Leonard: I love cheesecake
Sheldon: No you don't, you're lactose intolerant.
Leonard: I think its a good idea!
Like so many of my generation, we find a bit of wisdom behind the laughs (and not all of them appropriate) of CBS' The Big Bang Theory. A few weeks ago someone asked me in the comboxes here what I thought about World Youth Day. This scene came to my mind when reading that question. I'm really not a fan of World Youth Day, but I still to this day think its a good idea. Another way of saying it is that World Youth Day is a terrible idea, and the only thing worse than World Youth Day is no World Youth Day. This came into my mind when I read the following article at Catholic World Report.
Let's start with the negative first. Now before you get all whiny and worked into a fit of nerdrage, realize that the negative is first. There will be things I like. Yet my problems with WYD are my problems with a lot of Modern Catholicism as well: it is entirely mediocre. Most the people there aren't really practicing the Catholic Faith, and if they are practicing a faith, it is typically a very watered down relativist faith. Cardinal O'Malley rails against the hookup culture to a bunch of youths, several who were participating in said hookup culture the night before. They mostly tune him out. Everyone loves His Eminence's humility (and a keen understanding of social media), but he's not a rock star. Most of the people at World Youth Day are there to be entertained, and this article chronicles a lot of those stories.
Then there's the irreverence and the inevitable clerics looking like morons. There's a difference between being a fool for Christ, and just being a fool. The dancing bishops apparently didn't get that memo. Communion in plastic cups, hosts desecrated, liturgies rife with abuse, even during the liturgically proper days of Benedictine Pontifical Masses. When you have that many people in one place, you are going to run into problems. For those trying to bring a dose of liturgical sanity to the Thunderdome that is their neighborhood parish, people point to these masses, done under the Popes very nose as proof that their proposed stupidity is somehow okay.
Everyone always tells me I'm good at complaining, and this article is proof positive. Do I have any alternatives to this, short of scrapping World Youth Day entirely? No. Expecting a bunch of teenagers and twenty year old young adults to be stoic saints is asking the laws of gravity to cease their existence. When stories of the horrible morality and condom usage comes out, WYD apologists always try to downplay the stories. Why? A bunch of hormonally charged kids and young adults away from home, surrounded by a bunch of other hormonally charged kids and young adults of the opposite sex...... don't be surprised if something happens. Sure, it is wrong and sinful, but it isn't unexpected. We already grant that the kids there aren't perfect and a product of their culture in so many things, why not this one?
There's an uncomfortable truth about Christianity: the majority of its practitioners absolutely suck at it. Even we who do a good job were pretty awful at it, especially in our twenties. I was going to Stuebenville apologetics conferences at the age of twenty to hear some good stuff..... but you better believe I was picking up phone numbers whenever I could, the more the better. Out of 3 million partcipants, it would be a miracle if 33% are practicing their faith devoutly, and an even greater miracle if out of those 66% not doing so, ten percent had their faith fundamentally changed five to ten years from now.
Yet in spite of all of this, I don't want to get rid of World Youth Day. Why not? Because if even just twenty percent of the people there take their faith seriously...... that's still six hundred thousand people united in the Lord! Even if it is just five percent, that is still 150,000 people together on fire for their faith. That's a pretty powerful thing. Think of all the graces those souls received from the miles of confessionals erected. Think of all the opportunities these individuals got to network with other solid Catholics from across the globe. Many of these Catholics can't find two or three practicing Catholics in their own parish amongst their age group, and here they find a few hundred thousand.
As one who went to Mass alone for eight years because I had trouble finding such Catholics, I don't want to take away such an opportunity. For me, the only thing more sacreligious and irreverent than World Youth Day is not having World Youth Day.