YOUTH AND FAITH IN THE THIRD MILLENNIUM
ROME, Aug. 17 (FIDES/CWNews.com) -- The
following is an editorial commentary on World Youth Day by Father
Bernardo Cervellera, the director of the Fides news service:
The sight of the ocean of young people at St
John's and St Peter's on the evening of the August 15 bank holiday
in Rome was, to say the least, reassuring.
After modest forecasts by the organizers, and
some fears of a Jubilee "flop," the enthusiasm of more
than 700,000 young Christian pilgrims in Rome said a lot about the
weight of the Catholic faith in the world of youth-- so often the
object of deprecation in what is seen as a hostile, impenetrable
planet. Most of the pilgrims came led by their youth leaders, of
parish or movement, a priest or a nun or lay person who were there
dancing with them on the evening of the 15th because they share life
with them day after day.
But this living ocean is also intimidating.
Have they really come because they believe? Over the last few days
the press, political leaders, sociologists, and others have said
they think the "Pope's young people" are just like all the
others: that they live in packs, that they come to Rome as if they
were going to a football match, that they listen to catechesis but
then spend the evening and night dancing and drinking.
These 700,000 young people did dance on August
15th, and they did drink-- water.
Water hoses were brought in-- not to calm the
crowds but to cool them as they waited patiently, expectantly for
the Pope, like children waiting for their father. The word of the
day was that this appointment was better than any football match or
rock concert. After the meeting with the Pope, in both squares, no
cans of beer or marijuana had been consumed. It was better than any
concert or match.
Those who propose liberalizing drug laws
should be reminded that what young people want is not something to
suppress their desires, but someone to love them, to recognize their
dignity, and to pull them out of the various humiliating situations
in which many adults drown young people. John Paul II said:
"Never think you are just a number in an anonymous crowd. Each
of you is precious for Christ; he loves each one
tenderly, even those who are not aware of his love."
The Pope's frank question-- "What have
you come for; whom are you looking for?"-- brushed away any
ambiguity. And the young people's answer-- a football-style roar:
"Jesus, Jesus"-- might have caused amusement among some
sophisticated intellectuals, even Catholics. But that cry came from
the heart; these young people have come to Rome in search of Jesus
Young people who gather to pray and sing of
their faith on a hot summer holiday evening are not just tourists or
culture fans. One young pilgrim from Latvia risked an attack of
phlebitis after three days and nights in a coach to Rome. The joy of
meeting so many other Catholics makes young Hong Kong teenagers
forget they are missing their daily shower: "Here with you all,
we have really encountered Jesus", one of them told a Fides
The Pope has one goal: to help all pilgrims to
have a personal meeting with Jesus Christ. And this is also the goal
of bishops, cardinals, educators, and committed lay people who are
here. For too long the faith has been regarded only as a set of
rules to keep, a series of principles to uphold-- principles which
demand a lot-- but not as a way of life.
For John Paul II, Jesus Christ is the reason
for our wonder at creation, for us, men and women. It is in Christ
that mystical longings, struggles to protect the environment or to
further justice, find energy and intelligence. The threat to the
faith in the 3rd millennium will not come from our youth; it will be
from monotonous, passionless educators. Like those who support the
legalized use of drugs, they speak of emotions without saying
"about whom," of commitment but not "for whom;"
they speak of wonder without saying "thanks to whom."
The Pope led the way on that August 15
evening, when he said: "First of all I want to tell you that I
believe in Jesus Christ our Lord." There followed the story of
his vocation-- not a sentimental journey but a witness of his life
laid in the hands of the Lord. Only the rediscovery of personal
witness of faith will guarantee a lively Church of the 3rd millenium.