John Allen reports on the Pope's Year in Review. He seems to say much about what I claim about World Youth Day in my book, Googling God, specifically in the chapter called Pope as Rock Star.
“What, therefore, is the nature of what happens at World Youth Day?” the pope asked rhetorically. “What are the forces which run through it? Fashionable analyses tend to consider these days as a variant of modern youth culture, as a kind of rock festival with the pope as the star. With or without faith, these festivals would be more or less the same thing, and in this way the question of God can be taken off the table. There are also Catholic voices that cut in this direction, seeing the whole thing as a big show, perhaps attractive, but ultimately of little significance for the question of faith and the presence of the Gospel in our time. By that account, these would be moments of joyful ecstasy, but at the end of the day they leave everything as it was before, without influencing one’s life in a deep way.”
Benedict then proceeded to take the critique apart.
“That analysis fails to explain the uniqueness of these days, and the special character of the joy they create, their capacity to create communion,” he said.
“First of all, it’s important to take account of the fact that the World Youth Days don’t consist just of that one week which is visible to the world,” Benedict said. “There’s a long path, exterior and interior, that leads to it. The Cross, accompanied the image of the Mother of the Lord, makes a pilgrimage through the nations. The faith, in its own way, needs to be seen and touched. The encounter with the Cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the Cross for us. The encounter with the Cross awakens in the intimacy of the young people the memory of that God who wanted to become human and suffer for us. We also see the woman that He wanted as his mother. The solemn days are simply the culmination of this long journey, with which the young people meet one another and move together towards meeting Christ.”
“In Australia, it wasn’t an accident that the long Via Crucis through the city becoming the culminating event of these days,” the pope said. “It expressed anew all that had happened in the preceding years, and pointed to Him who brings all of us together: that God who loves us all the way to the Cross.”
“Thus, the pope is not the star around which everything turns. He is totally, and solely, the Vicar. He points to the Other who stands in our midst.”
I would add one thing. That while WYD is an awesome experience of the Papacy and does indeed point towards Christ through the experience, it also is only as good as what comes after it. What kind of follow up programming exists beyond WYD? Almost none. Let's get to work.
(Photo above by Lori Rogers)