43IM Adam

    Well said, I’d love to be going but I’ll have to make do with Youth 2000 instead.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ODF5YAJCKG7WMJSJ2GFVSH43IM Adam

    Well said, I’d love to be going but I’ll have to make do with Youth 2000 instead.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ODF5YAJCKG7WMJSJ2GFVSH43IM Adam

    Well said, I’d love to be going but I’ll have to make do with Youth 2000 instead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Purdie/1162381995 Ken Purdie

    I do hope you are correct.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Purdie/1162381995 Ken Purdie

    I do hope you are correct.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Purdie/1162381995 Ken Purdie

    I do hope you are correct.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Purdie/1162381995 Ken Purdie

    I do hope you are correct.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Purdie/1162381995 Ken Purdie

    I do hope you are correct.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Purdie/1162381995 Ken Purdie

    I do hope you are correct.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Purdie/1162381995 Ken Purdie

    I do hope you are correct.

  • Oliver

    Lying to yourself about something is always easy, but it’s never “positive”.

  • Michael McManus

    If christ came back at wyd event in spain , He would be disgusted at the amount of money being spent on it when there are children dieing for lack of food in Africa

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    I highly doubt it.

    In fact, many people will have sacrificed quite a lot to be able to attend. If WYD helps plant the seeds of authentic faith then we can expect much more good to come from that than would have been derived from the pilgrims donating the money to fight famine – as noble as that cause may be.

    We would all like this event to be free, but economic realities dictate otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve no doubt that many of the young people get swept up some mass hysteria and get taken in by the whole charismatic nature of WYD.  But this is simply not Catholic.  Sure, there’s bits of Catholicism thrown in, like Benediction and Catechism, but the Catechism used at thi year’s WYD is weak on homosexuality, abortion and contraception.  There’s just enough Catholicism thrown in to deceive modern, liberal Catholics. However, those with a well formed Catholic sense are not so easily fooled.
     
    You only have to look at the pictures to see how immodest the whole thing is.  Remember, sins of the flesh lead souls to Hell, as Our Lady said.  Would the Pope or the “Bishop-Catechists” ever suggest to the young people that they should be dressing modestly?  Never.  Couple that with the plethora of used condoms found in the clean up operation, lying alongside discarded consecrated Sacred Hosts and what you have is a shower of immodestly dressed young people dancing to Protestant, charismatic, pop-like, “worship songs” – with the flames of Hell licking their feet.  God have mercy on them all!

  • Anonymous

    I went to WYD in Sydney and it radically enhanced my Faith. Yes, there was the odd dodgy liturgy and odd song of Shine Jesus Shine merit, but these were far outshone by the beauty of the Pope’s words to us through which the Truth that is Christ shone through, some excellent catechesis sessions from solid Bishops and being able to live my faith for a few days in a truly Catholic manner, celebrating the Mass surrounded by people from different nations, kneeling down in Adoration in 24hr Adoration Tents surrounded by Priests from all over the world hearing confessions. This experience of real Christian joy was one of the highlights of my life and I pray that the faith of all those in Madrid may be similarly increased.

    To Michael McManus, many of the people who travel to WYDs do some sort of service element in the days before and after it. For example I stayed for the week beforehand with a group of people helping at a homeless shelter run in a Church in Kings Cross in Sydney. More importantly, I left with the knowledge that to authentically love Christ, I had to start being a man for others. How much more have I given to charities as a proportion of income since WYD, how much more time do I spend helping others, how much more aware am I of structures of injustice? Yes two weeks at WYD was perhaps a selfish indulgence, but the effect of it was to make me less selfish subsequently, I hope, and therefore I would say it was well worth it.

  • Anonymous

    Petrus 1 – I did not see any used condoms or unused for that matter nor did I witness anything but reverence for the Body and Blood of our Lord. What is your source for these allegations?

  • W Oddie

    This is ignorant, gullible drivel. You really are easily taken in by the Church’s enemies. Nothing of this sort took place. I have spoken to may young people who were present; and it just didn’t happen. Used condoms indeed: how could such things take place unobserved, or without a total breakdown of decent behaviour (which just didn’t happen)?

    You wouldn’t, perhaps have anything to do with the SSPX, would you? 

  • W Oddie

    You could do worse.

  • Anonymous

    William,

    You never fail to surprise me with your intolerance.  You cannot hide your hatred for the SSPX and it clouds your judgement.  I don’t know why you must bring them into this debate because it’s not relevant.  By the way, are you suggesting the SSPX are enemies of the Church???  surely not because this would be an act of de facto schism.  You would be declaring them enemies of the Church on your own authority.  I hope you’ll clarify this. 

