Youths celebrate World Youth Day, Church in Brazil

Can you sense the buzz? It’s coming from the young people of the world as they get back to their daily lives after spending nearly a week in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day. They went to the Brazilian city searching for spiritual renewal, and by all accounts they found it.

This week’s issue conveys that spirit through an analysis by Austen Ivereigh (Page 4), a pictorial In Focus (Pages 9-12) and our editorial (Page 19).

Blogging for Our Sunday Visitor was Stephen Lenahan, a youth minister from Atlanta. Lenahan’s posts were infused with the energy and enthusiasm that can only be found in a pilgrim on the ground.

“Pope Francis truly is a pastor at heart who desires to be as close to his people as possible,” wrote Lenahan after the pontiff greeted pilgrims July 22. “Many pilgrims got close enough to reach into the pope’s vehicle as it weaved through downtown Rio traffic.”

Editor's preview of this week's issue

He described the packed Copacabana beach, which by mid-week was being called “Popacabana beach.” He likened the moment he first saw Pope Francis to “when the people in Scripture just wanted to pass through the shadow of Peter and be healed in Acts 5:15.”

After praying the Way of the Cross July 26, Lenahan wrote, “The beach very clearly had at least a million pilgrims, and all were sitting in the sand praying quietly. ... It is only Jesus that can bring that many people together and create such a sense of peace.”

My favorite post was on Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s catechetical session, in which the leader of the New York archdiocese outlined four threats to hope: ourselves, the world, other people and time.

“He stated that hope is threatened by ourself because we focus on our imperfections and failures,” Lenahan wrote. “The world threatens this virtue because of all the darkness and tragedy we see in the media. When we place our hope in other people, we are let down because, Cardinal Dolan said, ‘we can’t put ultimate hope in people that are not ultimate.’ And finally, hope is threatened by time because God takes his time, but we are impatient. ‘We want a microwave, but God works like a Crock-Pot.’”

During the July 27 vigil, Lenahan wrote that the pope spoke “as if he were talking to each one of us personally.”

“We watched and listened to Pope Francis as he told us we are a field of faith or ‘campus fidei,’ which allows seeds of faith to be sown,” he wrote. “He spoke with passion and conviction that are reminiscent of the earliest World Youth Days with Pope John Paul II.”

By the end of the week, Lenahan’s group was ready to leave — but not to get back to their comfortable lives. Rather, he said, “We are excited to share what God has done in Brazil and in the young Church.” Thanks, Stephen, for your great work. I look forward to watching the fruits of World Youth Day unfold.

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