World Youth Day works.
That was the conclusion of Cardinal Dolan when asked his assessment of the Church’s global gathering of Catholic youths.
World Youth Day 2013, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in late July, drew an estimated 3 million young people to Copacabana Beach for the closing Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
Cardinal Dolan, in a broadcast interview with Catholic News Service, surmised: “There’s no doubt about it, some are here for a party. Some are here to go to Brazil. But the cynic in me has learned from experience that these things work.”
The cardinal has journeyed to World Youth Day since the 1993 celebration in Denver.
Attending is an accomplishment in itself for some, the cardinal conceded. “It’s not easy. Now I’m 63; I’m hardly eligible for World Youth Day anymore. It’s tough to get here. It’s costly to get here. It’s exhausting to be here. There’s a lot of work. Part of me would rather be in the Hamptons.
“But these babies are worth it,” the cardinal said of the global gatherings. “These events work.
“Blessed John Paul II was a genius,” he added of the pontiff who inaugurated World Youth Day. “He knew that our faith needs company. He knew…that once you get people together, in an experience that he called ‘solidarity,’ magic happens.
“And that happens at World Youth Day. Young people who are often tempted to think that they’re the only ones in the office, the only ones on campus, the only ones on the block that happen to believe in the Bible, go to church, pray, try their best to live up to the commandments of the Beatitudes—as well aware as they are of their own imperfections, sins and struggle—they’re often tempted to think they’re all by themselves.”
All of a sudden, “the ‘I’ is transformed into a ‘we’” at World Youth Day, the cardinal said.
Discussing Pope Francis’ visit with recovering drug addicts at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio, Cardinal Dolan said, “He shows a special solicitude to the wounded, and almost to the fragility, the brittleness, of human life,” to those who are at “the side of the road.”
“And he knows that young people are … at an in-between period in life—between the security of home and going out on their own … where there can be an innocence.”
The cardinal posed the question, “Are some people here (at World Youth Day) for purposes that might be less than supernatural? Yes. But … when you’re in an auditorium like I was this morning, with close to 3,000 young people who are flattering me by being attentive to every word, who ask the most insightful questions, who are lined up for the sacrament of reconciliation, who are extraordinarily joyful, participative yet reverent in Mass, you say, ‘This is working.’
“There’s something mystical here.”