The post-Copacabana Beach parish…

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While many Catholics are regaling in the afterglow of the much-touted and “highly successful” World Youth Day (WYD) 2013 in Rio, there are signs that papal spectacles like these—“circuses” some might say—should be reassessed for their ultimate value in evangelizing Catholic youth.

One young Catholic—sincere and searching for the truth but not quite sure what truth is—recently told me that young people are leaving the Church in droves because they “don’t feel the Church loves us…present company excepted, of course.”

It was for this purpose—to reach out to evangelize youth, demonstrating Mother Church’s love for them and their salvation—that Blessed John Paul II established WYD.  Over the decades, the media’s images of all of those young people—millions in some instances—traveling to distant locales to unite in prayer, to be catechized, and to participate in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist—has been edifying for many Catholics and especially members the Curia who are already preparing for the next WYD in Poland.

PF Rio

But, there’s another aspect of  WYD that isn’t being reported and discussed, one that casts a shadow over WYDs, in general, and raising the question “Should WYD be held?”, in particular.

In “The Downside of World Youth Day,” Connor Malloy describes some of what’s not being reported.  For example, large group sessions dedicated to catechesis—two featuring Cardinals O’Malley and Dolan—didn’t have their desired effect upon the audience.  The problem? Everything else competing for the audience’s attention.  At the opening Mass, Malloy notes:

…hordes of pilgrims were wandering around, popping in at food tents and taking pictures of Copacabana Palace during the Consecration. It was beyond easy to take one’s eyes off the ball, and this identity crisis—between being a pilgrim and being a tourist—presented a constant struggle.

This is nothing new.  Malloy tells of an author who related that, following WYD 2000 in Rome, “mounds of used condoms were reportedly found scattered on the grounds—a most eloquent monument to relativism.”

For Malloy, this detachment, those distractions, and the immoral behavior raise two questions: Are we serious about the faith? And, what faith are we spreading?  He answers:

When contemplating the emerging Catholic youth, the target audience of WYD 2013, one has to ask, with what they have already witnessed in their lives from cultural, domestic, economic, and social perspectives—from Hollywood, secularism, capitalism, and the iPhone—how much of a role does Catholicism really play in their everyday lives? And what kind of Catholicism is it, anyway? Because from what I saw in Rio, for many there is a wink-wink, “do as I say not as I do” mentality about the Catholic faith.

Looking with an unvarnished eye at these papal spectacles and what they have become in some ways,  have they outlived their purpose?  Arguably, there may be better ways to evangelize Catholic youth.

More substantively, are those outdoor liturgies a disservice to the Eucharist?  Is Mass to be a spectacle—pulsating with dyathrambic rhythms to which the congregants bump and grind while slurping down a latté—or is the Mass  a sacrament—an encounter with the Living God?

“Why can’t it be both?” some may ask.

Malloy observes:

That young pilgrims may have confused WYD with a rock concert is understandable. The question is, can we trust them to see the substance beyond the fluff, the Incarnation beyond the entertainment? Chances are these pilgrims love challenges; we must challenge them to swim against the tide of relativism that exists even within the Church itself, and to surrender themselves to Christ’s redeeming love.

Time will tell when many in that crowd—the “sheep” Pope Francis wants to bring “home” to the Church—return to their dioceses and parishes and  “shake things up,” as the Pope instructed them. What will happen when these young people discover that the Church’s teaching hasn’t changed?  Then, too, should they be allowed to turn liturgy in their parishes into mini-Copacabanas? Will they once again leave, and this time, for good?

If young people are leaving Church in droves because they don’t “feel the Church loves us,” one wonders what kind of mother they are looking for.



To read Connor Malloy’s article, click on the following link:

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  1. The problem is not WYD but the life teen masses. Like a priest in my diocese asked the teens. What are you going to do when the music stops? Sure WYD is not perfect, what is. Been to three myself.

  2. Two words-Canterbury Tales. Pilgrimages were never perfect soul elevating affairs, but that doesn’t mean we should drop them altogether. Never been to WYD, and as I don’t like crowds I don’t think I will go. But many young people coming together to share the faith, go to confession, go to mass, can’t be all bad.

  3. Obviously, there are a few with unhealthy attitudes. There would also be some who do not get fully involved in some of the activities because of language problems. However, there is so much good that comes from events like WYD. For thousands there is either a revival or a renewal of faith. Some of them become priests and nuns and many get involved in works of charity because of their WYD experience. We should keep it going.

  4. WYD is suppose to bring people together and worship and fellowship…I don’t believe it should be a “rock concert” as the only instrument that should be played is an organ…no drums, electric guitars and all that rubbish…is suppose to be a solemn time where the love of God is overflowing in the hearts of all…..yes,,WYD should stay no matter what….

  5. “Let the children come to me”?

    “No, no, we need a proper setting in a classroom, a million classrooms, like CCD, where nothing much happens already, and no Eucharist.” Peter?

    Jesus can handle ignorant desecration of His Eucharist in the yearning youth swarming about trying to maybe get to know Him and see His effect in others. He handled the Passion, He can put up with any offenses here in His Mercy and Love of these youth. Has this guy missed th entire point of Christ?

  6. It seemed like Malloy didn’t make his case. He voiced concerns about relativism but didn’t back it up with evidence. The big clincher, evidence of that sin which teens are most prone to commit when unsupervised, came secondhand from an unnamed author describing a different event.

    It does seem like the world’s most famous party beach was a bad location choice, though. And given the poverty in Rio, I wonder if there were organized corporal acts of mercy as part of the event. But I don’t haven’t read much about it, so I don’t know.

  7. I know our Holy Father is doing what he can to reach those who seemingly have turned a deaf ear to Christ. I think we should not underestimate a loving Father in heaven who wills not the death of any sinner. Even with the worst liturgies done in the most unlikely ways, Christ is still present. His presence makes all the difference. Otherwise we would all be lost. There are few, few and far between beautifully done liturgies. One has to keep one’s eyes on Christ, not on man. I have trouble enough with my heart and mind during most of the Masses I attend. I need not focus on all the abuses and the distractions. Lift up the mind and heart to Him who loves us. He desires our hearts more than anything.

  8. The parable of the scattered seed comes to mind. Most of the seed didn’t grow into plants, but the seed that did land in the fertile soil grew into thirty, sixty, or a hundred times the original amount that was planted.

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