World Youth Day Statistics

It has been refreshing to see WYD being noticed by the media, but I am fascinated by the widely differing estimates of the numbers participating, from one million to three million. Add in those joining in from afar and I suppose the statistics become even more wobbly. Why do we want to know the numbers anyway? We are, of course, impressed by numbers, for good or ill. I have mentioned before that when we were seeking help in obtaining permanent accommodation for the community we were constantly being told we were ‘too small’ for help to be given, even though we needed the accommodation in order to grow. I suppose something similar is at work in Rio: numbers are bumped up or downplayed according to the individual’s ideas about Catholicism, and their hopes or fears for its future.

A lot of people are very keen to tell everyone about the huge numbers of Catholics lost to the Church in recent years (which is undeniable), the failure of the Church to capture the imagination of young people (which is more arguable), and the general awfulness of Catholicism in general (which is nonsense); so when we see large crowds of young people gathering in Rio to celebrate their faith, it undermines the assurance of those who want to proclaim the death of organized religion in general and Catholicism in particular. I wouldn’t mind betting that the lower estimates come from those who are not exactly friendly to religion, and the higher ones from those who are Catholic themselves. Personally, I don’t think the numbers matter one bit. What really matters is that we pray in union with Pope Francis and all the others gathered in Rio. Faith cannot be measured in numbers but its effects can be seen everywhere we look.

Digitalnun Interview
Digitalnun has been on the radio again, this time it was for the CBC Sunday Edition being broadcast today. There is a link for online listening here. It lasts about 23 minutes. (With apologies for the media hype.)

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8 thoughts on “World Youth Day Statistics”

  1. Thanks for the link to the broadcast. Always a treat to hear your words of wisdom as well as read them. I wonder would an audio podcast be worth thinking about? They can be just as challenging/informative but accessed in a different way possibly by different people. Perhaps not quite as jazzy as SQPN and Father Roderick. They are very different in tone…

    • Thank you. Interestingly, I raised the question on Twitter a few days ago as the legacy podcasts on our main website http://www.benedictinenuns.org (see media section) are a bit ‘tired’ now. The trouble is I am trying to redo all our websites for the monastery (badly need redoing!) but time, finance and ‘everything else’ seems to be against it at the moment.

  2. I very much enjoyed your interview on CBC today. I noted with interest the interviewer’s questions about what you have missed out on by being a nun. It is very common for people to assume that sacrificing one thing for another is a hardship, and there seems often to be the undertone of assumption that to be asked to sacrifice anything, or to choose to, is to be oppressed or misused in some way, or at the least, it is a loss. In our society we seem to have come to the idea that we should have access to anything we want, and indeed, that if we don’t have all of those things, we have failed.

    I have thought about such things a great deal, being one of those people with “so much potential” who for various reasons have been very restricted in life, and have had to give up successive waves of attachment to the things I believed a good life required. It saddens me to see how unable to cope with limitations we have become. It was extremely painful for me to give things up, but would it have been so terrible in a world where people learned to find joy in what they do have instead of pain in what they do not?

    I have listened with horror to stories of the lengths people go to to purchase children, kidneys, and so on from others who will suffer as a result. (And the denial of that other’s suffering is painful to listen to, too.) I understand very well that deep yearning to live, to love. But how will we meet our deaths if we have run from loss and limitation all our lives?

    I think of loss as a crucible. What I am as a result of my limitations is in some ways more than I would have been if all my wishes were fulfilled. I am currently accompanying a friend through her death. I could not have done that with joy and patience if I hadn’t lost very much myself over many years.

    In the same way, “loss” which is a result of choices is not a bad, but a deepening thing. You may miss the sea, but you have the monastic life which shapes you into another kind of joy than a life at sea might have. We gain much by focussing, and lose much by trying to have it all. I am happy for your loss, and thank you for sharing a little of your hospitality and wisdom with the world.

    • Thank you for your comments. I had hoped I’d made it abundantly clear that though I miss the sea, for example, I would not change my life as a nun for anything. I think people are always interested in knowing what makes another tick, so to say, and what they love and hate are often good indicators.

  3. Interview on CBC (Canada)this morning was very informative; I immediatly went to your web site and Facebook and now have access to your postings. Think that using web to reach out is a wonderful mission! And an excellent example of thinking outside the walls of a monastic life. ;interview was smart, witty and quite hopeful.

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