The art work of NCYC participant Br. Mickey O'Niell McGrath, entitled "The Assumption." He claims his art is an intentional effort to destroy traditional images of Jesus, Mary and the saints.
I need to get through all this while it is still fresh in my mind! Anyhow, every event we went to in the arena was almost like a Protestant praise service (contrary to what blogger Lisa said in her comment to my original post, there were plenty of Protestant praise songs, like "I'm Trading My Sorrows" and "Waves of Mercy"). We listened to songs, clapped, danced around. The basic message was "God loves you." It was a good message, and many kids went back home feeling the great love of God. But none of them learned a damned thing.
To NCYC's credit, Mass was offered every day, and Confession and Eucharistic Adoration were going on continually (I made sure my kids went every day). But the adoration chapel frequently had many empty rows of seats; the comedy club, on the other hand, was packed and we had to sit on the floor.
On Day 2, the emcee Steve Angrisano told the 20,000 assembled kids, "Sometimes you might feel like you are not holy and that God doesn't care about you. But it's not true; you're all holy, every one of you, no matter what." I guess we are redefining holy as "the state of being loved by God" (which would apply universally) instead of eminent sanctity. Oh well. Later on that night, Fr. Tony Ricard of New Orleans (whom I can only describe as a Catholic version of Chris Rock) told the kids, "In the Mass we pray, 'Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed.' Well, God has said the Word. He said it all in His Son. You are worthy. You are worthy. So when you go somewhere, you walk in with your head high like you own the place." This Fr. Tony is a kind of celebrity in New Oreleans; in fact, he had his own bobble-head. After his talk, he blessed us and immediately after the blessing, he said, "Kick it!" and a hip-hop song started playing while he and several youth from his parish started dancing around like MC Hammer. Here's a video of some of Fr. Tony's antics.
Tony Melendez, a man born without arms who plays guitar with his feet, gave a very good talk on patient endurance of suffering, on realizing that God has a plan for all of us and on loving the unlovable. Then he played a tribute to John Paul II. People were so emotional over it that you'd think JPII had only died last week or something. By the way, John Paul was mentioned frequently throughout the event (we watched musical montage-tribute to him) and speakers kept referring to him as "the Great." We even had to say a prayer in Polish because, as Steve Angrisano said, "It was the language of John Paul the Great." Benedict XVI was quietly ignored. He was only mentioned one time during the event: at the closing Mass where his name was said during the Eucharistic liturgy.
That day we went to a workshop called "Catholic and Just" which was on Catholic social teaching. The speakers were neo-Marxists who insinuated that Global Warming was as serious as abortion. My kids and I got up to leave and a large woman yelled, "You're just leaving cuz' you don't want to hear the truth!" That night we went to what was billed as "evening prayer" but was actually this weird dance with the lights off where these kids all were twirling glow sticks in the shape of a human body while this crazy music was playing. Bizarre.
On day 3 we listened to Renee Bondi, a quadriplegic who had broken her neck while sleep walking, of all things. She gave a very great talk on finding God's will even in suffering. But that day, we went to another workshop entitled "Being Yourself with Mary and the Saints" put on by Br. Mickey O'Niell McGrath. This monk (who wore a business suit and did nothing but promote his work the whole time) was absolutely awful. Aside from having to look at his terrible art work, the most disheartening part of his presentation was some of the things that came out of his mouth. Here is just a small chronicle of some of the things he said. I wrote them down verbatim as they came out of his mouth, knowing that my Unam Santcam fans would want to know about them:
"Of course, we believe that Christ is the Way to God, but since Vatican II the Church teaches that the Word of God comes to all cultures."
"It is my mission to banish from the Church all images of Jesus and Mary where they are portrayed perfect and spotless."
"Judgment is not from God. People who judge others have never read the Bible" (if judgment is not from God, how will God judge anybody?)
"My parents are canonized saints."
"You know, Mary and Joseph were not Catholic. They were Jews." (this shows a misunderstanding of the relationship between Judaism and Catholicism, which I will not go into here)
"St. Terese of Lisieux is my favorite saint because she never mentions the word "sin." (actually, I did a word search and found that she does use the word 14 times in "Story of a Soul")
"Have you ever seen that "Infant Jesus of Prague" image? My friends and I like to call that the "Barbie Jesus."
As you can see, this clown was way off the edge. We walked out of this one, too. Click here to see some more of Br. McGrath's artwork.
At the end of day 3 we went to a huge Mass in the arena with about 70 deacons, an equal number of priests and 6 bishops officiating. The altar was draped with tie-dye and multi-colored sheets. The bishop, Matthew Clark of Rochester, New York, gave a pretty good homily, but the music was awful (full of drums, Spanish, etc). There were no other obvious abuses other than those common to the Novus Ordo, but thankfully there was no liturgical dancing, no consecration of the wine before it is poured and amazingly, no extraordinary ministers (only because they had 70 priests present). When it was time for communion, I received kneeling on my tongue and the priest who was distributing it to me was so flabbergasted that he stared at me for a moment before finally stammering, "Body of Christ."
In the hotel that night, I was getting on an elevator when I overheard a Youth Director down the hall tell her kids, "A lot of the stories you hear in the Bible are just that: stories, nothing else." As the elevator doors closed around me, I yelled "False!" as loud as I could and then was wisked away to safety by the elevator.
Among the Youth Directors there, there was a universal disdain for Latin and for the Old Mass. When one woman asked why the youth were so interested in the Old Mass, another Youth Director scornfully said, "Because of Pope Benedict." Ah, how they longed for the days of John Paul! I asked why they did not like the Old Mass and they said, "There was so much mystery; it was way too vertical! It wasn't nearly horizontal enough." I despise these terms, but I asked them if they were aware that Cardinal Arinze had said that horizontalism did damage to Catholic faith and worship. Do you know what they said in response?
"Who's Cardinal Arinze?"
Shocked but not surprised, I explained who he was, to which they just said, "Oh, he's in Rome," as if that fact made his opinion irrelevant. "We obey the U.S. Bishops," they replied. I let the issue die and went to take a bath. While relaxing in the warm bath, I smiled as I remembered the number one sign you might be a traditionalist from another blog: "You laugh whenever someone mentions the USCCB."
The whole event was very sad. Many of my youth grew in their faith and went back to confession after many months, but there was nothing specifically Catholic about the whole thing. It could have been "Aquire the Fire" or "Crossroads" or any other Protestant event and you would not be able to tell the difference. I did meet an excellent Salesian priest from New Jersey to whom I made a great confession, and I met two Franciscan sisters from Texas who blessed me immensely (after we were done talking, I thanked them for wearing their habits). Adoration was wonderful, and they even had some Latin on (but then I found out it was a Taize CD). But overall, it was disheartening and certainly not worth the $430 each kid shelled out.
What was the most rewarding part of the trip? Hmm; it's a tie between the day I hit a beach ball out into the crowd from the nose-bleed section of the arena or the night I farted in a crowded elevator.
I will post more this week on some of the more specific insights I gained from NCYC.