Anyone who has been to WYD can attest to the impressiveness of being with like-minded people, enjoying their faith in a fun festival atmosphere. I was fortunate enough to be in Sydney in 2008. Meeting young Catholics from different countries and sharing ideas and chatting over a meal is stimulating.
While these events have been successful in the past, it’s true to say that some sections of the church are lulled into a false sense of security about the health of Catholicism. WYD is catering for a small, captured market; young people who have a strong faith and probably attend church regularly.
While pictures of thousands of young people celebrating Mass with the pope and other events is truly uplifting, on a global scale the reality is a different story. As is often reported, mainstream religion is on the nose and many young people have no interest these days.
The sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the church is one reason for the current predicament but it’s not the only problem. Many young people don’t see religion as being relevant in their lives. We live in an era when we have at our disposal every gadget imaginable to make our lives easier, i.e., smart phones, computers. You name it. Just click a button and your every wish is fulfilled.
But for many younger people if something doesn’t happen instantaneously, then forget it. And don’t even mention the word ‘faith’. You’ll be met with a blank stare.
Life is complicated. Humans are complicated. We are expert at making a mess. A mess of our own lives and other peoples’ lives. For example, has there ever been a time when war wasn’t raging in some part of the world? Look at Ukraine today and the millions that have been displaced … and then there’s the growing death toll. Sudan has also experienced turmoil in recent months.
If you think about it, we humans know very little. It floors me when I read there are about 200 billion stars just in our own Milky Way. As for the night sky in total, experts predict around two trillion galaxies. Try and get your head around those figures! Not to mention black holes, supernovas and the like!
Yet back on our small, insignificant planet, humans go about their daily lives creating havoc. Much of the disorder is caused by people who believe they have the answers. Conceited. Arrogant. Know-alls. They don’t believe they need God. Many don’t even believe in God. Yet, we live in a world crying out for God’s help.
So back to WYD and even though participation will be small in terms of people who are Catholic, the significance of the Lisbon event should not be downplayed. Seeing smiling, happy faces is far more uplifting than pictures on the nightly news of people suffering through war.
The event is unlikely to garner much interest from the secular media but let’s hope WYD moves believers and non-believers alike.
From small things big things come.
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