This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to.
While I was away, I was contacted by a friend of mine looking for a pilgrim’s perspective on my experience of WYD for ABC’s Religion and Ethics portal. Here is my humble contribution…
Attending the opening Mass of WYD 2013 on Copacabana Beach, I was blown away by the vibrancy, the joy and the sheer mass of humanity. Never will you see so many different national flags in one place – though, paradoxically, in that same place, an event takes place that renders nationality irrelevant.Here, people from all races and nations gather to pray and have Mass. Holy Communion has never been more literal or tangible to me than when I am standing among hundreds of people from twelve different countries lining up to receive the Eucharist. Everything in Rio is in Portuguese, so suffice to say it is a struggle to understand anything that is going on. However, we come to Mass and suddenly everything makes sense again. I know which prayers are being said, I know when to stand, to sit and to kneel as if I was at my regular parish Mass. The power of seeing thousands of flags fall still as everyone kneels at the consecration renders all our differences irrelevant. Here we are, kneeling before the sacrifice of a Jewish carpenter and we are one. We are one body, one Church, one people.
Catholicism is paradoxical.
When one grasps this, both World Youth Day and the Catholic Church begin to make much more sense. The fact of the matter is the Catholic Church is not dying. I challenge anyone who announces the death of Catholicism (and religious belief in general) to come and see a World Youth Day.