CATHOLIC PewPOINT for Friday-Thursday, August 25-31, 2000
The Soul Survivors
This past week could best be summed up in one word: "Survivor." No, we're not talking about the 51 million who had nothing better to do than watch greed and voyerism in action on CBS' unadulterated sell-out of quality viewing for the sake of ratings and advertising dollars. We're really referring to Rome itself. The eternal city of three million has survived the largest contingent of pilgrims ever to grace this city of seven hills. We're referring to His Holiness Pope John Paul II, who belied his age, buoyed on by the youthful spirit of two million strong on the gently sloping hillside of Tor Vergata on the outskirts of Rome Saturday night and Sunday during the 15th Annual World Youth Days. Here's a man who is accused by liberals of being out of touch with today's youth and their needs. Tell that to those two-million plus youth and their chaperones who spent their own money to come to Rome in the hottest weekend of the searing summer, a heat wave that began in early May and has shown little sign of letting up until mid-September. We know, we were in Rome from May 9-14 this year and it was in the 90's then. Despite the unforgiving sun, the Holy Father reminded them of the Forgiving Son and in Jesus they will be refreshed always. They cheered "John Paul Two, we love you" until they were hoarse - this new generation in colorful tank tops, shorts, even bikinis. While that mode of dress was permitted because of the extenuating circumstances of the summer heat, they wouldn't have gotten inside St. Peter's without long pants or dresses no more than six inches above the knees. We know because our sons were denied access because they had on the baggy bermudas that reached almost to their ankles as teens are wont to do in today's fashion herd system.
Michael Cain, editor
The media likened the massive sea of young people camped out at Tor Vergata to Woodstock. They forgot to mention there was a big, big difference between the out-of-control rock concert in the late sixties and this gathering of the universal Church's youth: Purpose! Those who found their way to the vast farmland in upper New York back then were, thanks to the elixir of their era - marijuana - largely passive with very little purpose except to live for the now. Those who braved the stifling heat, the travails of travel and the claustrophobia of shoulder to shoulder were there because they believe. They are active. They made a sacrifice to be there. If you asked any of the two million plus who were there, if you asked any of the four million plus who were at the Holy Father's Papal Mass in the Philippines (still the largest gathering of humanity in one place ever) in 1995, or the one million plus in Paris in 1997 or one and a half million plus in Denver in 1993, you'd get the same answer to "was it worth it?" A definite "YES!"
What is it about this Sovereign Pontiff who has bridged the millenniums? Is it his personality, is it is spirit, is it zeal, is it his sanctity? It is all that and more. Why, because the Holy Spirit is in him so fully and he abides by all God asks, no matter the cost. No matter how much anyone disagrees with His Holiness, they respect him. That can be said of no other leader in the world today. Even a multitude of the millions encamped at Tor Vergata still cling to worldly values and wince when the Holy Father urges fidelity to the Commandments and chastity. They realize it infringes on their freedoms - the freedoms of contraception and sexuality. But as the weekend came to a close, many more began to fully realize what freedom really means and that is being faithful to their calling from God, to bloom where they are planted and obey God's laws. That is true freedom.
Now comes the litmus test as these two million youths return to their respective countries - 160 total - and blend into their respective cultures and society. Are they strong enough to hold their own, to enact the principles they have been imbued with and, slowly but surely, change the world one soul at a time. Can it be done? Most definitely, but it takes hard work and commitment. Jesus said it best in Matthew 20: 16, "...for many are called, but few are chosen." There will be a severe attrition rate because of the nature of the beast - that beast being satan and his wiles. Many received a rush while in Rome but that zeal will dim once they are exposed again to the world, the flesh and the devil. It is inevitable. And yet it is encouraging because, as the lyrics of an old song goes, "how are you going to keep them down on the farm once they have seen Paree?" "Paris" to them was the euphoria of seeing the Pope, of sharing their faith with countless others of like mind, of partaking as one body - a young Mystical Body of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as evidence of the true universality of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Something has to rub off and therein is the rub.
They've been exposed to the teachings and many have come away encouraged that the future of Holy Mother Church is in better hands than they thought. What could have been the "lost generation" or, due to the magnimity of abortion, the "last generation" has seen a renaissance thanks to the persistence, compassion and foresight of a Polish Pontiff who is forever youthful. While the rest of the world is turned topsy turvy by the temptations of temporal things, the Vicar of Christ for the past 22 years has kept the bow of the Barque of Peter headed steadily in the right direction.
It was the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the direction of her Divine Son that prompted the Holy Father to inaugurate the ingenious World Youth Days shortly after his pontificate began. Over this time, the menacing typhoon of the culture of death and the waves of greed, lust and power have battered at the hull and some have panicked, plunging overboard out of fear and weakness. But for the most part the crew has stayed in tact and those who crew the ship, the millions of loyal Catholics who have risen above the schisms and heresies swirling about, have emerged unscathed and still stand firmly on deck. This is not to say many have not suffered the sea sickness of liturgical abuse, or the scurvy of persecution, or the wobbly legs of unprepared apologetics, or even for some the tsunami of martyrdom.
Yet through it all many loyal parents, grandparents, bishops, priests, religious and dedicated teachers have remained faithful to Christ and His Church and for that the rewards are great. They have succeeded in passing the baton to the new generation in following the time-honored tradition of passing down the traditions and teachings of Holy Mother Church. For that they, who will help guide this generation and tranfer the compass of Catholicism when the time is right, are truly the Survivors. They have shown by their actions and fidelity that they can pass any test administered to them by God or the world, While CBS had only one survivor, and one whose morals and ethics come into great question, the Church has countless, loyal survivors whose morals and ethics enhance their eventual status in Heaven and, in obedience to Christ's command and the Holy Father's urging, they are endeavoring to preach the Gospel to everyone they meet including the youth today - tomorrow's leaders of the Church. The fat-cats at CBS had a sole survivor for their summer efforts, but these brave and endearing souls, who are imparting the wisdom of the teachings, dogmas and traditions of the Church without compromise, have much more for their everyday efforts. For that we hail them as the "soul survivors."
For past editorials for the last two years, click on CATHOLIC PewPOINT Archives