|Ang malaking bilang ng taong sumalubong kay Pope Francis sa kanyang pagbisita sa WYD 2013 Brazil (Larawan mula sa Washington Post)|
Attending the opening Mass of WYD 2013 on Copacabana Beach, I was blown away by the vibrancy, the joy and the sheer mass of humanity. Never will you see so many different national flags in one place - though, paradoxically, in that same place, an event takes place that renders nationality irrelevant.Here, people from all races and nations gather to pray and have Mass. Holy Communion has never been more literal or tangible to me than when I am standing among hundreds of people from twelve different countries lining up to receive the Eucharist. Everything in Rio is in Portuguese, so suffice to say it is a struggle to understand anything that is going on. However, we come to Mass and suddenly everything makes sense again. I know which prayers are being said, I know when to stand, to sit and to kneel as if I was at my regular parish Mass. The power of seeing thousands of flags fall still as everyone kneels at the consecration renders all our differences irrelevant. Here we are, kneeling before the sacrifice of a Jewish carpenter and we are one. We are one body, one Church, one people.Catholicism is paradoxical. When one grasps this, both World Youth Day and the Catholic Church begin to make much more sense. The fact of the matter is the Catholic Church is not dying. I challenge anyone who announces the death of Catholicism (and religious belief in general) to come and see a World Youth Day.World Youth Day is a life-changing experience; it is not something you leave behind in the host country. This year's theme clearly emphasises this fact: "Go ... and make disciples of all nations." What does this mean? It means go home and be a paradox! Stand firm on principles in all matters, but always love your neighbour first. Participate actively and joyfully in those inane, backward Catholic practices that can often seem boring and old fashion. But above all, live the paradox that the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta discovered: "Love until it hurts, then there is no more hurt; only love."Pope Francis is our model of the living paradox of Catholicism. Here is a Jesuit, taking the name of St. Francis of Assisi. Here is a man with access to the beauty and comfort of the Papal facilities, but refusing them. Here is a man who asks for very little, but gives everything of himself in humble service to every person he meets. Here is a man who is thoroughly well educated and learned, but always seeks to learn from others first.Pope Francis, the living paradox, will undoubtedly leave a deep impression on all of us. The last two Popes have been calling for a "New Evangelisation" and now, finally, I think I know what that nebulous term means. It means to be a paradox, to love Jesus and to live according to his teachings. It means to love the Church despite the flaws, imperfections and downright evil actions of some of its members. When we live with Jesus at the centre of our lives, people notice. That is the essence of evangelisation - to answer the challenge of St. Francis: "Preach the gospel always and, if necessary, use words."This is why Pope John Paul II created World Youth Day - to offer a concrete invitation to young people to become witnesses and to evangelise just by gathering together for Mass with the Pope. The impact of that experience has long-lasting effect on the faith of the pilgrims and their life. Husbands have met their wives, priests, nuns, brothers and singles have found their vocations and purpose in life, and deep friendships are formed.Re-fuelled and on fire with this incredible experience, we return home to the normal, quiet routine. Whether it takes a week or ten years for the full effect of a World Youth Day experience to bear fruit, it always does. It has and is continuing to have a lasting effect on the host nation and on the travelling pilgrims.Nietzsche announced "God is dead." I, along with a few million other Catholics here in Rio, would like politely to disagree. He is very much alive and is calling new disciples every day. He is calling us, and we have answered because we are the Church - not in the future, but the right here, right now. To those who might be just a little cynical about the whole thing, I extend a simple invitation to you: come and see!Kiara Pirola is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (Australia) and contributor to Catholic Talk.