Friday, June 13, 2014

World Youth Day's long-reaped fruits

I still remember the shock of the difference between Toronto, Canada and Cologne, Germany's World Youth Days.  The first was such a brilliant celebration, excellently executed, with a million young people joining St. John Paul II for his final World Youth Day.  But the second seemed flat, in my eyes.  The event took place in three different cities, limiting the amount of time the pilgrims were together.  Pope Benedict did not ride through the crowds for his entrance, but rather on a boat on the Rhine, which was difficult to see.  At the time, I was disappointed in my second World Youth Day experience.

Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day in Madrid.
But then we were participating in the walking pilgrimage to the all night vigil in Cologne, when I noticed the locals watching from their windows and porches.  They saw hundreds of thousands of young people from throughout the world making their way to an evening with the Holy Father.  They saw faith and sacrifice and trust and solidarity.

And then I realized -- the Germany World Youth Day was not for us, the pilgrims, in the way that Toronto's event had been.  No, this World Youth Day was for Germany.  This was a gift to a country whose faith was fading, an invitation to a greater love and joy.

So, when I saw the "First Things" headline, "Is Spain Regaining Its Faith?  And Why Isn't Anyone Else," I knew the answer had to involve, at least in part, World Youth Day.  The event was held there in 2011.  It was to be Pope Benedict XVI's final one.  It wasn't like Toronto's, at least for me, (though, admittedly, I was now a chaperone, not a soon-to-be freshman in college), but the streets of secular Spain were teaming with youth, the subways and buses were filled with song.  As we hiked to the field for the overnight vigil, generous Spaniards maneuvered their shower heads out their windows to offer some cool relief from the blazing sun.  


World Youth Day is the gift that keeps on giving.  Denver is a city transformed by Pope John Paul II's visit in 1993.  The cities chosen cannot just be the best logistical location for massive crowds.  The cities chosen become centers of renewal.  And these cities on a hill, popping up around the world, will undoubtedly contribute to the re-evangelization of many people, families and nations. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this insight! I whole-heartedly agree about the feel of WYD in Toronto, but I didn't get to experience any others, so I love hearing your view that it is not just for the pilgrims, but for the whole city, even the country, and ultimately the world (duh, right?) Thanks for sharing.

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