I watched part of the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony in Madrid, Spain, and talk about great television! From every ethnicity and country stood throngs of youth jam-packed into the square, waving their countries’ flags and they were all absolutely beaming. They were exuberant with joy and excitement at welcoming the Holy Father and being welcomed by him.
I readily admit I was overcome with emotion at the sight. So many young people in every manner of dress, yet they all seemed to be clothed with the same electrifying spirit. I watched some of them present a thoughtful gift to Pope Benedict on behalf of their nation, and each of them got his childlike warm smile and blessing. The rice from a young Korean woman; a flower garland from the young lady from Japan (she looked like a walking flower herself — so lovely!); the sombrero from the young man from Honduras; each one given with sincerity and gratitude, and equally received.
It was a striking thing to watch. Young Catholics in full-spectrum color, bubbling over with enthusiasm. This, after all, is supposedly the Church that has abandoned young people and oppressed women. I defy anyone to watch what’s going on in Madrid and tell me the Church is not alive with young blood! What I saw tonight gives me great hope for my Church, and I shamefully admit I am often susceptible to discouragement. We, the Church, will indeed climb the steep hill before us because the souls doing the climbing are young and strong.
I saw young people screaming, crying and jumping for joy like lovesick fans at a rock concert, but their affection is for their Papa! This young flock knows him and they respect him. They know him because he speaks the truth without condescension or apology. They know him because he offers them hope that will never be shaken.
They recognize in Papa’s voice the One who truly loves them and gave Himself for them. They hunger for that love and so they long to hear the words of the Holy Father, for he communicates the joy, the love, and the promise of Divine Mercy. He dares them to build their lives on the firm foundation of the Person of Christ rather than the flimsy, shifting sands of their era.
Those who wag their finger and look disdainfully at the Catholic Church and pile up their scathing criticism about this World Youth Day are yelling with their eyes shut. They have no idea what they’re describing because they’ve never seen it. They’re filled with hatred, anger, resentment, disappointment, and other, less understandable motivation. Like scrawny, feral cats backed into a corner and sprayed with a hose, they’re just hissing and clawing, all fangs and screeches.
One such cat is Amanda Marcotte. Slate had the bad sense (or was it endorsement?) to publish her latest round of anti-Catholic vomit this week. There was nothing at all new in her ravings, just the same ol’, same ol’: The Church is misogynist and hates women; the Church hates sex and thinks sex is dirty; the Church hates women who’ve had an abortion; the Church is full to the rafters will creepy pedophiles who practically eat little children for lunch; the Church has no remorse whatsoever for the crimes of her priests and couldn’t care less who got hurt; and on and on it goes.
Well, Amanda, there’s only one thing to say. Sit down, honey. You must be exhausted! I mean, the energy it takes to perpetuate this much venomous anger toward the Church must be enormous! It’s clearly consuming you, so why don’t you just let it go?
Seriously, Amanda, come on home. Are you Catholic? It’s not your fault if you were never properly taught your Church’s teachings. Sadly, most of us weren’t. However, you’re an adult now, so it is your fault if you don’t now seek out the truth and learn to separate fact from twisted fiction.
The good news is there’s a plethora of great books, CD’s and other material that can bring you up to speed real quick if you just make an effort. You’ll find a much different Church than the one you’re railing against so viciously. You’ll find a very different God than the one you slander so callously. But you have to seek. That’s the rule: seek and ye shall find.
If you’re not interested in seeking, well, I’m sorry to hear that. But in that case, please close your mouth and keep your vile and ignorant screeds to yourself. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and you don’t have the right to spread lies and hatred.
Did you see those people in Madrid, Amanda? Did you see the life and freedom on the faces of that crowd? Do those really look like mindless sheep to you? Do those vibrant young women really look oppressed or restricted to you?
They are filled with something I believe you desperately want and need: real joy. The pure joy that comes from knowing you are loved. Endlessly, completely loved. And you are, Amanda. I’m truly sorry you don’t know that. There’s no way you could know that and still behave the way you do.
They’re also brimming with the excitement of being part of the Body of Christ on earth. By God’s grace, they are hearing the call to transform their generation by the witness of their lives. They’re getting ready to fling their nets wide and haul in the catch of the century. And through their faithfulness, our dying culture will be reborn. By God’s grace…
As I said, I’m prone to discouragement about all of this. I, too, see the statistics revealing the chasm between what Catholics are taught and what they’re actually doing. I know there is much, much work to be done in catechizing generations of Catholics who don’t know two bits about their faith. I’m frustrated on a daily basis by so-called Catholics who give the Church “the finger” and live like any other pagan.
I’m disgusted by the betrayal of public officials who are supposed to be Catholic, yet devote their lives to tearing down every moral truth when they should know better. But you know what, Amanda? Those folks are not the Church. They’re just hecklers and criminals in sheep’s clothing.
The Church — the real Church — is seen in the faith and hope now gathered in Madrid. God is still in His heaven, and our High Priest still offers Himself for us every second of every day. Our Blessed Mother still intercedes for us. She’s still teaching us the only way to freedom is through humble obedience to the lovable will of her Son.
I am not ashamed of being Catholic. I’m not ashamed to join with the youth in Madrid in expressing profound affection, love and loyalty toward our courageous Holy Father, our Papa! Nearly half a million young people traveled to Spain for this WYD! You can’t diminish that no matter what you say.
The Catholic Church is both Spirit and mud. We bring the mud; Jesus brings the Spirit. In recent years there’s been way too much mud. There is much house-cleaning yet to do, and many of us are standing with broom at the ready. You’ll find, Amanda, that no one is more disgusted by the filth that infiltrated our House than faithful Catholics.
Yet Christ has not and will not abandon us. The gates of hell will not prevail. And neither will you, Amanda. Lay down your hurt and hatred. Wouldn’t you rather be joyful? Come home. We’ll leave the Light on for you.