    You spoke to many young people?  Well, I think over a million attended WYD 2000, so I would think you only managed to speak to a tiny proportion.  The condoms were found in the clear up operation once the event was over, so it’s very unlikely that any young person would have seen that. It was widely reported at the time.  Personally, I know of one 17 yr old girl who “slept under the stars” with her new boyfriend at WYD 2000 in Rome.  So, go figure! 

  • Anonymous

    What say you about the weak Catechism being used in Madrid, William?  What say you about the Protestant pop-song used in “worship”?

  • Anonymous

    @ Michael McManus.Why have you not sold your computer? Practice what you preach.

  • James H

    Wait, what? Where does he say anything about SSPX?

    ‘ “slept under the stars” with her new boyfriend at WYD 2000 in Rome’ – so, she slept in the open, with her boyfriend nearby, is that it? And on the basis of an ambiguous phrase, you believe she indulged in public sex?

    I’m afraid you have a dirty mind – or an over-scrupulous one!

  • James H

    “Shine, Jesus shine, Fill this land with the Father’s Glory. Blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow, fill the nations with grace and mercy. Send forth Your word, Lord, and let there be light!’

    - and the flames of Hell licked at their feet.

    Right.

  • Anonymous

    James,

    Read William’s reply to me again. 

    Now, I have no idea what this girl engaged in because I cut the conversation short.  There was enough suggestive remarks made.  I don’t have a dirty mind; that’s why I cut the conversation short.  Anyway, the way the “pilgrims” are dressed doesn’t leave much to the imagination.  Maybe YOU have the dirty mind and YOU quite like the way they are dressed.  However, no faaithful Catholic would defend immodesty. 

    The discarded Sacred Hosts and used condoms were widely reported at the time.  Are you suggesting the press made this up as part of a grand conspiracy against the Church?  And to think liberals call Traditional Catholics conspiracy theorists!  Crackers!

  • Anonymous

    Great uplifting post!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve already said that these were found in the clear up.  So, unless you stayed behind with your rubber gloves and bin bag, then you wouldn’t have. 

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news/world/catholics-remain-split-on-condom-issue/2008/07/08/1215282818089.html

    http://wwrn.org/articles/29002/?&section=christianity

  • Anonymous

    The voice of reason! thankyou..

  • Anonymous

    A Catholic praising a Protestant pop-style worship song!  Enough said.

  • Anonymous

    Petrus1 – not really very persuading article in the Brisbane Times reporting on an event that happened in Rome and commences with “Legend has it that”

  • Jeannine

    I don’t doubt that sacrilege & immoral acts took place in the Roman WYD 2000. In a crowd of 1/2 million+ how can 1 possible control everyone? Organizers have to rely on everyone’s code of honor. This type of huge conference generally does not attract the immoral or instigator, although some still show up.  I have read in the past it also attracts our Protestant brethren who tries to influence the “wayward” Catholic youth back to God by handing out anti-Catholic pamphlets. 

    That said have you heard of or read any of your information taking place in succeeding WYDs? I hope not. To give the Vatican & the local bishops credit, they actually learn when it comes to logistics & organization for future WYDs, but they sure are slow. 

    I recently read that there will be 1000s upon 1000s of clerics in attendance in Madrid. (Is it for the youth or for the clerics?!) Many orthodox bishops will be preaching & catechizing. YOUCAT has been corrected in all languages. It seems to be very organized— something good & moral to do for every hour.  

    Yet as I said it from the beginning, there will always be a few bad apples when massive amounts of people congregate. The Vatican & the local bishops realize this. Thus, the ultimate question for them is “Do the good emanating from these WYDs hugely outweigh the bad?” I believe their answer is “Yes.” 

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    So, Francis, I take it you have no objections to  your children being – totally officially – introduced to the world of porn at the latest World Youth Day? http://www.zenit.org/article-33186?l=english

    I heard from a young mother of 35 today who was totally appalled at this and when I said that the  rationale was no doubt to “warn” youngsters off porn, she looked astonished and pointed out that since it wouldn’t cross the mind of any normal person to talk about porn to children, what right had the Pope &  Co?  She is teaching her chldren about purity using role model saints that appeal to youngsters, such as Don Bosco and St Maria Goretti plus the Fatima children. 

