From Rio: Cardinal Dolan and threats against hope

Wednesday was a great day for our pilgrim group. We went to the Vivo Rio site where all the English-speaking pilgrims have been gathering for sessions and concerts sponsored by the bishops of the United States, Canada, Australia, England and Wales. It was a very packed venue, especially since Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was giving the morning catechesis and Mass.

Cardinal Dolan began the session by teaching the youth from around the world about the threats against hope. He told us that hope is threatened by four main areas:

  1. Our self
  2. The world
  3. Other people
  4. Time

In all humility, I will try to capture some of what Cardinal Dolan shared with the pilgrims about the four threats. He stated that hope is threatened by our self because we focus on our imperfections and failures. 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," Cardinal Dolan said.

He then described what it was like "peeking out from behind the curtains" on the loggia the night Pope Francis was elected. He looked out over Rome and saw the ruins of the fallen Roman Empire, and then he looked at the legacy of Peter still standing strong on the balcony. It was a reminder that God does not always work on our time and so not to lose hope in Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate and always has the victory in the end.

Q&A with Cardinal Dolan

After his brilliant discourse on the virtue of hope, Cardinal Dolan opened the floor for questions. A pilgrim from South Carolina asked what the best perk of being a cardinal is, and Cardinal Dolan replied, "being saluted by the Swiss Guard, but more importantly the privilege of electing the Holy Father in the conclave." A pilgrim from South Africa asked what his favorite books are beside the Bible and the Catechism. Dolan had a long list for this but ended on a very high note that he "really loves anything written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI."

One pilgrim from the United States dared to ask Cardinal Dolan which event he prayed harder at — the conclave or the Al Smith Dinner! This got the entire crowd laughing and listening intently for the response. Cardinal Dolan laughed and admitted it may have been a tie on how much he prayed. He then explained that he had to fly back to New York City for the Al Smith Dinner from a synod on the New Evangelization in Rome. He found it perfectly fitting, as he saw his task to bring the New Evangelization to President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Cardinal Dolan encouraged the young people to never be afraid when opportunities for the New Evangelization arise.

My favorite question came from an Australian pilgrim who walked to the microphone and said, "Your Eminence!" Cardinal Dolan quickly retorted, "I'm here!" After the laughter subsided, the pilgrim asked how young people can help their friends love the Church, because many love God but do not love the Church. Cardinal Dolan's response was brilliant! He said:

"Oh yes! I know these people you speak of. They want a king without a kingdom. They want a general without an army. They want a shepherd with no sheepfold. They want God the Father but want to be the only child. The problem is Jesus cannot be separated from the Church; they are one. What would I know about him without her?"

Overall, the entire experience with Cardinal Dolan was very uplifting and left all of us feeling a renewed sense of hope and vigor for the New Evangelization.

Stephen Lenahan is the director of youth ministry at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, Ga., and is blogging for Our Sunday Visitor from Rio throughout World Youth Day.