Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Remembrance of WYD past

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.


Kate said...

Apparently Denver is kind of infamous for being poorly organized. Toronto was my WYD, and it was amazing! I filled my journal with quotes from the Pope and the various speakers I saw, and some of those remarks are still feeding me spiritually: "We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son."

I hope that the attendees make the transition from the mountain top to the harvest gracefully.

mrsdarwin said...

Kate, that's what I've heard about Denver, and I can confirm it from the ground. My siblings went to Toronto and Frankfurt, and came back with general impressions of order.

I've said before that I hover on the edge of extravert and introvert, and perhaps my reaction to Denver was more of an introvert's response: I didn't feed off the energy of the crowds. On the other hand, I was much more moved when I saw Pope John Paul in a general audience in Rome several years later. The difference was that I could both see and hear him, and that the crowd's atmosphere was of respect, not insane youthful exuberance.

Jenny said...

Thinking about WYD in Denver makes me a little sad. I remember hearing about it beforehand and wondering what it would be like to go, but that kind of thing was never mentioned at church. I thought it was too far away.

If I hadn't seen it on the news, I would have never known it had happened. The subject of WYD never came up at my parish until....

Several weeks later, some members of the "youth group" got up for the homily to talk about the "youth group's" trip to WYD. GAAHHH!! I was so mad.

You see, my parish didn't have a youth group to speak of. There was an annual skiing trip in January and that was it. I don't ski and don't particularly like being cold so I never went on the skiing trips, but was always in Sunday school and Mass. Apparently someone decided to call up the usual skiers and go to Denver. It was never publicly advertised and it was galling to have the trip presented as an activity of the youth group.

So I could have gone if I had known the right people or liked to ski. Sigh.