Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Evolution of the Young

A recent report on a prominent Catholic website reported the current numbers of those registered for World Youth Day and promise, yet again, high numbers:
SYDNEY, Australia (Catholic Online) – More than 80,000 pilgrims are now numbered among those groups registered to attend the World Youth Day Sydney 2008, according to organizers of the 23rd annual event.
This being reported over a year before the actual event takes place. Organizers expect upwards to 500,000 people all between the ages of 18 to about 35 to descend on Sydney for the event that takes place every 2-3 years. The event looks to eclipse the amount of people Sydney hosted during the Olympics back in 2000 according to this legislative document from the Parliament of New South Wales.

However, even with such impressive numbers, this World Youth Day looks to actually be a bit smaller than previous ones. Numbers vary from year to year and from place to place but if one were to take a cumulative average of the international event's attendance they would find that it sits at almost 1.8 million. This was helped, in part, because of the 1995 Philippines WYD which hosted around 10 million. Without the 1995 celebration however, WYD generally attracts about 1 million youth to its celebration.

What do these young people come for?

Well, to be honest, they come to see the Pope. But there are so many other reasons they come as well, including the whole spirituality of pilgrimage and a chance to come into contact with youth from around the world and more importantly with Jesus, Mary, and the Sacraments.

Why do they come?

This question could be answered by simply restating the above paragraph but I think that the World Youth Days are symptomatic of another growing phenomenon in the Church throughout the world. Young people are embracing the Faith. Young People are embracing the Church and what it has to offer them. They are not seeking to "reinvent" the church or even "Sing a New Church Into Being." Young people are rediscovering what was thrown off in the sixties and seventies as pre-Vatican II and finding a faith that has existed for 2000 years. Now, I'm not saying that they are running to Masses celebrated according to the Missal of John XXIII, they are simply discovering that the Church of Vatican Council II IS the Church of the past 2000 years and what was handed on to them from their parent's generation was a church invented, who knows where, sometime after the Council but blaming all of its "ideas" on the Council.

They are taking the words of Paul to Timothy very seriously:

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.

What brings up this current commentary? A few things, actually. One is the book I have begun to read by Colleen Carroll called The New Faithful. It is her attempt to chronicle the very phenomenon I have just spoken about. But more recently there is an editorial written for the National Catholic Reporter in which Rita Larivee comments on this growing trend as well.

She immediately calls into question her own credibility when, in naming universal principles she has learned in her life, says that "authority is relative." Obviously she has not read Romans 13:, "whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves." But I digress...

What she is really concerned about is the fact that the average age of her publication's readership continues to rise. Take it away Rita:
The average age of an NCR reader is about 68. This average has been on a continual rise since the late ’60s, when the average age was about 36. During Vatican II, most of our readers would have been in their mid-20s to mid-30s, formative adult years.
So, if I get this right, in just under forty years, the average age of their reader ship has grown by 32 years. It seems to me that they found an audience that was locked in time. The ideas they promote do not give life but are only progressing towards death.

She then draws the line in the sand saying,
there’s a new battleground taking shape. It’s hardly life-giving for anyone, regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum. Many Catholics, particularly the young, have left quietly in search of something more meaningful.
Well, maybe it is a battleground and this is sad indeed. We should be moving toward the future as one united Church that, amidst the differing ideas, doesn't describe their differences as "battle ground." And I don't mean to address those words to Rita Larivee, I have heard plenty of "conservative" catholics speak with the same tone. This so-called "battleground" does not bring forth life, as she said, but only causes more division.

However, one should look at the two sides of what she calls the "polarized" church. One, seemingly the reader of her publication, is getting older and losing a presence, while the other, represented by the World Youth Day crowd, is growing and finding its voice.

The young Church is listening to the advice of Paul to the Thessalonians "Test everything, hold fast to what is good." To say that one needs to throw off the Church before the Council is just as wrong as saying one should throw off the Church post Vatican II. This is not what the Council envisioned. It worked for a renewal through resourcement and aggiornamento. (The new and the old.) Those who seek to embrace both are living in the true "Spirit of Vatican II" not the ambiguous spirit that is always referred to when someone is advocating their agenda.

The Church of Vatican II is the Church of Jesus Christ. It is the Church of the Apostles, the Fathers, and the Martyrs. It is the same Church as Ephesus and Nicaea, Constantinople, and Trent. It is also the Church of Mother Theresa and John Paul II. It is a Church in a New Springtime and a New Evangelization. It is a young Church, it is a vibrant Church. It is a Church that must learn from her elders and her past (including the sixties and seventies) and must be open to the Holy Spirit's guidance to the future. It is the Church that I am a member of, the Mystical Body of Christ

1 comment:

Antonia said...

Hello there!
On the topic of World Youth Day, I'm collecting some feedback about the experience any participant might have in a survey here. Well, it's been more than a year, and largely informal. Do help me to fill it up when you have some few minutes to spare! Thanks & Pax :)