Edward (a vampire from Twilight, 2008) replied, “My family, we’re different from others of our kind. We only drink animal blood”. Immortality has been in the spotlight quite a bit in Hollywood in the past decade as we’ve seen a myriad of vampire and zombie flicks cross the silverscreen. Shaun (Shaun of the Dead, 2004) is willing to sacrifice old records like the ‘Dire Straits’ to defeat the undead – and wields a cricket bat in his battle, while Edward Cullen, who doesn’t drink human blood, becomes the hero in a type-transcending portrayal of vampires. They’re definitely different takes on the horror stories of old – ranging from gruesome but humorous living dead to heroic and sexy vampires. Hollywood, unfortunately, tends to suck the soul out of good stories.
In my wife’s drama class this past year, when performing a radio drama spoofing Bram Stoker’s famous Dracula story, she was able to relate to the students how the Count, from the original story, is an anti-sacramental, and anti-Christ, figure. His immortality is brought about by a covenant with Satan, whereas our immortality is by a covenant with and in Christ. He sustains his undying existence by sucking human blood, mocking the sacramental life-yielding blood of Christ (who gives his own blood). His realm of darkness is contrasted to the Kingdom of Light – and the list could go on and on. Many of the old stories (Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, etc.) had these themes behind them, though they are confused in the theatres of today by modern ideologies.
It is quite clear that, even amid an atheistic culture, immortality is at the very least a fascination with people, especially young people, today – it sells and entertains. The Catholic Church is not unaware of that echo of eternity in our hearts. The theme of this year’s World Youth Day (WYD) has immortality in its foundation, for although the theme is missionary in its tone, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19, RSV), there is a special emphasis that the command came from the Risen Christ. Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is the Ambassador of World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, and it is the Risen Christ who is the redeeming Christ. But this resurrection is very much unlike the zombie and vampire stories – it is the key difference between Dracula and Jesus. Jesus is not undead, or simply resuscitated. He is raised into new life and is preparing a new place for us. Our hope is not in sustaining this existence that we have, but in an encounter with Jesus who conquers death – not with a cricket bat, garlic, or a sexy look – but with a total self-gift. God chooses to draw near to us, by making us like him – not with a bite that brings along a zombie-like, meaningless, nightmarish existence – but to experience love itself, which is a full and meaning life.
Amazingly enough, the core events of each World Youth Day are all about this encounter of the Risen Christ. The Pope greatly desired to be with the youth of the world in celebrating Mass and meditating on the Stations of the Cross (as well as having Confession available for all) together. These form the heart of the week while a Papal Welcoming address and Vigil for the Mass complete the major events of WYD.
Let’s be honest, there’s so many amazing looking places in Rio, I’m jealous of the WYD team, and there’s no way to list them all.
In 1984, during the Holy Year of Redemption, Pope John Paul II entrusted a Youth Cross (also known as the WYD Cross or the Pilgrim Cross) to 300,000 youth gathered in Rome which was to journey with them around the world to all the countries and continents that would host a World Youth Day. The next year, the International Youth Year, as another 300,000 gathered at St. Peter’s Square, the Pope inaugurated the World Youth Day bi- (or tri-) annual events and in the following year he invited all the bishops of the world to initiate local annual youth day events. Interestingly, in light of our current Holy Father Pope Francis, 1987 saw the first World Youth Day that was held outside of the gatherings at the Vatican being in Pope Francis’ own Argentina.
“The Five” by Scott Roy