Am writing to you from Murcia, Spain. It is a very gorgeous area of Spain, though also VERY hot!
I arrived here in Murcia on the 11th of August and had our first full day on the 12th, which I believe I already wrote about. Yesterday was a very packed day. We arrived in Downtown Murcia at 10am and had morning prayer in a local Church at 10:15. After that we had some free time. I am not one for shopping – though I did need to get out and buy a towel since I didn’t bring one with me. I went to a coffee shop, pulled out a book, and read it. Many things are unfortunately closed on Saturday and as I walked around later on, I wish I had gone shopping only because things are so inexpensive in this part of Spain! I could have bought a nice suit for about 90 Euros, which really is a steal! But that’s ok. We had a Taize prayer service in the Cathedral. It is a very beautiful Cathedral.
We then went to a park to have lunch. We were given two sandwiches to take with us. This is an important fact for what I have to say later on. So I ate my two sandwiches (they were labeled as sandwiches for our lunches) and then went on my own to a restaurant in the square to do some more reading. I started to read but about 10 pages in I started falling asleep at the table. Eventually I ran into other people from my group and so I sate with them in order to hopefully stay awake!
At 6pm we gathered in the square in front of the Bishop´s palace and received his blessing before we moved to the stadium for Mass. There were 7000 of us in the square and it was one huge party on the way to the stadium! It was a lot of fun. It was tough to cheer, though, because we ended up near the Equadorians who were a large group and VERY loud! They had this one cheer where they would stop, they would huddle, and then they would get loud and run. It was a little scary having a group of 300 Ecuadorians running at you! It was a great time, but we were such a small group of Canadians (25) that it was tough to get our cheering going.
We arrived at the stadium for Mass. The bishop seemed very passionate, though I have no clue as to what he was saying. The Mass, though, was, well, interesting. And that leads me to a bit of reflection on things:
Firstly, the Spanish really know how to convey suffering in their art. Their crucifixes are among the most beautiful I have ever seen! There is real expression on them. I don´t know why it is that way, but it is! There was a crucifix I saw in Bormio, Italy, which came with the Spanish Jesuits and it too was gorgeous. Once I return I wish to put a picture of it up along with a reflection that was given to me on it. Anyways, the crucifix they had last night was gorgeous as well. It was nothing different from the ones we have except for the face. The face expresses someting. It is really something quite beautiful.
But then the music got going, the clapping and cheering got going, and I was, honestly, not feeling all that comfortable in the midst of that! They did play Jesus Christ You Are My Life during communion, which I enjoy. But then, after communion, people started doing the wave in the stadium. That got me really thinking about things. First, in the midst of it, the Bishop said in Spanish (though I understood a good part of what he was saying there) that we are still in Mass, this is not the time to do such things.
And that got me thinking about how we treat Mass, how we treat Jesus in the Eucharist, etc. We want to bring Jesus down to our level, we want Him to be one of us. And, of course, He is! Paul says that He is like us in all things but sin, and that He emptied Himself and took the form of a man! But the Mass is not for our entertainment. The Mass is where God draws us into the Heavenly realm, where we worship God. It is the work of Christ in us: that is the Mass. Christ draws us into His worship of the Father. Yet, we do these things because we want to make Mass fun and entertaining. But there is no silence, no contemplation and, I will be honest, I don’t think it images the Heavenly Kingdom which is present among us in the Mass. The wave is proof to me that we have allowed the dereverencing of the Mass to go way too far, where we have people praying the Our Father in their own languages all at once (that sounded more like Babel than Heaven to me, everyone going at their own speed, in their own tongue. That convincend me that international Masses need Latin, and thankfully that is the case at WYD).
I have heard many comments from people about music at Mass, for example, while on this trip. Many people have said that they want joyful music, and they equate that with guitars, drums, clapping hands, and dancing. But that is not joy. That is sentimentalism: people think joy is an emotion, and it has absolutely nothing to do with emotions (though, of course, emotions are not bad in themselves, they are just never supposed to be our ends!). When people say they want joy in Mass, they mean they want happy good feelings. But joy is not a feeling, it is the peace of the heart that comes from an encounter with the risen Lord! Joy and peace go hand in hand. But we only have true peace when we listen to the Lord in our hearts. And we can only listen when there is silence or at least music which guides us to contemplation.
Many people today are miserable for no other reason than that they fall into this sentimentalism. They stay in feelings and cannot move past that. And so when things feel bad – or at least don’t feel good – they think their faith is going to the wayside. But the problem is – and this is especially true with the youth – we just buy into that sentimentalism. But sentimentalism, though it may be strong in the moment, never lasts. It is sand in the wind, it is not a rock. The sand will only stay so long as the wind does not blow through. What the youth need is not feelings, they need an encounter with the presence of Christ in their hearts! That is what we all need! And that can only be fostered in so long as we foster silence, reflection, contemplation. We need to rest in the Lord.
The other thing is really just lack of reverance. We don´t treat God as God anymore. We treat Him like He is only one of us. We remember the humanity of Jesus, we forget His divinity. This has dangerous consequences and I find that sometimes with the youth especially we foster this mentality. We do not encourage them to dress up for Mass, we do not encourage them to pray at home, we do not let them know the seriousness of sin. We need to do these things along with everything else. It all needs to be balance. Unfortunately, though, we tend to make the Mass into a piece of entertainment and not the worshipping of the Father in Christ. That is a massive thing that needs to change, and how that is, I am unsure.