    There’s something seriously wrong with modern Catholics. They have completely lost all sense of what it means to be a Catholic.  Nobody  in their right minds would dream of introducing youngsters to porn, no matter what the pretext. If young people are taught about purity and the consequences of not cultivating that virtue, both in this life and in the next, they  won’t need to see a  documentary about pornography. Will her children  be going to World Youth Day?  Yes, she said:  the day after Hell freezes over.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Really?  Would you please explain to me precisely what it is that is uplifting about introducing youngsters to pornography? http://www.zenit.org/article-33186?l=english

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Petrus1,

    Catholic Truth reported these shocking scandals at the time, with full documentation. There were photographs in the secular papers we cited.  “hear no evil, see no  evil” seems to be the watchword of the modern Catholic in the pew.  Deadly  for  the soul and totally anti-Scriptural since we are  well warned to be on our guard against Satan’s wiles which comes us in all sorts of guises, including, sadly, these huge events were sin and sacrilege are evident.

    That’s not to say that some good doesn’t come out of them. Great if some youngsters “feel” their faith  strengthened.  Great.  It’s when it comes to them making moral decisions (on the pill?  Off the pill? abortion?  marry  or cohabit?)  that we can better make an objective analysis and all the objective data to date shows that young people from Catholic homes and schools are no different at all in their morality,than children from any other kind of background.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Well, this year it might well attract those who want to learn about pornography.
    http://www.zenit.org/article-33186?l=english

    As for your final sentence – shocking stuff.  If there is even the remote possibility that even ONE Host is abused, discarded, treated with disrespect, that is sufficient reason to cancel these events.  Even ONE. And for you to write off the possible commission of mortal sins because they are, in your view, possibly outweighed by other good things that might come out of it – not remotely clear thinkings.  In any case, as far as I have read the good that comes from these events amounts to some young people ”feeling” good about themselves and their faith  – and frankly, who cares? Feelings don’t last and they  are absolutely no substitute for moral behaviour and right thinking, orthdodox Catholic belief. 

    Instead of wasting money on these daft concerts, the Vatican should be seriously addressing the collapse of Catholic education which  means we now have parents and even priests who do not know elementary Catholic doctrine.  So, less of the gush about these touchy-feely World Youth Days and more Catholic militancy about the restoration of the Faith proper.   

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    You need to get out more.  The debauched behavour of young people openly sleeping together was reported at the time in the broadsheets.  With photos. 

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    What has the SSPX got to do with this? They run wholly Catholic summer camps, with no open air Masses and no documentaries on pornography.

    Silly  them. They need to get with the Vatican II programme.

  • Anonymous

    No..

  • Anonymous

    There’s something seriously wrong with modern Catholics. They have completely lost all sense of what it means to be a Catholic

    Nothing wrong with my children nor Francis’s I can assure you..

  • Anonymous

    I just lurve “Shine Jesus Shine”  ..

  • Anonymous

    Thanks be to God our priest said we catch more to the faith by ” a spoonful of sugar ” St Philip Neri..this fire & brimstone approach is counter-productive..just out of interest though I have a devotion to Our Lady of Fatima..my tenth child is named Jacinta & our first son was born May 13th..I just wonder why something that isn’t dogma keeps being referred to when talking about our Catholic faith..

  • Anonymous

    My eldest daughter is a doctor & was recently married in the Catholic Church..I can assure you she didn’t cohabit..nor does she use contraception..she is praying for the blessings of a large family & in the meantime is an exemplary Catholic doctor..

    Only you say:”that young people from Catholic homes and schools are no different at all in their morality,than children from any other kind of background. “..not true,,,

  • Anonymous

    Wonderfull I agree Jeannine.. a friend of mine with 3 small homeschooled children recently visited..she urged my children to attend the world youth days..she had been to Rome & Paris..she is an exemplary Catholic woman married to a Catholic doctor..

  • Anonymous

    Who are ” Catholic Truth? ” Are they a sect?

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

     Well you would say that, wouldn’t you????

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Well, your priest is wrong – St Francis de Sales said that you catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel full of vinegar.  And who would argue with that, once they realise that he was talking about sinners.  Heretics, as his writings make clear, are a very different kettle of fish.

