A car, a train, a subway, a second train, a charter bus, a school bus, and finally my own two feet is how I got there to see the Pope in Yonkers. Awaking at 5 a.m. and only returning hungry, tired, and sunburned at 2 a.m. the next morning, it was an entire day’s journey. In deed, it was a pilgrimage to a pilgrim church: there and back again. For as St. Ambrose said, “Where Peter is, there must be the Church.” The church that was experienced where the Pope was on Saturday was nothing less than an assembly that was young and very alive.
Though people will argue that the excitement and rock-star treatment that the youth gave the Holy Father on Saturday is nothing special, I would say otherwise. It is true that celebrities, as a whole, can cause girls to squeal and faint with excitement, and rock-stars and professional athletes inspire guys to do stupid things, it is not true that these many famous people bring with them peace. That is, with all the celebrities and all the excitement they cause, all the yelling, and camera flashing, they fail to bring with them something the world needs more than a new #1 Hit Song on the Charts. Too many Celebrities fail to bring peace to a person’s heart. To put it another way, when was the last time Paris Hilton or Dane Cook stirred a person’s heart to peace?
The holy Father, though he received rock-star treatment, brought with him a similar excitement as that of any celebrity; however, he brought with him an underlying sense of peace that no celebrity can muster on their own accord. It might be a paradox as to how such a peaceful man can cause such excitement and still stir up a sense of peace within a person’s heart. How exactly he marries excitement and peace can only stated in that, his heart rests in God. And when one rests in God, one’s burden and yoke is light and easy. They became transparent to the extent that God is seen through the person, as is the case with Benedict XVI.
The youth I encountered in Yonkers love the Pope. They yelled for the Holy Father, sang him songs, made cheers in his honor, waved banners, took pictures, wore shirts that read “I pope NY”, and even prayed with him all in hopes to express their favor and their love for the Pope. It was behavior that went beyond the kind found at any concert. Dave Matthews might be able to pack 100,000 people into a stadium, but I’ve never seen any member in the audience sing him a song, wave a Dave flag, or create a Dave cheer to express their love for Dave or his music. There is no doubt that the Pope is more popular than Dave Matthews.
The rally gives a glimpse of hope for the Church in America. It is commonly thought that the youth is the future Church. This isn’t the case, as the youth of the Church have already been baptized and brought into the family of God. The youth is the Church now, and the Holy Father spoke to the youth as such. He did not say, ‘One day, when you become the church.” No, he did not say that. He spoke to the youth as they are: part of the body of Christ. This part, the part that is the youth, is very hopeful, as I met many youth that want to follow the Gospel of Christ who are starting to realize that being Christian doesn’t mean not having fun; instead, being Christian means having a kind of fun that is more authentic than most experience and having a life filled with richer experiences.
I also met many seminarians that, as the youth I was chaperoning would say, “were normal.” These seminarians were funny, well mannered, well spoken, and interested in living the universal call to holiness in a style that is in the world but not of the world. They are still riding on the wave of John Paul II’s “Be not afraid” and combining it with Benedict message that one must approach the word with Truth. That Truth is a person named Jesus Christ.