24 May 2024

TraditionalYouth Movement Juventutem Turns Twenty

Juventutum is a thorn in the side of Francis and his Modernist Minions™ because it is a youth group dedicated to the Mass of the Ages.


From Crisis

By Fr Armand De Malleray, FSSP

Over the past twenty years, Juventutem groups dedicated to the the sanctification of young people through the Roman traditions of the Church have sprung up on every continent.

Juventutem is an international lay movement fostering the sanctification of young people through the Roman traditions of the Church. Loyal to the Church hierarchy, Juventutem has received endorsements by eminent Catholic prelates in Rome, including several heads of dicasteries, such as Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Cardinal William Levada, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Cardinal George Pell, and Cardinal Robert Sarah. They, and many diocesan archbishops and bishops have publicly celebrated the traditional Roman liturgy and preached at Juventutem events over the past two decades. 

Juventutem is historically connected with the international gatherings known as World Youth Days. But from the start, Juventutem prompted meetings of young people on a monthly basis led locally by traditionally-minded clerics. The meetings include confessions, Holy Mass with a homily or followed by catechesis, and a time of social interaction. 

Over the past twenty years, Juventutem groups have sprung up on every continent. They normally last a few years until their members get married or enter consecrated life. Currently, they are located mostly in the United States and the United Kingdom, where the London group brings together about seventy young adults every month. Most chaplains to Juventutem groups are diocesan priests. 

Since July 2022, the restrictions put by the Holy See on the celebration of the traditional liturgy has affected many Juventutem groups. But interest for the Roman traditions of the Church is still gathering momentum among young people, as demonstrated, for instance, by the spectacular growth of the Pentecost pilgrimage to Chartres in France over the past two years. 

Juventutem started during Pope John Paul II’s Year of the Eucharist, announced on June 10, 2004, and scheduled from October 2004 to October 2005. The pope had stated his desire that World Youth Day 2005 in Germany should draw “the young people to gather around the Eucharist as the vital source which nourishes their faith and enthusiasm.” Pope John Paul II died four months before WYD in Cologne, but he was providentially succeeded by Pope Benedict XVI, a German and a signalled supporter of the traditional liturgy. From the start, Juventutem focused on the Most Holy Eucharist, choosing as its logo a monstrance and as its name a quote from the beginning of Holy Mass in the Gregorian Missal—in Latin: Introibo ad altare dei, ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam; in English: I will go unto the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth

Since the name Juventutem was first mentioned by the leaders on the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians in 2004, the Marian date of May 24 was chosen as the anniversary of the movement. After seeking Our Lady’s protection, the founders entrusted Juventutem to the intercession of St. John Bosco, the great apostle of Catholic youth. In 2006, thirty-one young adults—originating from sixteen countries, representing every continent—adopted constitutions inspired from those of the International Una Voce Federation. Members originated from Russia, Germany, Australia, Italy, China, Ireland, Brazil, Great Britain, France, the United States, Hungary, Switzerland, Kenya, Spain, the Netherlands, and Austria.

Like a little seed, Juventutem was planted when two young Catholic laymen and a priest began to set up the first-ever traditional delegation of young people to the forthcoming World Youth Day in Germany in 2005. Hard work, prayer, and perseverance were needed to set the striking precedent of an official delegation of young lay people and clergy at WYD, all in good standing and with the traditional Latin Mass as their form of worship publicly approved. 
Up to then, in Toronto, Rome, Paris, or Manila, the traditional Latin Mass was simply not part of the official program. Young lay people and clergy who would attend the usus antiquior at home had no possibility of finding it at any church on the official WYD schedule in those large cities. Similarly, youth and clergy not familiar with the Traditional Latin Mass had no chance of coming across it—and of falling in love with it! 

This changed at Cologne in 2005. Juventutem was then registered with the WYD Committee as the official umbrella group for all those wishing to worship according to the traditional Roman Rite. Several cardinals and bishops were assigned to give the official catecheses and offer Holy Mass—as well as vespers and Eucharistic adoration—for any youths and clergy following the traditional Latin liturgy. The late Cardinal George Pell thus made history as the first prelate to celebrate the traditional liturgy at World Youth Day. Pictures of his towering silhouette in cappa magna for pontifical vespers became a media sensation, especially since he was known to be the host of the next WYD in Sydney. Furthermore, a very central and large church was allocated to Juventutem, allowing many hundreds to attend the traditional liturgies.

In Cologne in 2005, then, nearly one thousand attended under the Juventutem banner the final papal Mass at Marienfeld, out of one million in total. This means that for every thousand pilgrims present, about one young adult had come with Juventutem, identifying with the usus antiquior

Major media reported the novelty, which was seen as a significant feature of WYD 2005. Not only Catholic media, such as The Catholic Herald, Inside the VaticanThe Catholic Times, La Croix (three articles), Famille Chrétienne, La Nef, The Irish Catholic, The Tablet, Kreuz.Net, Mass of Ages, Uj Ember, and Zenit, reported on the event but also secular ones, such as The Daily Telegraph, Ouest-France, Il Giornale, La Razón, Valeurs Actuelles, Agence France Presse, Europe 1 radio, Reuters, and Liberation. The main secular French daily, Le Figaro, ran articles on Juventutem or mentioned it on five separate occasions (see our 2005 Press Review on www.juventutem.org).

This novelty would not have escaped the attention of Pope Benedict XVI who, less than two years later, wrote to all the bishops in the world: 

Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them. Thus the need has arisen for a clearer juridical regulation which had not been foreseen at the time of the 1988 Motu Proprio. (Letter accompanying the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, July 7, 2007)

Juventutem subsequently expanded as an international federation, with small groups mushrooming on every continent. The successful involvement of Juventutem at the 2005 WYD was renewed in Sydney in 2008, Madrid in 2011, Rio in 2013, Krakow in 2016, and Panama in 2019. It came as a disappointment, therefore, if not entirely as a surprise, when Juventutem was told in anticipation of the Lisbon WYD in 2023 that the traditional Roman liturgy could not be officially included this time. 

And yet, progressive Catholic newspaper La Croix had surveyed 30,000 prospective WYD pilgrims from France and found that “38% appreciated the Latin Mass,” while “40% had nothing against it.” Our happy experience is that most young people (and older ones alike) come to love the traditional Mass when suitably introduced to it. This was confirmed by the Vatican, who invited WYD pilgrims to express their wishes for the forthcoming Synod on Synodality: a number of their handwritten petitions on the Synod’s Twitter account ask for a return to orthodoxy and for access to the traditional Mass. 

Providentially, a private venue was offered in the center of Lisbon for Juventutem last summer. We mention it here, in conclusion, as a pleasant illustration of what Juventutem has helped with over the past two decades: namely, the rediscovery of their liturgical patrimony by modern young people. 

The venue was the vast and decrepit palace of a late duke. Little had changed there since it had been built after the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755. The baroque chapel seated only thirty, but when adding the choir gallery and side spaces, we managed to fit up to sixty at Holy Mass. We set a statue of Our Lady of Fatima on the top of the altar superstructure. Among other treasures, the abandoned sacristy yielded a set of white vestments that probably had not been worn since the 1960s. Ancient altar cards were also exhumed. We dusted the place and filled the entrance stoup with freshly blessed holy water. The bones of the old duke must have quivered with joy when, in his own chapel, long deserted but now overcrowded with young souls, suddenly the bell rang and anew the Holy Sacrifice began: Introibo ad altare Dei…

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