Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pope: Young people; do not be afraid to follow the “alternative” route of true love

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
-1 Peter 1:8

Joy is one of the marks of a person who lives in Christ. Christian joy, authentic joy, a joy which permeates one's being because we love the Lord and we know that the Lord loves us is a sure sign that we understand an important and essential point of our Faith.

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?
-1 Thess 3:9

Passages such as the one above come to mind whenever I see photos of the Pope, especially in his encounters with young people. He is so animated and so joyful that he radiates the joy of Christ. It's interesting to see so many young people, half a million for the final Mass alone, come to listen to this man of God tell them some very difficult but true things. I guess they understand that he does this out of love for them and for the Lord Jesus, a true and authentic love which is truthful. And so, they respond to his love and loving him in return.

Truly amazing in our day and our age when young people are expected to be materialistic and shallow people who should be talked down to and told dumbed down and watered versions of the truth.

God bless and keep the Pope, His servant, so that he can continue to guide and minister to His people and His Church.

The post below is a long one. It chronicles the Pope's journey to Loreto where the Agora or Gathering of the Italian Catholic youth took place. Do give it a read, especially the Pope's prayer before Our Lady of Loreto which stands in the Holy House. At the very least, look at the photos. As the Pope said long ago, the Church is alive, and the Church is young!

Pope: Loreto, young people's spiritual capital
Benedict XVI urges the 300,000 people who gathered in the Plains of Montorso not “to fear” difficulties, failure, insecurity or “God’s silence,” encouraging them instead to discover Christ in creation, the liturgy, in friendship with fellow Christians. He invites them to bear witness to their faith in our society. Among those present, Fr Giancarlo Bossi greeted everyone and gave his thanks.

Loreto (AsiaNews) – As the moving voice of tenor Andrea Bocelli singing Gounod’s Ave Maria drifted across the Plains of Montorso, the dark statue of Our Lady of Loreto slowly made its way through a huge crowd of almost 300,000 young people, amid their applause and enthusiasm. Organised by the Italian Bishops’ Conference in preparation of the 2008 World Youth Day in Sydney, the statue symbolises the gathering, the agora. A combination of carnival, party and prayer, the youth Vigil brought out the best in young Italian Catholics, their concerns and eagerness included; it did the same for Benedict XVI, who expressed his emotions, attentiveness and imagination, often putting aside his prepared speech in favour of a direct, heartfelt approach to the young people.

Slums and God’s silence

The vigil, which included chanting and music, saw some speakers bear witness as to what it means to be young today, addressing questions to the Pope. From the southern Italian city of Bari, Piero, an engineer, and Giovanna, a social worker from the city’s slums, were the first to speak. After talking about their own commitment, they asked: “How is it possible to hope when reality takes away whatever dream for happiness you may have, denies you a chance to plan your life?”

In his reply the Pope said that the anxiety the question betrays did not need any theoretical or feel-good answer. Putting aside his prepared text, the Holy Father spoke about marginalisation and ghettoisation, tragedies caused by the inaction of centres of power. He went on to say that the institutions that should take care of the powerless like the family and the parish church have been weakened. He further stressed that for the Church no one is an outsider and everyone is part of the whole. Christ was born in Nazareth, a place far from any centre of power; and yet he “revolutionised the world.” The Church should go back into the poorer neighbourhoods and with Christ’s help rebuild the social fabric of their inhabitants. For this reason young people he said must “change the world,” starting in its poorest corners, places time forgot.

When it was her turn, Sara, a 24-year-old office worker from Genoa, spoke about young people’s confusion, about the violence they experience and the lack of educators “as good and credible reference points to whom one may turn with one’s pain is too much. . . . Holy Father, in this silence so heavy for me and my faith, where is everybody? Above all, where is God?”

