Young people carry a large cross through St. Peter's Square in the Vatican March 8. (CNS photo/Dylan Martinez, Reuters) (March 8, 2013)
month, I am in Rome reporting on the conclave, the election and installation of
the new pope, and the new pope’s first Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Back home,
the secular news media is filtering the election of the next pope through the
lens of politicking, posturing, and power grabbing. Prevailing secular wisdom
suggests that sensation sells. But, inside St. Peter’s Square, that narrative
falls on the deaf ears of 20- and 30-something “JP2 Generation” pilgrims
awaiting the election of the new pope.
religious brothers and sisters lead scores of pilgrims through the sacred sites
of Rome, 30-something curial officials dart through St. Peter’s Square en route
to their posts inside the Vatican, Swiss guards most under 30 stand vigil
at its gates, and 20 and 30-something pilgrims kneel before the tomb of Blessed
Pope John Paul II inside St. Peter’s basilica. Youthful and energetic Catholics
like these have given their lives to the Church. This month, scores of them are
converging on Rome from all four corners of the globe, seeking spiritual refuge
from a world that reduces all things to matters of ambition and power seeking.
secular media’s filter is rooted in the claim that life’s most important and
meaningful things are those we take for ourselves. It is said that ambition,
like sensation, satisfies the hunger of post-modern man. Young pilgrims
converging on St. Peter’s Square disagree.
pilgrims matured in secularized, capitalized, and industrialized societies.
Wealth was abundant. YouTube videos make fun of their “first world problems.”
For them, life was there for the taking. But, that’s the kind of world the “JP2
Generation” chose to leave behind.
found the fleeting and plastic nature of secular, materialistic, and
consumerist societies unfulfilling and incapable of captivating and
corresponding to their most fundamental desires. Instead, the JP2 Generation
craved something that could neither be snatched nor grabbed. It desired the surprising
and generous love of Christ. More than taking from the world, that generation
wanted to make a valid contribution to it. It wanted to receive something that
man could not give himself.
seminaries around Rome, numerous men in their 20s and 30s are seeking
ordination to the priesthood. Spiritual sacrifice appeals to them much more
than temporal ambition. John Paul Mitchell is one case in point. He is a
seminarian for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Cardinal Dolan’s last stop before
becoming the archbishop of New York. Mitchell studies at the Pontifical North
American College on the Janiculum Hill, which overlooks the Vatican. After
obtaining a prestigious graduate degree in media studies from Colombia, he left
behind a promising career in journalism. Instead, he chose to seek Christ as a
priest. Stories like Mitchell’s are abundant here in Rome.
the Sala Stampa and the Vatican’s Media Center at the Pope Paul VI Hall,
located one floor below the cardinals’ meeting room for the general congregations,
JP2 Generation’s journalists work into the late hours, getting little sleep and
eating even less. Their task is to transmit their stories of faith to readers
and viewers back home in the states.
after seasoned journalists from the world’s largest media outlets head home
from work, these pilgrim-journalists continue their labors of love.
couple nights ago, I was working inside the Sala Stampa. The lights had been
shut off and the doors had been locked. I was the last journalist inside the building.
Reporters from Reuters and the AP, among others, had called it quits for the
time being, heading off to fine dinners at Rome’s most exclusive restaurants.
Over a little bit of Nutella and Italian bread, I continued to work late into
the night, attempting to meet deadlines and to transmit news to faithful
Catholics back home. I’m no different from countless other freshmen journalists
here in Rome this month. Together, we constitute a roving mob of foot soldiers
for Christ, making our little contributions to the new evangelization.
point is that folks back home aren’t getting the complete scoop. While the
secular news media might be reading the events in Rome in terms of power grabs
among cardinals and ambitious quests after the papal tiara, the truth of the
matter is that the Church stands upon a momentous springtime of faith in the
midst of a Roman winter.
JP2 Generation has arrived. Blessed Pope John Paul II returned to the “house of
the Father” almost a decade ago. And, the Church is about to embrace his second
successor. Those who were still maturing during his pontificate have come of
age, now. Members of the JP2 Generation are setting to work on the task of the
the far side of St. Peter’s Square, along the Via della Conciliazione, scores
of journalists broadcast their transmissions to all the corners of the globe
while tourists rushed through the piazza, snapping pictures of the famous
sites. But in a quiet corner of the square, close to the basilica itself, a group
of pilgrims from Brazil stood beneath the World Youth Day cross.
next pope will meet with countless 20 and 30-something pilgrims in Rio de
Janeiro this coming summer in the context of the 2013 World Youth Day, an
international gathering of youth Blessed Pope John Paul II began in the
below the central loggia, where the new pope will make his first appearance,
those pilgrims recited the Marian rosary and read passages from Scripture. The
Cross and Christ’s Word together constitute the real narrative of faith for the
young pilgrims gathering here in Rome. To get their stories straight, the
secular news media might want to catch up with them.