"We gather in faith..."
Teaching and commentary from our pastor, Bishop Francis J. Christian
By Bishop Christian
World Youth Day, a massive gathering of Catholic youth from
all across the planet that’s sometimes tongue-in-cheek been
dubbed the “Catholic Woodstock,” took place in Krakow,
Poland, July 25-31, bringing together what organizers estimated
at two million people for a festival of fun, food and faith.
Consider what had taken place in the world in just the month
before those young people descended on Krakow.
In all, 1,843 people perished as a result of terrorist actions in
July, according to statistics collected by Wikipedia, and that
doesn’t count the totals from incidents in which the number of
dead are listed as “unknown.”
In the context of such carnage, such an apparent contagion of
madness, where can hope be found? In all honesty, the last
week of July made the case for hope in eloquent fashion with
the World Youth Day gathering in Krakow.
For one thing, the spirit in Krakow was relentlessly upbeat.
While the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations are
able to recruit small numbers of young people into their deadly
campaigns, hundreds of thousands of Catholic youth from all
across the planet came together in the streets of a major
European city this week and left no destruction behind, but
rather indelible images of friendship and fraternity.
For another, World Youth Day went ahead despite
apprehensions about security threats. The presence of police
and military throughout the week was palpable but never
overweening or distracting, and every night, late into the night,
young revelers filled up the squares and parks of the city as if
their team had just won the Super Bowl or the World Cup.
In effect, this was a vast throng of loving, caring, positive
young people saying to the Islamic State and the other wreakers
of havoc in the early 21st century, “We refuse to be terrorized.”
As opposed to other scenarios of large-scale mobilizations one
might imagine, crime rates in Krakow plummeted last week,
garbage collections declined as these young pilgrims picked up
after themselves, and locals were left smiling and delighted
with the positive energy coursing through the city.
Finally, these young people exuded a different vision for the
future of humanity, one based on a global solidarity, respecting
differences of class, race and culture without viewing them as
divisive, and embracing religion not as the problem but as the
wellspring of the solution.
“Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is
fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its
name is family,” Pope Francis told the roughly one million
youth gathered for a prayer vigil Saturday night.
“We celebrate the fact that coming from different cultures, we
have come together to pray. Let our best word, our best
argument, be our unity in prayer,” he said.
That might sound like hollow rhetoric, but if you had been in
the streets and squares of Krakow in late July, you would
understand that it’s not artifice or a pious aspiration, but the
living, beating heart of an honest-to-God youth army - in this
case, an army dedicated not to violence or hatred, but to hope.
(Based on an article from Crux in the News.)