Monday, August 01, 2016

Yes, the Church lives indeed: Jezu, ufam Tobie!

World Youth Day drew to a close yesterday: at least two and half million people were present as Pope Francis celebrated Mass at Krakow.  If that figure is anything to go by (and it is, and people need to know about it) then the Church lives indeed.  As Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster observes in the field, what other institution, or what other reason, or, ultimately what other Person, can reliably summon such numbers from a hundred and sixty-seven nationalities to a single place, year after year?

There seems to be an intoxicating, jubilant mood when the pilgrims gather for the great vigils and Masses.  It is an astonishing atmosphere that can hardly be diminished by being parcelled into pixels over YouTube: after all the Holy Spirit can hardly be compressed into 1s and 0s.  Gatherings like this might not be for everyone, but all sorts of other things go on as well in churches round about  — catechesis, Adoration, concerts and so on — and the party atmosphere belies the spiritual demands that go with any pilgrimage.  And, when all these hundreds and thousands of young pilgrims from all over the world are invited to prayer, how swiftly and utterly silence falls and a million hearts are turned in unison to God.

I have also been reminded — rather abruptly, I must admit — of Poland's unabashed allegiance to the Church.  I had known that this is a land of great and heroic faith, with many saints even in recent times, but I have been able to see, albeit imperfectly, how noble it is.  This is how a churchgoing country actually looks; these are the crowds that can be mustered; this is it is like for statesmen and -women to receive Communion without anybody batting an eyelid.  I am aware that not all is well in Poland, but spiritually they are surely leagues ahead of us in Britain.  If we (and other European countries, come to that) were more like Poland, I would be much less uneasy about leaving the E.U. This is a nation which says 'Jezu, ufam Tobie!' — 'Jesus, I trust in You' — and this is the result.

Another aspect of these celebrations has been the music, which I think has been tremendous.  The organisers rightly settled for nothing less than a full chorus and orchestra.  And the music itself was congregational and inviting without at all being shallow or trivial.  After last Tuesday's post I have done some rummaging around, lamenting my complete ignorance of the Polish language, and matched some names and composers to tunes.

One name to remember, I think, is Fr. Dawid Kusz, who has not only been one of the festival's conductors but is also responsible for writing the hymns which I found most striking and powerful.  Here he is conducting his own 'Cała ziemio, wołaj z radości' (All the earth, cry out with joy - Psalm 97 (98)):

and here, with a different mood, but no less congregational, and matching the words just as well: Skosztujcie i zobaczcie jak dobry jest pan (Taste and see that the Lord is good - Psalm 33 (34)):

The setting of the Mass sung both at the opening Mass with Cardinal Dsiwisz (St JP II's secretary and close friend) and at the closing Mass with Pope Francis was commissioned especially for this World Youth Day and was composed by Henryk Jan Botor.  He wrote it in honour of St John Paul II, and apparently completed it on April 2nd this year, the eleventh anniversary of his death.   Fr. Robert Tyrała, World Youth Day's musical director, said  in one of the Polish articles I subjected to  Google Translate and its munching cogs  suggested that it combined elements of Gregorian chant and elements of film music: a simple recipe indeed, the treasures of the  past mixed with the valid fruits of modern times, but arguably the best.

Beautiful music is not the most important aspect of the Mass, but that says more about the Mass than it does about music.  One sign of health in the Church should be a proliferation of composers and hymn-writers, who should write sincere, authentic music like this and in turn evangelise the sullen and inauthentic art-galleries, concert-halls and television screens of the West.

I can't resist mentioning Pope Francis' declaration of war on sofas.  This is quite a powerful insight, I find.  It is true that, especially in the West, we can be lulled into material comfort and the pool of wonders of a computer screen, and hours can be lost while others thrive, such as those for whom 'it is much easier... to have drowsy and dull kids who confuse happiness with a sofa.... [than] young people who are alert and searching, trying to respond to God’s dream and to all the restlessness present in the human heart'.  That is going to be quite a difficult piece of advice to carry out, especially for young people who have never known life without a computer or the Internet.  One thing it probably means is that you should stop reading this blog (and I should stop writing it!): for there are children of the light to be defended, and a culture of life to be sown, and a civilisation of love to be built.


  1. "One thing it probably means is that you should stop reading this blog (and I should stop writing it!): for there are children of the light to be defended, and a culture of life to be sown, and a civilisation of love to be built."

    Yeah, but you can do all that on Facebook and Twitter.

  2. For were they not designed for these very purposes...?


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