The current World Youth Day in Brazil has Catholics of a certain age reminiscing about going to see the Pope in Denver in 1993. The math doesn't lie -- that was twenty years ago. And I was there.
That shirt now -- it was a big conversation starter. It said "The name above all names. JESUS", and below was a list of famous names, and everyone wanted to read down the list: Napoleon, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Marie Curie, William Shakespeare, Chuck Berry, etc. I am sorry to say that I am not reading anything devotional, but Foundation by Isaac Asimov.
I remember the trip to Denver (the pilgrimage, we were supposed to call it) as being fun and chaotic, but not a time of intense spiritual formation. There was too much noise, too much bustle, too much carnival. The only phrase I can recall from the Pope's talks and sermon was "the culture of death" -- it was very difficult to hear, and almost impossible to see, him. I have mostly sensory impressions of that week: the roar of the crowds, the red baseball caps our group wore, how cold it was at night at Cherry Creek State Park, how the group with the guitars and the drum wouldn't stop playing all night, how hard it was to choke down McDonalds food by the end of the week, everybody singing "We Are One Body". I didn't eat at McDonalds for years afterwards, and I still twitch when I hear that song.
Does that sound as if I had a horrible time? I didn't. Sensory impressions aren't everything. I formed friendships on the trip that I still cherish. I remember the excitement of wondering if my youngest brother would be born while I was gone (he waited, considerately). But one big themed experience isn't enough to sustain a spiritual lifetime. Not all of our group have remained Catholic, or even Christian. It's good to be up on the mountain sometimes, but you can only be a mile high for so long.
God bless the pilgrims in Brazil, and help them to remain faithful after the carnival is over.