Are you a social card player, a sports fan, or maybe an occasional visitor to a casino? If so. I bet you have made some predictions or bets. Sometimes you predict accurately. Sometimes not.

In this Vincentian Mindwalk I am going to predict some things about what will happen when an ailing 86-year-old Pope Francis braves the sweltering heat wave in Lisbon to spend some time with young people at World Youth Day.

World Youth Day 2023

I am certain the planners never predicted the searing world temperatures.

Almost half a million young people are registered to attend. Some 30,000 will be from the United States. There will be some 700 Bishops and 30 Cardinals from around the world.

Two thousand six hundred priests have already volunteered to be in “Reconciliation Park,” a place where 150 confessionals will be set up between Aug. 1-4. Confessions will be offered in the five official languages of this World Youth Day: Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, and Italian.

Does this sound like a newsworthy event? To me, it does!

Here I am willing to predict a wide range of coverage in all kinds of media.

I predict at least three kinds of media coverage

  • Coverage of World Youth Day in the general media will present views through their ideological lenses.

Opposing factions in the Church each have their media outlets. Their focus will be on their own conclusions based on the hot-button issues being discussed. They will focus on their issues … married clergy, ordination of women clerical abuse. Note these issues will probably focus mainly on the clerical dimensions of the Church as we have experienced in it our lifetimes. Of course, there will be other issues but they will be under reported.

  • The young people who experience World Youth Day will tell the stories of their experiences in their own “word-of-mouth” networks. They will be sure to share with their peers back home.

I suspect that the things they talk about will be things that touched them personally.

I have seen some eye-opening stories about how past World Youth Days have sown the seeds of renewal in those who attribute their current commitment to serving others. The seeds of a calling to serve the Good News have flowered into commitments ranging from many current bishops who attended earlier World You days as young people. But also many lay leaders who subsequently committed themelves to work with the homeless or the many people on the margins of our society.

  • Finally, there will be the silence of those not reached by other media … and those who could care less.

For this group, it will be a non-event. There are too many other events clamoring for a hearing.

One thing I am certain of

Pope Francis constantly reminds us that we are all called to listen to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is challenging each of us, no matter where we start from, to open our hearts.

We are each being challenged to listen to the Spirit. If we do not experience a challenge to deepen and widen our understanding, we claim a personal infallibility akin to the one who prayed “I thank God I am not like the rest of men…”

At the last supper the disciples, each of them, were challenged to their core. Jesus is asking each of us today… do you understand what I have done? If you do then wash one another’s feet as I have washed yours!

Let us pray each of those attending World Youth Day… and those who read about it…  May we each hear what Jesus’ Spirit is asking us to do today in memory of him.

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