    Of course, when dealing with individuals, we must tread carefully but what makes you think that it is “counter-productive” to speak about Hell and Judgment?  I’ve NEVER found that.  One 25 year old told me that he had gone through all of his Catholic schooling and never heard a word about Judgment and Hell and not once heard his priest  mention either in sermons.  Why on EARTH would he resist the temptation to sex outside marriage and all the rest?  The entirety of Catholic doctrine is beautiful and only in its entirety does it makes sense.  Listening to modern Catholics trying to encourage the young to live as Catholic should because it helps to make for a better society, is truly painful.  There is only one reason why most of us keep the laws of the land – fear of the consequences.  As a result, of course, our lives ARE  happier, more peaceful, but that is an effect.  A secondary effect of keeping God’s law is that we are happier and more at peace in this life – but that’s not the reason for keeping God’s law.  We keep God’s law in order to save our souls for all eternity. 

    In my wide experience with young people – both as a (favourite, of course) aunt and a Head of Religious Education – I’ve found that they react very positively to the Faith when properly presented and that includes articles of Faith like Hell. 

    As for your reference to Fatima as “not dogma” – you are totally misunderstanding the Fatima apparitions.  I think the fact that God sent His Mother to warn us of a “diabolical disorientation” to come in the Church, is of central importance in our times, but that is not the discussion of this blog right  now.  Visit http://www.fatima.org for more on this public prophetic revelation, the most important even of our times.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Says it all, does that. Says it all.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Check for yourself, catholicmomof10 – see http://www.catholictruthscotland.com

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    I am very glad to hear that your daughter was recently
    married in the Catholic Church and didn’t cohabit nor use contraception
    etc.  Brilliant.  I’m tempted to ask for a photo of her in her
    wedding dress because the shocking prevalence of immodest wedding outfits in
    Catholic churches continues to, well, shock me.  Strapless, sleeveless, (with a veil
    which makes them look ridiculous) often with cleavage showing, they are ugly and anything but suitable for a Catholic bride – but, worry not,
    I am convinced that your daughter bucked the trend and wore a modest wedding
    dress.

    However, your assertion that it is not true to say that the majority of
    Catholic young people are no different from others in their morality”
    belies the objective data.  Goodness, even as recently as the September
    visit of the Pope to the UK, when the cheering teenagers were interviewed outside the
    cathedral in London, broadcast on  national BBC TV news, it was clear from
    their remarks about “not agreeing with the Pope on things like
    contraception, homosexuality and abortion etc” that there is a very
    serious gap between the celebrity status of the Pontiff in the minds of many
    young Catholics and adherence to Catholic teaching, which they think is just his personal opinion.

    There is plenty of objective data available to demonstrate this, apart from the obvious anecdotal
    evidence (I mean, you won’t find a bishop from the UK to the USA who has the
    temerity to claim that we enjoy a fully believing and practising Catholic teen
    population) but let me cite just one example that I came across the other day.

    I stumbled on a Scots parish website on the Baptisms page.  There was a
    baptismal form to fill out.  The following information was requested:  Mother’s name_____________________ + “if
    married, mother’s maiden name”________________________________

    Note: no presumption of innocence there.  Sadly. 
    All part of the normalization process, making Catholics think there is
    no need for them to be any different from others in society and, for goodness,
    sake, above all, there must be no making them feel ashamed.  Heavens no! 
    Although, actually, as we’ll all soon enough find out, it will be “Heavens,
    yes!”  Just as we should ALL feel ashamed
    when we transgress God’s law, whether to a greater or less extent, so those who
    are publicly flouting the law of God, should not be given the impression that
    this is no big deal.

    Doesn’t help, catholicmomof10 to ignore the elephant in the room.  It stays there anyway and the deniers only make themselves look foolish. 

    God bless.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    I haven’t seen the documentary, but I feel we should probably hold judgement until we have seen it. From what the article says, it doesn’t seem to me as though it is promoting pornography – quite the opposite.

    The sad fact is that most of the people at WYD will have been introduced to pornography already – at the very least they will have been introduced to the pornographic mindset either at school, on TV or on the streets. It’s my understanding that this documentary aims to introduce them to the dark sides of it (the retort that there are no good sides to pornography is well received, and I accept it so there’s no need to point that out). If appealing to people’s humanity leads to less pornography, then I am not against it.

    Having made that incision, I think we’ll have a much better chance to speak about the immorality of pornography, and then tie it to the Christian notion of the dignity of the human person. So although I’m cautious (as one always ought to be with these kinds of things), I think there’s room for it if is done in the right way, and once more emphasise that we should reserve judgement until we have seen the documentary.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    You see, the very fact that you  would watch a documentary on pornography, tells me that there is something seriously wrong in the Church today. 

    Do you really think that watching – and encouraging youngsters to watch – a film on pornography, is pleasing to God?