Some of our contributors are off in the wilds of Spain this week, taking part in World Youth Day. We heard from Trista on Monday, and Marc is posting (with video) all through the week at Bad Catholic. It’s great fun, as a stay-at-home-pilgrim, to watch the joy and excitement of those lucky young people who have gone to be with the Pope during this great event.
I had personal friends who attended World Youth Day in Toronto way back in 2002, and then I was in college when Cologne, Germany, hosted Benedict XVI on not only his first World Youth Day, but his very first Apostolic visit as Pontiff. Those were heady days, the earliest months of Benedict’s reign, when all of Christendom was alive with hope, with expectation, with excitement! The drama of a Papal funeral, then the unbearable anticipation during the Conclave–then bells, horns, streamers, shouting at that white smoke! Dozens of us packed into the campus rectory, most still eating lunch (it was about 12:30 Eastern time when Ratzinger first appeared at the balcony), and the chaplains were alternately shouting in excitement and shushing the rest of us. Who is it? Where is he? Could it be? WHO is it??
We were all “young people,” people who by definition only remembered one Pope, and that was John Paul. “The Pope” simply was John Paul, we had known no other, and now here was this old, philosophical, methodical, serious German sitting on Peter’s throne.
And we loved it.
Now, six years and many letters, audiences, and Apostolic visits later, Catholic youth are still fired up by Benedict XVI, because he’s our Papa. The great change he has brought into our lives, the “radical departure,” has been nothing other than a renewed commitment to preaching the beautiful paradox of Truth–unchanging, immutable, yet forever mysterious and discovered anew. Bringing continuity and tradition back into our lives, the Pope has brought love and given a safe haven for the millions of souls across the globe that yearn desperately for solid ground. The secular world tells us that solid ground is old hat, is limiting, is merely there to hold us back. In Madrid, millions of pilgrims are gathering because they know the Truth will set them free.
Stay tuned this week, look into the sites, like Seth at OneBillonStories, where 21st-Century pilgrims are sharing their experiences with the rest of us. Pray for them. Ask them to pray for you. Join the throng, drink in the hope, revel in the change. Catholicism is young again!