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Thoughts after Walking 150,000 steps to see Pope Francis

While I was in Poland for World Youth Day a friend shared this article which I thought was very good, until I read the comments, which (as per usual) infuriated me. This is a really bad habit of mine (reading comments) and I have been thinking about it ever since.

The article is a great piece about the English speaking event on Wednesday evening of World Youth Day at the Touren Arena, renamed "Mercy Center" for the week. The author commented how people came to adoration there to meet Jesus and experience Heaven. I was there, not even inside the building, and had this feeling. I have it whenever I attend World Youth Day - I've been four times now (Toronto, Cologne, Rio, Krakow). This is an amazing gathering of Catholics who are coming for the same reason. We all want to be close to our Holy Father, experience the Church, and meet people like us.

Now, not everyone who goes to WYD is SUPER CATHOLIC, that's true of any church event. Some people go to travel and see the world on a cheap pilgrimage - what many European youth do. Sleeping outside, being wet and sweaty, walking miles every day, being crammed into public transportation, waiting in extremely long lines, sleeping on floors or cots in a school in the middle of a country you don't know. WYD is not a vacation, no one is living like a king - not even the Bishops and Cardinals who are given a lot of extra treatment.

I was prompted to write again about WYD after a talk I had with a pastor today in Memphis. I told him he was speaking with a colleague of mine last week because I was away in Poland for WYD. He said he had lunch with a couple of priests from his diocese that went and they said it was amazing. I was tired, hungry, and sweaty - but it was amazing! This is my general sentiment of the experience most of the time.

The commenters said that he was promoting a purely emotive reality and that WYD is filled with bad liturgy, kids who don't follow church teaching back home, and there isn't a lasting effect.

1. Bad Liturgy - well, there were 2 million people at the Mass on Sunday morning. Not everyone was sitting, standing, and kneeling as they would in a church (although there isn't a building that holds 2 million people, that I know of. The filed was 2 square kilometers. It was also one of the hottest days of our pilgrimage with the sun shining very brightly the entire time. We had to keep our heads covered (men and women alike) to prevent ourselves (as best we could) from passing out. Was it the best? Probably not. Was it valid and licit? Yes. Is that enough? Yes.

2. They don't follow church teaching at home - is there a good reason for this? I don't know. Are we doing enough in our youth programs to help our youth and young adults develop a relationship with Jesus Christ to want to follow His teachings? We do things backwards sometimes. The root of "love the sinner, hate the sin" (which is a phrase I dislike) is that the person comes first. They have inherit dignity because they were created by God, not because of what they do. We need to remember that even the ten commandments weren't given to the Israelites until after they had an experience of the Love of God and they wanted to know how to follow him. We will not will souls by making people follow the rules of a Church they have no connection with. They must first encounter the Lord (the event of WYD) and then learn how to follow him one step at a time.

3. There isn't a lasting effect - just look at the young adult scene in the Archdiocese of Denver and the number of priests who say they attended a WYD, you'll have an answer.

Is WYD an expense for the Church? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. Anytime 2 million young people come together to celebrate the Lord, the time is worth it. This is our Church, let's celebrate it!


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