World Youth Day


6 August 2023

It is hard to describe what has been going on in Lisbon this week. I have never known anything like it. There have been people everywhere, almost all of them young, tending to gather in large clusters while waving national flags and loudly singing. Crowds have sometimes been overwhelming, filling tube trains and narrow streets. In a different setting one might have felt anxious, conscious of the risk of confrontation. Remarkable here has been the utter lack of aggressivity. Instead of closing in on themselves, groups have reached out to other groups, inviting encounter, exchanging little gifts.

I had the sense that Lisbon had been turned into a sacrament of friendship, sweeping up the locals, too, in a peaceful effervescence. The experience, of course, has been brief and intense, not set to last. It does not pretend to manifest a political model of society. Yet what it confers is intensely real, authentic, leading one to ascertain that a world established on terms of fraternity is possible. To have seen this even in the twinkling of an eye is a blessing, a blessing that can alter lives. The fact that a million and a half young people choose to gather like this, for a purely idealistic purpose, without prizes to win, simply for the sake of sharing what is essential to them, is tremendous. It is news that should be on the front page of every paper.

Source: Bp Eric Varden OCSO – Coram Fratribus

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