Written by Sherry
Friday, 21 March 2008 06:58
Loved this bit from John Allen's column on the possible impact (monetary and otherwise) of the upcoming papal visit:
In 1994, one year after Denver's World Youth Day, the archdiocese registered 2,000 converts, more than any diocese in the country. Mass attendance was up 8.05 percent, whereas before it had been falling. Enrollment in Catholic schools increased 7.72 percent. Over this period, the total number of Catholics increased only 1.76 percent, so most of these gains came from pre-existing Catholics more interested in practicing the faith.
I can tell you that I've heard over and over again from Denverites that World Youth Day was the beginning of so many good things for the Archdiocese. My sister went - even though she is not Catholic - and loved it. Like so many, she felt an amazing connection with Pope John Paul II even though she only saw him at a distance,
And there's more:
In Ireland, applicants for the priesthood spiked by 20 percent in 1980, one year after a September 1979 papal visit. French Catholic authorities reported a similar phenomenon after John Paul's August 1997 visit for World Youth Day.
My question: what is the difference between the impact of World Youth Day vs. a more standard issue papal visit?
While the papal presence is hugely important for World Youth Day, what seems even more critical is the experience of being with hundreds of thousands or millions of other enthusiastic young Catholics for an extended period of time. Part of the impact is the joyful, beaming, dancing, welcoming, artsy, praying, make-a-million-new-friends-international Christian "Woodstock" atmosphere of the whole thing. (It was designed for the young. I'm always amazed at the sour comments from some conservative Catholics about World Youth Days past. Its not supposed to be a silent retreat!)
World Youth Day is an exceptionally happy experience of living Christian community, prayer, and life which transcends a million physical inconveniences. It's an experience of evangelization.
Obviously, a standard papal visit doesn't last 4 days nor is it supplemented with hundreds of other events all designed to jump start or enflame one's faith.
In a standard papal visit, the personality, gestures, and message of the Pope is the center in a "purer" way. So the difference in personality and style between John Paul II and Benedict XVI casts a bigger shadow.