Guest Columnists

More Precious Than Gold — True Faith

by Brian Caulfield

Something sensational happened in Madrid. The week after aimless youths were blamed for riots in London and as Time magazine headlined “The Decline and Fall of Europe,” hundreds of thousands of young people converged on Spain’s capital to celebrate their Catholic faith.

The youthful enthusiasm, unflagging energy, unwavering commitment, and many acts of charity and service by the young people seemed a timely response to the doom and gloom that has gripped Europe, which faces economic crisis and a fearful future within the euro zone.

As they learned more about their faith in catechetical sessions, expressed their devotion at Eucharistic adoration, visited the shrines of Spain’s glorious past or simply mingled and laughed on street corners, the pilgrims provided a greatly needed witness that there are things more important than the stock markets and currency exchanges. They witnessed to the love of a good God; the dignity of the human person in whatever stage of physical, mental or emotional development; and the assurance of faith that can withstand the worst the world can offer.

A beacon for English-speaking pilgrims to World Youth Day is the Love and Life Centre, staged at an 11,000-seat sports arena and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Sisters of Life.  The centre offered a daily schedule of dynamic speakers, Catholic musicians and catechetical sessions, as well as a cool place for pilgrims to escape the Madrid sun. From what I am writing, you may think that I am there, but I am actually at the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, Conn., keeping up with the action through the Love and Life website.

I had my grand World Youth Day experience when I was actually fairly young, when Pope John Paul II came to Denver, Colorado, in 1993. It was the first WYD in the United States (previous ones were in Czestochowa, Poland, in 1991 and Compostela, Spain, in 1989), and the secular media were predicting how the old-world pope would find out that the hip American youth would just not buy his brand of religion. They tried to find kids in the crowd who would castigate the pope and the Church over rigorous rules on sex, contraception and abortion, but the more the roving reporters stopped the youths on the street, the more they heard from the JPII Generation about how they loved and respected the pope and the challenging teachings of the Church.

When more than a million young people turned out at the final Mass with cries of “John Paul II, we love you!” the media naysayers were at a loss for words. They fell back on the truism that these young people represented a minority in their generation – as though the Church operated on the popularity principle of political parties.

It seems wherever World Youth Day goes, the media narrative is the same. First come the predictions that the pope’s message will be rejected; then the explanation that the young people merely respect the pope’s position but don’t accept his teaching – sort of like indulging your dithering grandpa; then the additional observation that World Youth Day is little more than a rock concert for young people who want to feel close to God and one another; and finally a grudging acknowledgment that these kids may be for real, but they’re really just a small number compared to the worldwide population and most of them will grow out of their faith when they meet real-life circumstances of the world.

Rare is the secular reporter who will go beneath the safe cynicism about religion and the Church to find out what makes the young people respond with such heartfelt love for the Holy Father and the Church.

Yes, these young people – even a million in number – are a small slice of their generation and certainly not representative of the population in Europe which has virtually stopped attending Mass at the magnificent cathedrals built by a people of faith. But they are a significant minority because they hold something more precious than gold, or the euro. They have faith, ancient and ever new, and it only takes one such light to brighten many other lives.[hr]

Brian Caulfield, a native New Yorker, is editor of, a website for men and their families by the Knights of Columbus. This column is reprinted with permission from