In recent years, Catholicism's annual World Youth Day has served a double purpose. It has helped young Catholics become a little more earnest and mature in their thinking, and it has put a youthful spring in the step of aging popes.
Such seems to be the case in Sydney, Australia, last week where Pope Benedict XVI the "Green Pope" tried to rally 200,000 young people into action a group usually most attentive to messages of conservation and care of the planet.
"Some of you come from island nations whose very existence is threatened by rising water levels, others from nations suffering the effects of devastating drought," the pontiff said. It was a direct shot across the bow of those who belittle the notion of global warming.
But the words that likely hit home hardest for the American contingent in Australia came in the pope's condemnation of "insatiable consumption." Benedict XVI didn't pull punches. He lambasted the world for its self-indulgent ways when it comes to squandering resources on fuel and on personal pampering.
The church that once sold indulgences now castigates the overindulgent.
At age 81, this pope like John Paul II before him has gone the extra mile to connect with Catholic youths. He was given an iPod in 2006, and he sends out daily mobile phone text messages filled with scripture, signing the notes with BXVI.
Apart from topics du jour such as global warming and conservation, the pope's big message was easy to decipher: The future of the world and the church depends on young people stepping up.
John Paul II delivered that same message during World Youth Day in Denver. The young people at that event are now adults, married with children. Pope Benedict XVI was reaching out to a generation that wasn't even born at the time. His message was strong, filled with ideas about preserving values and being responsible stewards and citizens.
With so much in disarray, such counsel is always welcome. We hope it takes hold.
And we wish BXVI a long life to deliver more reminders about the topsy-turvy values of modern society.