It was a beautiful day and the Cubs won after strong pitching and four home runs. In the middle of the game, my thoughts began to wander. “I really love being here in the crowd. It’s so amazing! The way the energy pulses through the crowd. The sounds of cheers. Music on the organ. Everyone singing the ‘Go Cubs Go’ song at the end. It’s like a great ‘liturgy.’”
Now, at the same time, what would that “liturgy” be like if the only people who got to experience it were in the stadium? What would it be like, after seeing four home runs and a win, to walk into a blank world, irrelevant to what had just transpired. There wouldn’t be much of a sensation about the Cubs (who now have a realistic shot at winning their first World Series in over 100 years). Having the chance for thousands to meet me on the street or see my Twitter feed blowing up all contributed to an urgent rising of joy from the stadium’s affair. We won the game! And it was great!
At the same time, as I walked back from the stadium, I thought, “Wouldn’t it have been great to just watch the game at home? I could leisurely gather with my friends at a much more affordable cost. I would be able to see every pitch and every angle much more clearly. The sun wouldn’t have pelted against my skin causing me days of irritation and peeling from my lobster-inspired sunburn.”
But none of that inner dialogue occurred on April 29, 2015 with any baseball fan. The White Sox played the Orioles in an empty stadium. Everyone involved said it was odd, weird, and “not-right,” because you need a community, in person and at home, to make a great event happen.
Here is where the experience of baseball lends itself as a useful analogy to World Youth Day (WYD). There are different ways of experiencing WYD, and every way is fundamental to the inter-dependent phenomena that is WYD. Thankfully, no matter how you experience it, you are part of it!
If we just watched WYD on TV, but no one was actually at WYD except for Pope Francis giving a speech in Poland, the experience would be flat, just like the April 29, 2015 MLB game. Similarly, if those physically attending WYD were the only ones privy to the experience, then the experience would also be flat. When the pilgrims return, who would be giving them a well-earned “congratulations,” emotional high-five, or spiritual encouragement?
As someone who has been on the ground at several WYD experiences, there is a certain joy I have this year about being able to watch every angle from the comfort of my home and watching it with some of my best friends. I know I’m not going to miss a word, an action, or an important moment. It will all be there for me and I’ll be updating my Facebook page with the most important quotes and musings from the experience.
Why did I go to the Cubs game last week? Or why do I watch them on TV with my friends? Sure, for entertainment, but also because I want to be part of something historic that I hope will happen this year – the season the Cubs could actually win the World Series. (Please remember that hope springs eternal for the fans of the Cubs).
Similarly, our participation in WYD is in anticipation of something historic. WYD will be a phenomenon that will impact millions of people and effect our world in a dynamic way. I know that I want to be part of that in anyway that I can. And my experience this past week reminds me that I will be. Whether at home, with friends at a stateside celebration, or on the pilgrimage in Poland, we are all part of the experience, each of us participating in a unique energy that will help magnify the message of the Church: that all are chosen to be the bearers of God’s love to the world.
To learn more about participating in WYD both internationally and stateside, click here.