Cultural Clash in Pictures
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Vienna 1912 and Rio de Janeiro 2013

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.
eucharistic congress 192

The Eucharistic Congress of 1912 ends with a solemn procession and High Mass

A correspondent of the London Tablet described the procession of the Blessed Sacrament that took place on Sunday, September 15, 1912, the closing day of the 23rd International Eucharistic Congress:

Sunday dawned with a drizzling rain, followed by a lull that deceived the congressists, but after eight o'clock the rain fell in torrents. Still no ensign of surrender was run up. The word went forth that the procession would take place.

It is said that the Emperor would not hear of giving up the plan. "All these good people have been thoroughly drenched since they came to Vienna," his Majesty said, "so it won't harm them if they get more rain in the procession, and they would be greatly disappointed if it were cancelled. As for those of us who kept dry during the deluge, perhaps it is just as well that we should get a little wet."

Thus, it was through pelting rain that the 500,000 men and women who were to assist at the procession wended their way to the various points along the route which had been assigned to them. The bulk of this mass of faithful naturally consisted of the 11 peoples who constitute the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but Germany, France and Italy were also numerically well represented in the pageant. ...

Vienna cross 1912

Tyrolians in national garb carried
their crowned Christ on a crucifix

The scene on the Helden-Platz outside the Hofburg presented a wonderful historical picture. Grouped beneath the statue of Archduke Karl stood the stalwart sons of Tyrol, with their gigantic crucifix, and next to them were clustered all the peoples of this mighty Empire. ...

All were there in their national garbs, and for once all were oblivious of the racial and linguistic questions on which they can never agree. Shoulder to shoulder, banner to banner, they stood, indifferent to everything but the solemn occasion for which they had assembled.

The Austrian boy scouts, the Knabenhort in their sailor suits, were an attractive group at the further end of the square; while the Studentenschaft, a powerful collection of Catholic youth from all parts of the Empire, won great applause from the public for their fine military bearing, as headed by a banner of their heavenly Queen, they marched to their post.

The great procession formed – Church and State dignitaries, court carriages, mounted escorts – and then, preceded by a detachment of horse, Imperial Equerries and Chamberlains, drawn by eight bays, came the magnificent gold and glass historical coach of Maria Theresa, which bore the Holy of Holies.

The seats had been removed and the whole of the interior had been upholstered with white silk. In the fore part of the carriage a temporary altar had been erected, and in front of this knelt the Papal Legate, Cardinal von Rossum, and Cardinal Nagl, Archbishop of Vienna, who alternately held the Sacred Monstrance and blessed the multitude that lined the way triumphant. Priests with lighted torches walked at either side of the carriage, and in its wake rode a body of Austrian noblemen.

The Emperor followed in a State carriage, with the Archduke Francis Ferdinand. With bowed and bared head and clasped hands he drove past his people, and dearly as they love him his passing was unnoticed. All were equal in the Presence of the King of Kings.

The soldiers saluted the Blessed Sacrament, but they rendered no honor to their commander-in-chief as he went by. "I am not to be saluted in the Presence of One greater than the Kings of earth," Francis Joseph had ordered, and his soldiers obeyed.

For one fraction of a moment the sun burst through the clouds, and its rays lit up the monstrance like molten gold poured round the Sacred Host. But it was again in the drenching rain that the procession passed from under the last arch and dispersed. Once more "all nations and all peoples had united to give praise to the Most High."
(from The Sacred Heart Review, vol. 48, n. 19, October 26, 1912)


From the worldly standpoint the rain may have seemed pitiless, but from a super-worldly point of view, its effect was grandiose beyond the power of words to describe. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics dressed in their best and belonging to every class of society, rich and poor, lined the streets, filled the open windows and balconies, stood upon the housetops or took part in the great procession under a rain that drenched them to the skin.

Our Lord went by and everywhere the multitude knelt silently in the mire and the rain as the carriage passed. They had been waiting there patiently for hours, many of them fasting. What prompted this mass of people to wait for hours? It was the simple desire to give homage to the Most High. It was a manifestation of love toward the Divine Presence which lives on earth in the Catholic Church, and in the Catholic Church only.

There was also something else. They came to admire, to find repose of soul in the sacrality, beauty, pomp and inequality of the procession. Despite the rain, they left with their spirits rested. Pomp, beauty, ceremony, dignity, hierarchy, sacrality all do a good for the soul and help it to maintain its equilibrium.


A hundred years later, and a quite different description reports the final Mass at the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro on July 28, 2013. The Huffington Post (July 28, 2013) reports:

Nearly the entire 2.5 mile long Copacabana beach overflowed Sunday with flag-waving faithful, some of them taking an early morning dip in the Atlantic and others tossing t-shirts, flags and soccer jerseys into the Pontiff's open-sided car as he drove by.

The numbers – estimated to be more than 1.5 million – clearly overwhelmed the area's services: The stench of garbage and human waste hung in Rio's humid air, and the beach and adjoining chic Atlantic Avenue looked like an improvised refugee camp plunked down in the middle of one of the world's most beautiful cities. Copacabana's famous mosaic sidewalks were strewn with trampled cardboard, plastic bags, empty water bottles and cookie wrappers as trash collectors in orange uniforms tried to restore order.

Many of the youngsters on hand for the closing Mass spent the night on the beach, joining an all-night slumber party to end the Catholic youth fest, with pilgrims wrapped in flags and sleeping bags to ward off the cold.


The World Youth Days – inaugurated in 1985 by John Paul II to "evangelize" Catholic youth – are no longer even called ceremonies: they are events. Youth dressed in t-shirts, tanks and shorts wave their arms in the frenzied spirit of a rock concert. Rock music is not missing, a concert and all night slumber party on the beach precede the 'Mass event' staged on the beach. Even the Cardinals and Bishops have been instructed by the youth on how to dance and rock to the theme music.


Laughing youth carry a cross without Christ

There is a WYD cross – empty and bare of the crucified Christ – that is jovially carried by young men and women in their universal uniform - t-shirts and baseball hats. It is a time for experiences – high-fiving everyone and making new friends. The youth leave exhausted and exhilarated from their nonstop "experiences." It is a nervous exhaustion that represents the state of spirit of almost everyone in our days.

It is interesting to look back and read the description of the Vienna ceremony, filled with the spirit of the Catholic Faith and beauty of pre-Vatican days. How sharply it contrasts with everything that the modern world tends toward and stands for!

The exit door to modern madness is one Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church – with all its perfection, truth, beauty, hierarchy and fidelity to Our Lord Jesus Christ. It has "the way and the life."

But when the present day progressivist religious authorities pact with the modern world, as they have been doing since Vatican Council II, embracing it in all its egalitarianism and frenetic spirit, then that way is hidden from modern man.

Rio de Janeiro world youth day cabacanca beach mass

Youth emote at the outdoor Mass on Copacabana Beach, after a night long party and sleepover


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted August 3, 2015

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