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 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.)