World Youth Day, a guest post

M got the opportunity to see the Pontiff from a VIP seat when he arrived by "boatacade". He recounts his experience as a practicing Catholic and ponders why it didn't really hit the mark for him personally.

The green bags on each of the seats are branded with Xt3, "catholic Facebook"
Somewhere along the line, the chance of me getting anything out of World Youth Day 2008 went swiftly down the gurgler…

There’s two main factors which have contributed to this.

Pilgrimage!? - 75% of the World Youth Day appeal to me is the pilgrimage. While having WYD on our doorstep is so great for thousands of Sydneysiders, both Catholic and non-Catholics alike who would never otherwise get to experience WYD, and probably would never otherwise dream of being in the same country as the Pope, let alone laying eyes on him, but for me, having WYD and all of the associated events so close to home, and so accessible has really taken the pilgrimage aspect out of WYD for me.

Business – The last 2 projects I have been involved in at work have been fairly influenced by WYD. On my last project, we were building on land owned by the Archdiocese of Sydney. We had to ensure the project was complete in time so that settlements could be called, and profit recognised in the appropriate financial year that funding for WYD activities was ensured.My current project is in a public domain close to where some WYD activities are being held. As such, there was a big push to accelerate our programme so that our works would not effect the movement of pilgrims to the WYD activities.
The result of this is that WYD has become for me all about business.

Over the past 12 months I have kept my head low when the question gets asked about who’s doing what for WYD. When specifically asked – I always replied with “I’m not too sure what’s doing with work yet – I’ll sort something out later” which was not at all a lie – here we are in the middle of WYD (week) and I’m still not sure what we can / can’t be doing at work, but I am catching up on a lot of paperwork!

All week, well actually for the previous couple of weeks, I have been thinking that I should make the most of the opportunity while it’s here. So I checked out and tried to work out what I could get along to – maybe checking out the boat-a-cade, on the harbour, hanging out in Randwick somewhere on Sunday? Although, this would clash with footy… Then all of sudden our General Manager walks into our office and asked if anyone wanted a ticket to the Papal Arrival at Barangaroo. Here it was – a sign perhaps? So I jumped at it – and it turned out to be a VIP ticket, with a seat and everything.

I found myself sitting there today, waiting for the boat-a-cade, sitting there on my own, wanting to be all of a sudden inspired, or touched by the moment – waiting for my very own miracle perhaps. I was questioning what I was doing in the VIP area. Without even thinking about it, I could think of two dozen people who belonged in a VIP area at WYD 2008 more than me, amazing people who put so much time and effort into the Church, and who are Extremely Important People in the Church, and their hard work is seldom recognized.

Then the boat arrived, people standing on the balconies waving, and then the doors opened and a smiling, waving Pope Benedict XVI. And it was here, in the VIP area, I realised that it wasn’t the people I considered VIP’s that were missing out, it was me. The WYD spirit wasn’t in among the plastic chairs of the VIP area, it was in the stalls, among the pilgrims – whether they hailed from Millers Point, Manly, Paupa New Guinea, or Germany, they all had the true pilgrim spirit. It was a really lonely, and empty feeling which made me regret my indecision in organising (or not organizing) to be a part of WYD 2008.

So Pope Benedict XVI gets off the boat, and I was standing up against the temporary fence where I thought there may have been a chance the Popemobile would drive on his way to centre stage. I was at a cross road, I really wanted the Popemobile to drive past me (where I would have been no more than a meter from him), but at the same time I knew that was not what WYD was all about. The opemobile took off, and to my excitement, I watched as it took off, in totally the opposite direction to where I was standing, and right through the centre of the pilgrims – and the people who really deserved it got a chance to get up close and personal with Pope Benedict XVI.

I got that lonely feeling again, and thought about some of the really great times I have had at Black Stump. I realised that it wasn’t so much being there, and having the experiences that I got such a kick out of, it was having the people around you to share them with.
I think had I been there with someone, anyone, who I could share the experience with I would have enjoyed it a lot more, but I ended up walking away from this afternoon a little flat – without the miracle I was looking for.

In saying that, I can now say that I have seen the Pope in person. I remember as a kid watching people like Pope John Paul II, and Princess Diana, driving through the streets and watching the hundreds of thousands people lining the streets, and thinking how amazing it would be to be that close to such inspirational people, and here I was, looking at Pope Benedict XVI in the flesh it was surreal!

I think my outlook to WYD also reflects to my attitude towards church in general at the moment. I still commit my 1 hour every week, but not a whole lot more than that. There is so much happening with work, football, and planning a big overseas holiday, that my faith has taken a bit of a back seat of late. I am a believer, and nothing will change that. My faith is a big part of what makes me who I am, but I am finding it a little hard at the moment to spend more than my hour a week developing my faith.

So for those of you who have read this far, if you are that way inclined, I ask that you keep me in your prayers, and help me not so much rekindle my faith, but help the faith in me burn brighter.

6 kindred spirits ~ This bugs them too!:

Anonymous said...
August 05, 2008 9:16 PM

Hi Data,

hey, Data, haven't seen you 'round on Mia's blog lately. I miss a familar face. Lots of new people there, takes a while to teach 'em gigdiary's comment etiquette. Hope you're OK, not that I actually know you, but, you know, blogging has that sort of feel to it.

Anyway, just stopping by...


ps, this is not a weirdo email thingy.....

Mhari said...
August 05, 2008 9:59 PM

I really like this post, I ended up in the VIP area for all the events too (I was there with Xt3) and had very much the same experience of being divorced from the joy and togetherness of the experience the pilgrims were having, (we were also on one of the boats during the boatacade, Xt3 had a competition which again felt a bit separated from the WYD spirit). I will keep you in my prayers, such as they are, please keep me in yours.

Mhari said...
August 05, 2008 10:01 PM

Sorry, posted before I'd checked it, the competition didn't seem separated from the spirit, the winners were delighted, but I was there on my own giving out Xt3 t-shirts, etc, so I did. Just to clarify :)

Reanan said...
August 06, 2008 10:05 AM

Interesting read M, and I am sorry that you felt distanced (perhaps?) spiritually?

I feel the event itself was so big, it almost felt impersonal, unless you were one of the hundred and fifty thousand pilgrims, I'm sure a lot of people would disagree with me.

I defiantly felt less than Catholic as I suppressed urges to maim the thousands of pilgrims flooding City Rail. Bad Reanan.

Dataceptionist said...
August 06, 2008 10:58 AM

@ gigdiary
~Hey!!! Great to "see" you, I left a comment on your blog :)
No not weird LOL

@ Mhari
~Thanks for your kind words, hopefully M will reply himself also.

@ Reanan
~maim, hehehe

Anonymous said...
August 07, 2008 2:01 AM

thanx for the reply
yep, I get that about Mia. The interaction is odd, but that’s her way, a bit here, a bit there, and then nothing when a really good thread develops, which is more and more often.

Yup, I have a blog, which I don’t tell anyone about, and post every six months or so,

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