“Every believer knows about God’s silence,” said the Pontiff answering off the cuff. “With all her charity, even Mother Teresa suffered from God’s silence.” But he recalled a story about Pope John Paul II, when he was still Cardinal Wojtyla. A scientist told him that he was “certain” that God did not exist but that “whenever he looked out at the mountains, he saw that He existed.” In truth, “the beauty of creation,” the Pope said, “is a sign of God’s goodness.” Not only do we meet God in creation, but we feel his “presence in the liturgical celebrations and in the Word,” he said. We have the same experience in the “great music by Bach, Mozart, and Haendel.” Listening to them we discover that God is the source of everything. Also there is friendship and companionship in faith and travel like what young people in Loreto have experienced. “God,” he said, “wants us to bear witness to our faith and be a light” onto others.

Acknowledging that “it is hard to talk to our friends about God and the Church,” a God “of prohibitions” and “a Church that imposes,” he urged his audience to “try to experience the living Church, not the image of a Church that is a centre of power.”

Remembering his visit to Fazenda Esperanza in Brazil, a drug rehab centre, he said that “the certainty in God’s existence means salvation from desperation.” God “broadens life,” he noted; “drugs destroy it.”

He concluded saying that “Christ came to create a network of communion in the world so that we can all help each other. In so doing we discover that the commandments and the relationship to God are in reality a path to joy.”

Almost as confirmation to what the Pope said, Ilaria, 26 and from Rome, offered her story as a happy ending. She told her fellow young people the story of her family, a violent father, her anorexia, her mother, and a priest who helped her psychologically and spiritually. Now she is married and the mother of a little girl, and has adopted Pope Wojtyła’s apostolic motto Totus Tuus ("totally yours”) which he borrowed from the Marian consecrating prayer.

Father Bossi’s greetings

Fr Giancarlo Bossi’s story is another happy ending. A missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in the Philippines, he spent 39 days in captivity on the Filipino island of Mindanao. Father Bossi was invited to attend the Vigil; one of the reason for returning to Italy for. Speaking from the stand, he thanked Pontiff and young people.

“Holy Father,” he said, “I am happy to be here tonight to give thanks, to God for holding my life lovingly in His hands; to you for holding me in your heart during my captivity and encouraging so many to pray for me; to all those young people who through their prayers and love gave me courage to remain faithful to Christ, His Church, my missionary vocation and all the people to whom I belong. You also gave courage to missionaries who work around the world. Thank you in the name of God!”

After singing, praying and Bible readings, Benedict XVI spoke about Loreto which, because of so many young people, has become the “spiritual capital, the centre, where so many young people from the five continents have converged to share their ideals.”

The Pope spoke about their hopes and expectations, but also about their deceptions, the “impossible” dreams they have. He referred to their “anxieties” and “doubts,” asking “how can one become part of a society with so much injustice and suffering? How can one react to selfishness and violence which sometimes appears so overwhelming? How can one give real meaning to life? In raising these questions Benedict XVI said he felt “close” to the young people in Loreto, telling them that “through you,” he could reach out “to people of your own age.”

Like Mary, fear not!

“Fear not, Christ can fulfill the most intimate aspirations your heart holds! Can some dreams be impossible if they are awakened and nourished in the heart by God’s spirit?”

In comforting tones, he told young people to face the unease that their fragility, insecurity and sense of uselessness may cause. “Let me repeat, tonight,” he said, “if each one of you remains united with Christ, you can accomplish great things. This is why, dear friends, you must not fear to dream, eyes wide open, and do good; don’t let yourselves be discouraged by hardships. Christ trusts you and wants you to achieve your highest and noblest dream of real happiness.”

“Look upon Mary,” he suggested, who, in saying “yes” to God found Herself at the “centre of humanity.” “Looking upon her, meekly following her, you shall discover the beauty of love, not a disposable one, transient and deceptive, prisoner to a selfish and materialistic mentality, but one that is true and deep.”

The Pope also raised the issue of so many “broken” families, of couples that break up, saying that to “those who find themselves in such a delicate and complex situations I say this tonight: the Mother of God, the Community of Believers and the Pope stand by you and pray that the crisis that affects today’s families not turn into an irreversible failure.”

