It will take weeks — even months — to completely unpack all of what occurred at WYD in Rio and all of what Pope Francis said. Right now, many have seized upon a few choice soundbites: telling a group of Argentinian youth to “make a mess” in their dioceses (and apologizing to their bishops!), speaking about solidarity and the need for those with adequate resources to remain sensitive to the needs of those suffering social injustice, speaking against clericalism and the inclination to be oriented toward the sanctuary in an effort to avoid going out and being of service to others.
Hopefully all that Francis said and did will not be overshadowed by the press flash from a statement the Holy Father made while being interviewed on the return flight to Rome concerning the fact that it is not okay to judge homosexual persons, which, despite the major news outlets’ efforts to make it appear somehow different from what the Church teaches on the subject, is not a change in anything at all.
I think that Pope Francis knows that the only way we can offer authentic Christian witness is by discerning our “compatibility”. On July 27, as St. Sebastian Cathedral, he said:
“Read the first book of the Maccabees. It describes how they wanted to be in tune with the culture of the time. They said, culture, sure let’s take a bit of everything like everyone else. Laws? Sure, just as long as it’s not too much. But in time, they began to lose their faith because they tried to be compatible with the culture of that time. Have the strength to go against this. Stand up against a culture that only accepts what’s convenient and throws out the rest.”
The only authentic version of Catholicism today is the version that is not compatible with the culture of our time. We Catholics should be experiencing a personal incompatibility with mainstream culture now. It should not be too easy to watch television or choose a movie. It should not be perfectly joyful to shop at the mall. We should not be undisturbed when we throw away food. We should not automatically choose to buy the most expensive car we can afford. We should not happily consume all the advertising messages delivered to us.
G.K. Chesterton says that only something that is alive can swim against the current. If we are without a feeling of resistance to the things found in secular culture, we have a severe crisis of faith. Since Pope Francis is pointing out that our incompatibility with culture is a preservative of faith, we must ask ourselves, “How compatible am I?”. Step one is recognizing the need to ask the question.