Tasting the civilisation of love
It seems almost dreamlike to think that just a week ago I was on the other side of the world and caught up in the powerful experience of World Youth Day. Judging by his comments at the Angelus on Sunday, the Holy Father is feeling something similar. He said: "I still have this occasion in which I experienced the youthful face of the Church, on my mind and in my heart. It was like a multicoloured mosaic, formed by young men and women from every part of the globe, all gathered together in the one faith in Jesus Christ'. From the moment be first sailed into Darling Harbour on Thursday to greet the young pilgrims, one could see what an impression it was making on him; he looked absolutely radiant the whole time. I don't really know how to convey the power of the experience of those days; I can't really do them justice without going on at vast length. For a week a modem secular city had come to life with the witness of these young people as a place of pilgrimage. Everywhere there were pilgrims thronging the streets, waving national flags and singing songs, but creating one spirit of joy and harmony. The Sydneysiders too were caught up in the atmosphere; they waved and greeted us wherever we went, motorists beep and truckers sound their huge klaxons. After leaving the racecourse after the papal Mass, the group was exhausted after the long walk there, the night of fitful sleep outdoors, the long queues to leave, and indeed the emotion of it all. We stood hopefully at a bus stop and along came a bus which said "Charter Only". The driver stopped and asked us where we would like to go. We told him and he invited us aboard and said he would take us there. A little further on he saw a group of German pilgrims toiling along, and they were invited aboard too. Soar the collected some
Korean nuns in grey habits, full of smiles and not much English. They were carried a few blocks before disembarking. The 'driver too got off to have his photo taken with them, as he did with each of the groups. He had spent the whole afternoon rescuing pilgrims from too long a walk home. For all the talk beforehand in the Sydney papers about protests, WYD and Pope Benedict took Sydney by storm. The city was full of an infectious joy and suddenly the Gospel was on the streets, was a real culture. The Holy Father's challenge at the WYD Mass to build a "civilisation of love" did not seem like a naive hope; there we glimpsed that this is possible. when the Holy Spirit comes in power.
For wonderful though the extraordinary party atmosphere was, its roots lay in something deeper. World Youth Day allows young people to rediscover their thirst for holiness, a holiness that is presented to them as something vital, joyful and entirely to do with authentic love. This holiness is evident in the radiant face and luminous teaching of Pope Benedict. (If you haven't alreqy done so, you must read his homilies from WYD and ask yourself how often our young people are nourished in such a way by what passes for catechesis). The queues of people waiting to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the queues for Confession and the fact that everyone is buying WYD rosaries suddenly make these sure routes to holiness seem normal and normative. That you can be holy and fully alive is testified to by the many thousands of young priests and religious brothers and sisters leading the groups, very visible in their clerical dress or in an amazing variety of religious habit and all radiating joy and integrity and a total ease with themselves and their young charges.
The large and visible presence of orders like the Missionaries of Charity, the Nashville Dominicans. the Sisters of the Gospel of Life or the Community of St Jean is a powerful inspiration to the young pilgrims. It suddenly becomes normal to discuss the possibility of vocation to the priesthood or religious life. It must be noted that these orders are attracting record vocations even in the West. They are
characterised by those essential elements of the fast Pentecost converts: a fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles that is, conformity to mind ,of the Church; a devotion to the Breaking of the Bread—that is, to the faithful and worthy celebration of the Sacraments and to Eucharistic Adoration; and an adherence to prayer and fellowship the living of an authentic and for. want of a better word, traditional understanding of religious !Fe.
WYD shows that the face of the Church is young and beautifunt shows the young are athirst for authentic and effective catechesis, anxious to learn habits of piety and how to pray, desperate fora wonky and dignified celebraticm of the Sacraments, open to the guidance and understanding of devoted teachers and pastors whose own lives witness to something of the holiness these young hearts have glimpsed or heard tell of. World Youth Day osenurns the myth that it is only tc:i be expected that the young should lapse. They want to be likoly, and when we understand and nurture that aspiration a. at WYD, we allow the Spi_rit tc renew the Church and 'world