In his address to the young crowd Benedict XVI was especially keen in supporting the more responsible choices young people make, helping them overcome their fear of failure. “In the night that awaits us, at the foot of Her Holy House, Mary shall again tell each one of you, my dear young friends, the same words She heard from the Angel: Don’t fear! Don’t be afraid! The Holy Spirit is with you and shall never abandon you. To anyone who places his trust in God, nothing is impossible. This is true for those who are meant to marry; it is even more so for those to whom God proposes a life of total detachment from earthly things and a full commitment to his Kingdom.”

Again he referred to Fr Giancarlo Bossi “for whom we have prayed all through his captivity in the Philippines, and whose presence today in our mist we enjoy. In him we want to greet and thank all those who live for Christ on the edges of evangelisation. My dear young people, if the Lord calls you to live intimately at His service, answer with generosity. Be certain that a life devoted to God is never lived in vain.”

The Pope ended his homily, greeting with a “father’s heart” “each one” of the young people present in the Plains of Montorso, urging them to meet again in Sydney. “Let us pray that the Lord who does all kinds of wonders may let many of you to be there. May He give me and you such an opportunity! This is but one of the many dreams we have and which tonight we shall entrust in Mary as we pray together.”

The Pontiff then blessed the Jubilee Cross from the diocese of Endeber (Ethiopia). Young Italian Catholics have in fact taken on the task of helping the Church in this African country.

At the end of the meeting and following a brief pause the Pope walked over to the Holy House to pray in silence as young people prepared for the night vigil. Tomorrow he is scheduled to celebrate mass in the Plains of Montorso.

Loreto (AsiaNews) – As the young people who came to Loreto got ready for a long overnight vigil that will last till sunrise, filled with singing, playing music, dancing, doing street theatre, Benedict XVI paid a visit to the Holy House of Loreto at the start of what some have dubbed ‘Agora (or gathering) Night.’ In a live link-up with the youth outside, he recited a prayer in front of the statue of Our Lady, a prayer which he wrote for them. Here is an English translation of Holy Father’s prayer:

Mary, Mother who said Yes, you have listened to Jesus, know the tone of his voice and the beating of his heart.

Morning star, talk to us about him and tell us about the journey following him on the path of faith.

Mary, who lived with Jesus in Nazareth, etch your feelings in our lives,

May your meekness, your listening silence, make the Word blossom in truly free choices.

Mary, tells us about Jesus, so that the freshness of our faith shines in our eyes and warms the heart of those who are with us, as you did on visiting Elizabeth who in her old age rejoiced with you for the gift of life.

Mary, Virgin of the Magnificat, help us bring joy to the world and, as at Cana, lead every youth who is committed to the service of his brothers do only what Jesus says.

Mary, look upon on the Agora [gathering] of Youth so that it will be fertile ground for the Italian Church.

Pray that Jesus, who died and has risen, is reborn in us, and transform us in a night full of light, full of him.

Mary, Our Lady of Loreto, heaven’s gate, help us raise our eyes.

We want to see Jesus; talk to him; proclaim his love to everyone.

Benedict XVI proposes a way of life that “goes against the trend” to over 500 thousand young people: not the success, power, arrogance or empty models promoted by the media , but the courageous model of Mary, solidarity and protection of creation. Loreto, the home of contemplation to become “witnesses” on the streets of the world.

Loreto (AsiaNews) – In an exigent and a clear proposal Benedict XVI today invited the young people gathered on the Montorso plain between Loreto and the Adriatic sea, to a lifestyle that “goes against the trend”, to transform society by following the “humble” example of Mary. In his homily during mass concluding the Youth Agorà, he said: “Do not follow the path of pride, rather, follow the path of humility” Go against the trend: do not listen to that chorus of bias and persuasive voices which today put forward a model of life that is drenched in arrogance and violence, in dominance and success at all costs, where appearance and possession to the detriment of others is openly promoted.

