21st World Youth Day
The WYD 2008 will be held in the beautiful city of Sydney and the Australian federal and state governments have pledged $40 million towards the event. Well done! Do visit the excellent WYD 2008 website here. And it's not too early to register! According to the media, all hotels in Sydney for that July has already been booked solid!
In his message for today, the Holy Father said:
"We will prepare for that great appointment [WYD 2008] reflecting together on the theme 'The Holy Spirit and the mission' in successive stages. This year our attention will focus on the Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth, who reveals Christ to us, the Word made flesh, opening the heart of each one to the Word of salvation that leads to the fullness of Truth. Next year, 2007, we will meditate on a verse from the Gospel of John: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (13:34). We will discover more about the Holy Spirit, Spirit of Love, who infuses divine charity within us and makes us aware of the material and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters. We will finally reach the world meeting of 2008 and its theme will be: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8)"."It's time to start praying, reflecting and reading the Word, as the Pope asks of us, and I hope that I may be able to attend WYD 2008... O Mater, Salus Populi Romani, ora pro me.
On the topic of youth: I found the following from John L. Allen Jr very interesting. I am reproducing it in full here as the link content changes weekly, and I acknowledge that the following belongs by copyright to The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company:
"On April 3, I [John Allen Jr] lectured at the University of Texas Catholic Center in Austin, which is a ministry of the Paulist Fathers. The next day, I sat down with a group of 10 students active at the center, ranging in age from 18 to 33, representing a wide cross-section of majors, ethnicities, and backgrounds. We shared that quintessential collegiate experience -- Domino's Pizza -- and talked about issues in the church.
What became clear is that these young people are deeply "intentional" Catholics, meaning that in this day and age, their faith is not something they picked up in the air, but the result of a personal process of thought and decision. They didn't start out as believers and only later discover that some aspects of church teaching are counter-cultural; they know the broader culture is hostile to some of what the church stands for, and have made a conscious decision to embrace it anyway.
All expressed deep admiration for Pope John Paul II.
"He had a tough childhood, and he lived through war-torn Europe," said Paolo Puccini, 18, a Mechanical Engineering major. "Most people probably would have had a total loss of faith. But he found hope, and love. He saw the goodness in the world and in other people."
Amelia Perry, 20, an Asian Studies and history major, put it simply: "He could do no wrong."
Pushing these young Catholics to dig deeper, to look at the church "warts and all," I learned that their frustrations are rarely the ones that journalists and sociologists usually assume they should have -- teachings on birth control and homosexuality, for example, or power in the church.
Instead, their major complaint seemed to be with pedagogy and communications.
Religious education and preaching, they said, rarely offers the meaty content that a Catholic needs. Further, they said, even when the church does provide solid content, it rarely does so in an accessible, engaging way.
In other words, these 20-somethings share something of the desire of the Vatican II generation for a more "modern" church -- but, unlike Baby Boomers, by "modern" they mean technological sophistication and savvy about engaging the cultural debate, not doctrinal change or structural reform.
"The church has to modernize, not in the sense of changing its mind, but in strategies to communicate its ideas," said Puccini.
Riccardo Gutiérrez, 20, a microbiology major, said that if he were pope for a day, his top priority would be "information."
"The reasons for the teaching are there, but you have to sit down and talk with priests, or find it in books," he said. "On homosexuality, for example, it's not just that the church doesn't agree with it -- there's a deep explanation, but people don't know what it is."
Perry was more blunt. When asked what her papal agenda would be, she shot back, "Fire all the PR people for the church!" Laughing, she said that had come out a bit harsher than she meant it, but added, "It's time for new blood."
Several expressed frustration, for example, with the limited use made by the Vatican and the U.S. bishops of the Internet.
Maria Fredericks, 19, an honors major, said she had occasionally visited the Vatican Web site, but that it is "difficult to use" and largely offers lengthy texts.
"I want bullet points," she said. "I want easy-to-digest pieces. I want this to be presented in ways that will actually reach people."
When I suggested that putting a couple of them to work for an afternoon would likely produce a much snappier Internet operation for the church, heads nodded aggressively.
Fredericks, who said she's writing her thesis on communications strategy for the church, was especially emphatic.
"When it comes to birth control, for example, lots of people believe the church contributes to over-population in places such as India, China and Africa," Fredericks said. "They don't know how the church empowers women, or about the reality of demographics. We have to be smarter about getting that out."
None of this means these young Catholics are incapable of substantive criticism.
Puccini, for example, said he had been disappointed that John Paul II did not do more to demand "accountability" for the sexual abuse crisis. He also said the church should do a better job of projecting compassion for homosexuals, even while maintaining its present doctrine.
Brandon Kraft, 21, said he embraces the church's teaching on the priesthood, but would like to see women in other sorts of leadership positions at senior levels, such as chancellors of dioceses and diocesan advisory councils.
"The church tends to be a boy's club on top and a women's club on bottom," Kraft said. "We need to even it out a little bit."
Claudia Torres, 33, majoring in materials science and engineering, said she felt sometimes there was too much razzle-dazzle around John Paul II.
"I remember when he came to my home, in Mexico," she said. "Everyone was so excited to see him, but no one remembered what he said."
Yet these comments were offered in a spirit of constructive critique, not anger, and most said they're turned off by attempts to see the church in ideological terms as a struggle between left and right.
"Things are not going to stay as extremist as they are," Perry said. "By the time we're in our 50s or 60s, it won't be the same."