Toomas (Tom) Karmo: literary: World Youth Day 2002
((REVISION_HISTORY ODER="latest first"))
__polished the style
__did final check of wordcount
__confirmed from Yellow Pages:
yes, "Native Peoples' Parish," not "Native Peoples Parish"
__corrected WYD name: "World Youth Day,"
not "World Youth Days" as in earlier version
__still in time for press deadline
__adequate (but very rapid)
__no time to check spelling
__had to rush to get this version to _Truro Daily News_
after strugglig with jammed public transit
__needed to get back to desk from site to write
John Paul II Still Young
Sometimes, as last September,
we find ourselves in an experience
That's how I, and indeed most of us, felt at the culmination
of 17th World Youth Day, in Toronto this Saturday and Sunday.
Well, maybe I'm not being fair. If you
were old enough to recall visiting Expo 67, you found
WYD at one level vaguely familiar.
Imagine, more concretely, Expo moved to the Third
World. Picture this: flimsy barricades
divide a homungous field, in fact a onetime military
airport, into homungous rectangles.
(My contingent from the University of Toronto
was in the "yellow section" of the field, in "block 168."
That placement gave us
a fine view of two big screens, on high scaffolding, and a distant
view of the presentation stand. The cross
crowning the stand served
as a landmark in our forays to
distant food stations, distant water taps, distant suchlike.)
Now picture every square foot of the long, trampled, dead grass in
rectangles covered in sleeping gear. Picture, further, the gear in
bad shape by Sunday morning, a wave of tropical downpours now
finishing, emergency garbage-bag ponchos
now crumpled up, sleeping mats now baking under tropical sun.
And imagine, further, person-to-person dialogue with much of the planet,
in the spirit of Expo.
All WYD pilgrims have their own stories. Here are two of mine.
First tale: before making the trek
from the campus to that
onetime airfield, I got briefed on theology from
Military Deacon Fr Simon Joachim. (He had battle fatigues,
combat boots, and I
think the obligatory moustache.)
The Christian soldier, he said,
is a "servant of peace
and justice" not for his own nation alone, but for the people of all
nations. A deacon from the Canadian forces? No, German.
Second tale: on Saturday
Mary Lou Maynard (celebrating her sixtieth
birthday that day - "I'm here
for you guys") and her friend Cookie Pitwanikwat
of Toronto's Native Peoples' Parish briefed me
on liturgy. To make the sacred smoke characteristic of aboriginal
Catholic worship (and in fact, I know, sharply evocative
of the woods in Colchester County), they said
you use sage, cedar, sweetgrass, and tobacco.
So maybe Expo 67 supplied
a sort of reference point. But at a deeper level,
the culmination of WYD was
Here we had over 800,000 people - many of them
from the Nike-and-Microsoft generation, many of them
from the affluent West -
wowed by the most unlikely of men.
How did JP2 work his magic?
I think - sue me for Catholic bias if you like, but well I'm
Catholic and what the heck - I think he did it
by triumph of substance over style. Strip away the WYD glitz
(the music, the dance, all that fancy stage ceremonial)
and you're left with a substantial witness.
We got the substance in the homily in Saturday Vespers,
as JP2, having held up for us the contrast between the 2000
Rome WYD and last September's carnage, asked,
repeatedly, on what foundations we should build our lives. Should we
build on community values that have regard to "criteria
of productivity"? On personal values that leave desires to the
"impulses of instinct"? The twentieth century, he said, often sought to
build the City of Man without reference to Christ, and succeeded
instead in building a city against man.
We got the substance again in the homily
from Sunday Mass, in which JP2 obliquely called the
ecclesial sex-abuse scandals
to mind. (His words then: a "deep sense of sadness and shame.")
But, he said, we must recall also
the service done by others in the Church,
and "be not afraid to follow Christ and the royal road of the Cross."
On both days he dared us to be the salt of the earth, the light of the
Speaking Sunday morning, JP2 claimed to be old. However,
to be young at heart is to hope.
Hope (the kind worth having, the kind grounded in realities,
in substance) was the core of his message. We
lived WYD with a man whose pontificate
proclaims its 1978 opening
message, "Be not afraid,"
with undiminished conviction in 2002.
The guy is young, and so the young at his big
Toronto party heard in him the echo of themselves.
Writer-astronomer Tom Karmo divides his time between Toronto and
his native Truro.
He details his work at http://www.interlog.com/~verbum/.
(c) 2002 Truro Daily News