S+L logo

WYD08: Sydney Renewal

July 20, 2008
pedrocollage.jpgWell... World Youth Day is over... the bags are packed, Randwick is being cleaned up, the Media Centre is almost empty, hotels are being emptied, Sydney is returning to its usual stage - but this city will not be the same after this last week.
Before coming, we heard about how the local Australian media was not supportive of the event. The headlines were all about the sex abuse scandals and whether the Pope-protesters would be allowed to protest.
But somehow, the magic of WYD has worked its way into this city. Perhaps I should not say magic, but.... Spirit? The cynicism and distrust of organized religion, maybe even specifically of the Catholic Church and the Pope, seem to have melted away.
Instead, the headlines last week have been: "Holy Night," "Days for the Whole City to Cherish," "Marchers Enjoy Spiritual High," "A Mass Embrace" and "How our Cynical City Got Swept Up by Spirit." These are but a few. I can say that I have not seen one negative article all week.
And that is what happens at WYD: conversion. I'm not talking about changing people's religions, or "evangelizing" them... well, I am talking about evangelizing, but not in the common sense of the word. Evangelizing is simply a witness - a witness of who you really are - a witness of the love we know and enjoy.
And I think, for me, that's what the week has been about: Conversion. I am not sure what mini conversion happened in my heart yet - I'll know that in the weeks to come - but at least in my head, I am taking away a new understanding of what it means to witness. We witness, the Lord converts. Rather, with the Spirit, we witness and then the Lord converts.
And that is what Sydney saw these last few days: They saw real, alive, healthy, young people - nothing weird about them - just being full of joy. No one got hurt, no one passed out, no one was arrested (actually one pilgrim did get arrested, but that is another story), no one got drunk - just good plain, healthy fun - a fun that is rooted in the One who Loves us more than we can imagine.
And when others see that joy, they can't but help to be affected by it. At the very least, they can't complain. They can't say that it's a bad thing or that it's not genuine. This was good for Toronto six years ago and it's good for Sydney today.
A lady staying at our hotel told us that this was the best thing that had happened to Sydney ever. She was not Catholic, she was Anglican, but she still thought this was great! And it's 'cause there is nothing "religious" about that joy. There is nothing "theological" about that joy. On second thought, maybe that's what theology is all about.
WYD08 may be over as an event, but it's not really over. As long as that joy exists, WYD will continue and in truth the Spirit will have renewed the face of the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit and of the whole earth.

Related posts

The international version of the official theme song for WYD Panama 2019 has been released! Check out the video and lyrics for "Let Your Will Be Done". ...read more
The preferential option for the youth in the <br> Diocese of Hamilton
On Saturday, May 26, close to six hundred young people 12-17 years old spent a full day at Bishop MacDonell Catholic High School for the third annual Youth Rally. The theme for this year’s rally was ...read more
How World Youth Day Changed My Life
As we approach World Youth Day, read more about how this event shapes the lives of young people who attend. Read reflection by Isabel Correa: How World Youth Day Changed my Life. (From S+L 2017 Magazi ...read more
Today and every year on February 22nd, the Catholic Church marks the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. This feast day brings to mind the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ upon Peter whi ...read more
Pope Francis’ Message for the XXXIII World Youth Day
Read the Message of the Holy Father Pope Francis for the XXXIII World Youth Day, which will be taking place on Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018. ...read more