Correspondence

The Benedict Bounce

About an hour into the papal vigil in Hyde Park, I turned to one of my companions, a musical genius with bipolar disorder, and said, “You know what I think?  I think this is pagan.”  No doubt my sour reaction to the singing and dancing and picnicking—to all that amplified noise, to the happiness on the faces of little children—was the product of nothing more serious than a clapped-out liver.  Whatever the case, however, I did not like the vigil, and it so colored my view of the Holy Father’s visit that I now find it hard to think of those four days of comfort and joy without occasionally yielding to cynicism and despair.

Much has been written about the bright-eyed faith of the young pilgrims in the park, and indeed at all the other papal venues, and rightly so.  You could scarcely move at the vigil for all the love and goodwill.  All I saw, however, was smiley-face Catholicism; EWTN Catholicism; Facebook Catholicism; clean and sober and good to go.  To these youngsters everything was incredible, fantastic, amazing, overwhelming, unbelievable.  The older pilgrims were almost as bad.  By bad, of course, I do not mean bad.  Most of these people, young and old, were good, holy, orthodox, kind, and selfless.  I saw only one openly dissident pilgrim, a middle-aged man whose T-shirt carried the following instruction to the Holy Father: “Pope Benedict: ordain...

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