"We gather in faith..."

Teaching and commentary from our pastor, Bishop Francis J. Christian

Reflections

REFLECTIONS

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.

Why?

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.)