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Sacrilegious Disaster: the Opening Mass for World Youth Day

Above: the “carefully crafted spirituality itinerary” graphically depicted from the WYD website. 

After a brief hiatus due to “COVID” (which I prefer to pronounce by its traditional spelling, communism) the World Youth Day (WYD) is back!

This year it is taking place in Lisbon, Portugal and the opening Mass was celebrated on August 1 with a crowd of tens of thousands of pilgrims. Before I dive into all the fruits of the New Springtime that were on display, I would like to accentuate the positives.

In the first place, it is edifying to see that many young Catholics putting in the effort required to attend such an event. It is not cheap to fly overseas and stay in hotels and hostels for any length of time, and in many cases, young people fundraise for months before they go on the trip. At root, the event is meant to inspire young Catholics to take their Catholic Faith seriously and to unite with young Catholics from around the world in a display of faith that is truly Catholic, which is to say universal.

This mentality is a truly Catholic one, and long before the Second Vatican Council, massive Catholic events of a similar nature were not uncommon. One might call to mind the various Rosary Crusades, or Eucharistic Congresses that have taken place around the world where millions of Catholics would gather for open-air Masses and recitations of the Rosary in a public display of Catholicity. Surely, the sentiment and motivation behind these sorts of endeavours is to be praised.

Photos from the Eucharistic Congress in Chicago in 1926

In the 1950s, Fulton Sheen spoke of a Mass at Fatima, Portugal wherein a million people attended to commemorate the miraculous apparitions of Our Lady in 1917. I imagine it would have been a truly magnificent experience to attend a Traditional Latin Mass at Fatima offered by Bishop Sheen.

As far as positives that can be taken away from the WYD Mass in Lisbon, really nothing positive can be said about the actual celebration of the Mass, but I will say that the Bishop’s homily was in some ways well put together, and at one point he did hammer home to the pilgrims that they needed to spend less time in virtual reality and more time in real reality. His reasoning was essentially that if young people are glued to their devices, they will fail to foster real human relationships which are conducive to community and evangelization. Of course, I agree with the Bishop as far as it goes.

Now, before I dive into the not-unexpected negatives that were on display, I would also like to add that on the live stream of the event, there were many young people who were visibly emotional from their experience at the event, and I do hope – sincerely – that those in attendance come away with zeal and vigour for the Catholic Faith and are motivated to, above all, save their souls.

Unmitigated Train Wreck

With all the niceties out of the way, we must consider a few of the most ridiculous and egregious blunders displayed during the Mass.

The first thing I noticed was the ridiculous monstrosity of a platform and altar that were erected for the event. The backdrop was a pseudo-high altar asymmetrical Lego/Minecraft-looking cubed edifice that lifted one’s mind to contemplate the limits of scaffolding, and certainly not the Divine.

Sometimes when these sorts of nuChurch constructions are on display, it makes you wonder if they really are trying to destroy Catholic devotion. Imagine the planning that preceded the construction of this thing.

“Hey, I know what we should build for WYD!”

“Oh yeah, what’s that?”

“Well, you know when you drive past a building under construction and there is a bunch of scaffolding outside?”

“… Yes…”

“What if we used all that scaffolding and PVC piping and draped pieces of light-blue fabric so that it was taut and looked like varying sizes and shapes of light-blue Kleenex boxes!”

“Um… okay?…”

“I am serious. Listen, I know Portugal is filled with ancient churches and sacred architecture, but come on! These are the youth of the New Springtime. We need to meet the kids where they are, so we should of course build something that looks like the backdrop for a video game on Super Nintendo… The kids still play that right?”

If the Tetris-themed sacred backdrop wasn’t inspiring enough, have no fear, the organizers made sure to use a bathtub for an altar.

In fairness to the organizers, there was a Cross on the bathtub, well, it was more of a plus sign, but it still reminded one of something that could be mistaken for a Christian symbol.

With the typical Novus Ordo vestments that remind one of the draperies one finds in old folks homes and the seemingly iridescent azure colouration, it was not clear whether it was a sanctuary for a Mass or some strange re-enactment of a low-budget sci-fi television show.

In any event, the Mass itself was typical of the types of Masses we have come to expect in these sorts of scenarios.

The choir and orchestra were very strong, but the music was not sacred and given the fact that Lego churches don’t have good acoustics, the music was just loud.

There was an army of priests who sat on the grass beside the platform as the Bishop and a dozen other priests stood around and did basically nothing as lay people did most of the work. And as the cameras spanned through the crowds you could see a combination of young people dressed in an androgynous fashion with matching t-shirts and young women dressed with necklines more conducive to a night-club setting.

But, should we expect anything else? The Novus Ordo has become a meme at this point, being neither masculine nor feminine, but almost appearing as transgender if anything. And given that there is no modesty – which is to say hiddenness – in the Novus Ordo itself, why would anyone dress modestly?

In addition to the visual and aesthetic faux pas, the most egregious part of the event was the lack of reverence, or complete absence of reverence, shown to the Eucharist.

At one point, a young woman approached a woman handing out Communion with one hand outstretched and then proceeded to walk away with the Host in a clenched fist.

Thankfully the lay ‘minister’ had enough sense to stop the girl and instruct her to consume the Host. The girl was dumbstruck and didn’t know what she was being asked, and she had to be instructed to actually put the Host in her mouth. (see minute 1:53:03 of the live stream to watch the debacle unfold)

So, on the one hand – pun intended – we can take solace in the fact that a lay ‘minister’ stopped the theft of the Eucharist, but on the other hand, the girl was likely a non-Catholic and maybe even a Satanist looking to steal a host.

There were upwards of 100 or more priests present, yet in the crowd and at the gates stood dozens of lay Eucharistic ‘ministers’ with ciborium filled with consecrated hosts ready to hand out the Body of Christ like a Eucharistic Pez dispenser.

Instead of using their consecrated hands to provide Holy Communion to the faithful, the priests instead grabbed Hosts from the ciborium and dipped them in the Precious Blood, using their hands as patens to catch any drips. I am not sure why they received this way, but I imagine it is because in Novus Ordo-land, sitting on the grass and receiving under both kinds counts as a concelebration.

There were other mishaps as well, like when a lay ‘minister’ attempted to put the Host on a girl’s tongue, but basically shoved it into her chin which meant she had to use her hands to make sure the Eucharist actually entered her mouth.

And, these are only a handful of the gaffes that could be witnessed on film, which only captured a small portion of what took place.

It should be noted that in many cases at WYD there is no separation of the sexes in lodging quarters. Given the easy access to alcohol that the youth have in Europe and the easy access they will have to each other… Kyrie Eleison.

Finally, the EWTN team rounded out the live stream with positivity, remarking that it was so great to see so many flags waving in the crowd and such a welcoming atmosphere.

Ah yes. Flags waving, immodesty, sacrilege… sounds like a typical WYD. At least the pilgrims will have the chance to listen to Father James Martin if they want.

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