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Did World Youth Day have a downside?

Too much rock concert and not enough catechesis, says one commentator

Did World Youth Day have a downside?

Picture: Vanderlei Almeida/AFP

Connor Malloy for Catholic World Report

August 16, 2013

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“Who’s the church?”

“We are!”

“Where’s the church?”

“Right here!”



The “youth animator” at the center for English-speaking pilgrims in Rio de Janeiro was revving up the crowd of young adults, no small feat considering it was 9 o’clock in the morning. It was the Friday of World Youth Day, and attendees had flooded city buses, streets, and cafés with WYD-related backpacks, clothing, and the all-important dangling ID lanyards. Pope Francis had his hero’s welcome the night before on Copacabana Beach and less than 12 hours later the pilgrims were back for another round of morning catechesis, this time with Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston.

This kind of morning wake-up call had been common throughout WYD. Middle-aged Christian rock musicians coaxed the young audience to stand up, sing, dance, hug each other, and shout praise to the Lord. “Let’s make some noise!” It seemed to have its effect. The target audience enjoyed it. During the slower tunes—which bordered on love songs in tone but emphasized communion with Christ—some of the young women would sway with eyes closed; they knew every word.

The animator hastily read an academic-sounding introduction for Cardinal O’Malley while the crowd, having grown used to this format over the previous three days, chatted while shifting for comfortable sitting positions—the cardinal’s background and accomplishments didn’t seem too important. But, as if on cue, all applauded, most stood, and Cardinal O’Malley had the attention of 5,000 pilgrims from around the world.

Cardinal O’Malley’s catechesis, on “mission,” aimed at connecting the New Evangelization to the mission of all believers. It was an overwhelming, strong talk, and his plea to “avoid the trap of the hookup culture” received respectable applause. But for all of its insight and courageous urging to keep the faith amid a culture that doesn’t understand the moral foundations of the Church, I had the impression his talk did not have its desired effect on its audience. Before long, heads started dropping and eyelids started drooping. An audience distracted by its surroundings and coming down from the caffeinated enthusiasm of the animator seemed mostly inattentive to what O’Malley was saying.

It certainly was not the cardinal’s fault—the same thing had happened during Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s catechesis two days earlier. But this episode epitomized, for me, the World Youth Day conundrum.

Full Story: The Downside of Rio

Source: Catholic World Report

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