IVE always quite envied people who perform in public; half of me longs to be the centre of attention and the other half cringes at the thought. I’d hate to be married to an actor, however, because you’d never really know whether a conversation was just a potentially Oscar- winning performance.
In July we’re being treated to a series of open- air theatre, when the stations of the cross will be re- enacted in Sydney, during World Youth Day, an event attracting its fair share of controversy.
There are those who welcome it and those who vehemently oppose it, many from within the church, who long for it to be an abject failure for reasons best known to themselves.
Spruiking religion can be a funny business. I was at a lunch recently with a most interesting man who has been studying in Rome for eight years and has a brain bulging with religious knowledge. Some guests shuffled their feet and beat a hasty retreat.
When I wrote about Aboriginal youngsters from the Kimberley attending WYD, I was assailed with vitriol from some quarters; one woman, however, not Catholic, called to say she had read the piece and would be in touch with the Bishop of Broome to say she would pay for tracksuits for the young people.
I think most people, especially those of my generation, are reticent about overt displays of emotion, which obviously includes religion, and we feel uneasy about a very public proclamation of faith. It’s too embarrassing.
Nevertheless, the plans of young people from all over the world to visit Sydney are gathering momentum. My new friend, Tim Hoag, a young priest from Spearfish, South Dakota, and his 38 pilgrims and five seminarians are busy raising money by dogwalking, babysitting, yard work and so forth, and, like the young people from the Kimberley, will be sleeping on a classroom floor.
A Sydney school, Santa Sabina, has raised almost $ 30,000 to bring poverty- stricken black South African girls from a shanty town outside Durban.
Franciscan priest Paul Ghanem says his event, Come to the Water, an afternoon takeover of Bondi beach, is going swimmingly. But the nay- sayers, still mumbling, are crossly giving the whole thing the thumbs- down. They’d much rather see the horses at Randwick than the Pope.
But surely, religion aside for a moment, even those who have no truck with Christianity and what they would call mawkish sentiment would recognise that, if nothing else, this is a marvellous opportunity for young people on a global scale to learn about each other.
The Spearfish priest clearly has little idea of what Australia is all about. He says they are also selling shares in their trip.
The holder of one share is entitled to an authentic Australian meal, sideshow and WYD presentation on their return.
‘‘ We actually don’t know what an authentic meal is, but we hope to discover this while in your country,’’ he says.
review@ theaustralian. com. au