To read the blogs and comments in this web site one would assume that the Catholic Church has lost most of its adherents, especially among younger generations.  This sentiment stands in stark contrast with what I witnessed last year in Spain when the World Youth Day held by the Catholic Church brought over one million young Catholics to Madrid for five days of meetings, conferences, cultural events, and religious ceremonies culminating in a mass attended by 1.5 million, mostly youngsters, celebrated by Pope Benedict 16.  The numbers who came from all parts of the world exceeded the most optimistic predictions.  The pope was visibly impressed and moved by the turn-out.

One main objective of the event was to recruit youngsters for religious vocations.  Seminarians played a very visible role in conducting the gathering.   By all accounts the event was a tremendous success.

M16

I won a bet with a Madrid friend of mine when I bet him that the World Youth Day group would be confronted and challenged by the “M16″ crowd.   “M16″ was the informal name given to the demonstrators who took over and occupied the core of Madrid, the Plaza del Sol, to protest poor economic conditions, especially for the young.  The name came from the day the protests started, May 16. 

In essence “M16″ was the origin of our own “Occupy Wall Street” protest.  I actually had the pleasure of walking among the protesters in Madrid and New York, talking to them, reading their posters, asking and receiving questions, observing who they were and trying to figure out what they seemed to want.  The two groups were almost identical in make-up, mostly youngsters in their 20s and 30s, and their complaints, the bail-out of financial institutions and their poor economic prospects. 

In Madrid they formed a stark contrast to the World Youth Day group who were definitely enthused and optimistic. As I bet my friend, the two groups met in a brief confrontation in which the Youth Day crowd refused to be goaded into violence.  The confrontation ended quickly.

For those who wonder how the Catholic Church is doing among the future generations I would urge them to look at this past World Youth Day and to the next one in Rio deJaneiro in two years.