When I heard for the first time that the next World Youth Day would be in Brazil, I was really excited because having previously been to Brazil about some 10 times before, this has only been in transit (unfortunately airports transfer lounges don’t provide great opportunities for cultural interchange) so now with World Youth Day I have a great excuse for a real, proper visit.
Some of the best comments I hear about Brazil come from my siblings, who have backpacked extensively around it during their summer holidays and they have pictured it to me like some sort of earthly paradise – beautiful beaches, great weather, abundant food and lovely people. My brother has actually gone as far as to say that he would love to live in Rio de Janeiro one day! – yes, apparently it is THAT good.
Admittedly, there is another reason why I am excited about having this World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. The Papal Visit and World Youth Day in Madrid together with the increasing use of social networking, have blended to create a sort of revival particularly amongst the new generation of Catholics in the UK. Nationally, we are all connected with one another, speaking on facebook or twitter on a daily basis, and often meeting at one of the several events that happen weekly, monthly or yearly. The Evangelium Conference, Youth2000 retreat or the Good Counsel Network Ball are just a few of the events that come to mind but there are many more, where fellow Catholic twitterers and facebook friends – ‘the virtual parish’ – gather to pray and to play.
Internationally, social media has allowed us to live the ‘Catholicism’ element of our faith as it truly means ‘universal’. The daily contact with Catholics from around the world enriches us in a way that 5 years ago was unimaginable. If you add to this that some of us speak one or two more languages then Bingo! there you go… the Catholic world is your oyster.
Now, what does this have to do with World Youth Day? Well, precisely as in the national events there is an opportunity for Catholics in the UK to pray and play together, World Youth Day presents the opportunity to pray and play with our fellow Catholics from ALL around the world – making the experience of the Catholic (universal) church truly universal – excuse the redundancy but basically after World Youth Day it can’t get more universal.
So what can we expect to find in Brazil? Well apart from the stunning scenery we are all familiar with of Christ the Redeemer and Copacabana beach, there will be the tremendous atmosphere of joy and happiness characteristic of World Youth Day – only multiplied by 100 courtesy of our Brazilian hosts who will share with us their own way of living their Catholic faith – ‘From the rising of the sun to its setting, praised be the name of Yahweh!’ (psalm 113) – I don’t think there will be any walking, just dancing really…
We are also going to find in Brazilians what Pope Francis has been preaching since he was elected Pope, a sense of simplicity in their way of life and deepness of faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. Those of us who are going to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro are so lucky, we will be immersed into one Pope Frances’ Pontificate’s main teachings and there is no doubt we will come back from Rio enriched by its understanding after having lived it. There is no wonder that some theologians are already thinking that the papal trip to Brazil will be critical for the younger generation…