Attending the opening Mass of WYD on Copacabana Beach, I was blown away by the vibrancy, the joy and the sheer mass of humanity. Never will you see so many different national flags in one place - though, paradoxically, in that same place, an event takes place that renders nationality irrelevant, writes Kiara Pirola on ABC Online.
Here, people from all races and nations gather to pray and have Mass. Holy Communion has never been more literal or tangible to me than when I am standing among hundreds of people from twelve different countries lining up to receive the Eucharist. Everything in Rio is in Portuguese, so suffice to say it is a struggle to understand anything that is going on. However, we come to Mass and suddenly everything makes sense again.
I know which prayers are being said, I know when to stand, to sit and to kneel as if I was at my regular parish Mass. The power of seeing thousands of flags fall still as everyone kneels at the consecration renders all our differences irrelevant. Here we are, kneeling before the sacrifice of a Jewish carpenter and we are one. We are one body, one Church, one people.
Catholicism is paradoxical. When one grasps this, both World Youth Day and the Catholic Church begin to make much more sense. The fact of the matter is the Catholic Church is not dying. I challenge anyone who announces the death of Catholicism (and religious belief in general) to come and see a World Youth Day.
World Youth Day is a life-changing experience; it is not something you leave behind in the host country. This year's theme clearly emphasises this fact: 'Go ... and make disciples of all nations.' What does this mean? It means go home and be a paradox! Stand firm on principles in all matters, but always love your neighbour first. Participate actively and joyfully in those inane, backward Catholic practices that can often seem boring and old fashion.
But above all, live the paradox that the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta discovered: 'Love until it hurts, then there is no more hurt; only love.'
Pope Francis is our model of the living paradox of Catholicism.
FULL STORY Living paradox: a pilgrim's reflections on WYD 2013 (ABC)