Almost ten years ago to the day, Pope Francis told young people his hopes for World Youth Day. The sound bite people remember… “make a mess”.

Today many from both the left and the right are saying he himself has made a mess.

What was he telling young people?  Has he himself made a mess? Will World Youth Day in Lisbon, Spain July 25- August 6 be a mess?

What did Pope Francis mean?

Just a few months after being elected Pope, he spoke to Argentinian youth gathered at the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Sebastian.

He told them to hacer lío, which is Argentine slang that translates roughly as “make a mess” or “wreak havoc.”

Here’s the quote in context:

“I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!” He was speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish.about clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to change.

So it’s important to note that by “make a mess”, Pope Francis didn’t mean creating chaos or promoting reckless behavior associated with summer beach gatherings in the United States.

Instead, he was encouraging young people to shake things up, challenge the status quo, and bring the spirit of the Church into their communities.

He wanted them to live their faith actively and passionately, engaging with the world and making positive changes in society.

Has Pope Francis himself made a mess?

Over the years, many critics have argued, with some irony, that Pope Francis, throughout much of his papacy, has followed his own advice. He has been making a “mess” of things with his ambiguity on matters such as communion for the divorced and remarried or any number of things, while admirers have defended this ‘go out to the streets’ style as a necessary opening bringing the church into the 21st century.

It seems neither group regards Vatican II as relevant today.

World Youth Day as an experience of Catholicity

Teenagers and young adults from around the globe will begin converging on Lisbon next week for the July 25 to August 6 celebration of World Youth Day (WYD).

Young people from many different backgrounds will gather for celebrations, times of prayer, and catechesis, while discovering Church and hospitality in the host country. These are all opportunities to discover a Church that is so much more beautiful, richer, and diverse in its ways of living the faith, celebrating and serving than what we may normally experience in the places we usually frequent.

The Impact of World Youth Days

For many young people over the years the WYD experience has been a place to discover or deepen their personal call to follow Christ by serving the Church. In an age marked by the temptation to close down and withdraw into our own little groups, even within the Church. WYD has prophetic significance.

By opening a door to the universal faith and bearing witness to the possibility of fraternity beyond borders, World Youth Day ultimately helps the entire Church – and not just young people – to become more open to encounter and dialogue. Quite simply, to become more Catholic.

It encourages young people to shake things up, challenge the status quo, and bring the spirit of the Church into their communities.

Is this the kind of mess each of us should embrace?