"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
The Pilgrims Meet the Pope, Vittore Carpaccio, c. 1492
I love the way they balance the reverence with the indigenous. Raymond Arroyo, EWTN, commenting on Aztec tom-toms at a papal Mass in Mexico City.
"WOW, I did not know so many could have their lives changed by seeing the Pope. If they can be changed, I can too!" Delilah, 15, on the 'Real World'-meets-World Youth Day video Don't Turn Back.
Several respondents to a previous post have commented here and elsewhere that the personal charisma and holiness of Pope John Paul II have a stirring effect, and have led many in his presence to spiritual conversion. No doubt in many cases this has been true.
Pious devotion, the thrill of seeing the Pope, the pride of being present for the making of history at a papal Mass: all play roles in the excitement surrounding appearances of JPII.
But between the Wotylapalooza atmosphere of World Youth Day and the censing of the Pope by vestal Aztecs at Mexico City, other phenomena also have been present in the hyper-emotionalism and pop mentality that have marked recent papal galas.
The Pope warrants three cheers, certainly, but not Lady Di bathos.
I can understand teenagers screaming for the Rolling Stones. But to paraphrase that great barnyard theologian Foghorn Leghorn, there is something kind of yeeeeeeh about the idea of "Christian Rock." I can't imagine a red-blooded teen listening to it – or for that matter, squealing at the sight of the aged pontiff, "John Paul Two, We Love You!"
World Youth Day has seen the confluence of a multicultural-extravaganza-loving Vatican liturgical celebrations office, described here by Mark Cameron, with what might be called the Ned Flanders elements in Catholic evangelical outreach, for whom revivalism and "relevance" are all. Hello, LifeTeen. Hello, Rapping Friar. And now Don't Turn Back, the video (as seen on EWTN!) that makes the Catholic faith as relevant to teens as MTV!
But Billy Graham Creep isn't the worry here.
What is: The prevalence at World Youth Day and other papal mass-rallies of certain groups whose stocks-in-trade are psychological manipulation and the personality cult – and who encourage a fervent devotion to the Pope whose endorsement insulates them from criticism. From 2000:
100,000 YOUTHS DEFY COLD AND RAIN TO SEE THE HOLY FATHER
JERUSALEM, MAR 24 (ZENIT.org).- Last night, thousands of youths spent the night in the rain and cold in order to be able to celebrate Mass with the Holy Father today…Some estimates say there were as many as 120,000 present, and even the most conservative guesses stand at 90,000…
While they waited for the Pope, Kiko Argüello, founder of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, sang and played the guitar along with a group of youths, who also sang and played musical instruments. Groups of boys and girls danced in a circle…
Half of them, about 50,000, were members of Neo-Catechumenal communities from around the world…The other half came from other movements and ecclesial institutions, such as Communion and Liberation, the Focolares, Opus Dei, as well as parishes and dioceses from different parts of the world.*
This account of a Neo-Cat altar call smacks not of renewal but of the Moonies.
From these particular fruits of the new evangelization, I'd rather not bite.
The authority of the Church, personified by a heroic and saintly JPII, has a strong appeal for Catholic conservatives. Some seem to regard JPII as the embodiment of the Church (or at least, the post-conciliar status quo they have embraced) and as such, beyond criticism, to be given the benefit of every doubt.
And indeed, the Pope and his Office are worthy of respect and admiration. But Rome is not above criticism on fronts liturgical and political, particularly today, given its non-handling of the clergy sex-abuse crisis.
Meantime, the current pontiff is frail and ailing. My thought at Christmas was that he looked worse than the photos of FDR at Yalta. I found it painful – not inspiring – to watch the poor man put through seemingly endless ceremonials.
Why is he? So he can be venerated as a living relic?