All of these messages carried by the mass media are aimed at you! Be vigilant! Be critical! Do not follow the trend produced by this powerfully persuasive media. Do not be afraid, my dear friends, to prefer the ‘alternative’ route indicated by true love: a sober style of life, a life of solidarity; an honest commitment to your studies and work; a cultivated interest in the common good. Do not be afraid to appear different, or the criticism that you are out of fashion or a loser; people your age, even adults, all of those who seem far from the mentality of the Gospel values, have a deep seated need to see someone who dares to live according to the fullness of humanity manifested by Jesus Christ”.

The pope’s words met with the warm applause of the immense crowd gathered on the plain. Yesterday alone, over 300 thousand people for the vigil; this morning, the arrival of thousands more young people pushing the numbers up to touch half a million. Many of them spent the night in the open, in prayer and meditation or in dialogue, helped by the “fountains of light”, illuminated meeting points placed at intervals throughout the plain, where priests and catechists were present to listen, hear confessions, speak about vocations, until first light appeared and the Morning Prayer said.

The courage of humility

What Benedict XVI proposed is a veritable way of life for anyone who wishes to remain “young”. Yesterday evening during the vigil the testimonies of some young people laid bare the difficulties and insecurities, the marginalization and unemployment linked to the world of the young. Today the pope affirmed that “Jesus has a special preference for the young” and that God himself “seeks young hearts …. To become the protagonists of the New Alliance”.

The pope’s programme for young people is taken from Mary’s “youth” and has at its foundation her humility. Recalling the nearby sanctuary of Loreto, where stones from the Holy House of Nazareth are preserved he affirmed: “the Holy House of Nazareth is the sanctuary of humility: the humility of God who became flesh and of Mary who welcomed him to her womb”.

The pope is not afraid of showing the stark opposition between the ideals of the world and Christianity: “The humble – he says – are perceived as being defeated and beaten, people who have nothing to offer the world. Yet this is the master route, not only because humility is a great virtue, but because above all it represents the very way in which God himself behaves. It is the path chosen by Christ”. And after having underlined the necessity of a witness that “goes against the trend”, he adds: “My dear friends, the path of humility is not the path of renunciation, it is the path of true courage. It is not the result of a defeat but of victory of love over selfishness and of grace over sin. In following Christ and imitating Mary, we must have the courage of humility”.

The “new paths” which the young people need to follow imply the ability to say “yes to God”, from who “all the yes of our lives” descend. There is also something new in our view of the faith and of the Church: “Our faith does is not merely a list of moral prerogatives, rather, it is a glorious journey towards the light of our Yes to God. It is true; there are many great challenges ahead of you. The first of which remains the challenge of following Christ to the very depths, without reservations, without compromise. Following Christ means being a living part of his body, which is the Church. You cannot call yourself a disciple of Jesus if you do not love and follow his Church”.

The Church (which is not a “power centre”, he had said last night) is a place which unites, not for “success”, but for “the good of humanity, a good which is both authentic and shared, and which does not subsist in power or possession, but in being”. These radical decisions are necessary in order to build “the city of God with man, a city which grows contemporarily from the ground up and from Heaven downwards, because it develops in the encounter and collaboration between man and God”. ( Ap 21,2-3)”.

Stewards of creation

In building “a more just and sharing society, where everyone can enjoy the fruits of the earth”, the pontiff indicates one priority: that of “safeguarding creation”. “The future of the planet – said the pope – “is in the hands of the new generations, a planet where the signs of a development that has not always protected the delicate equilibrium of nature, can be seen. Before it is too late, we must take courageous steps, to recreate the alliance between man and earth. We need to say yes to safeguarding creation, we must decidedly commit ourselves to invert those tendencies which risk bringing about irreversible degradation”. In fact today the Italian Church celebrates the National Day for the protection of creation, dedicated to water, “a precious good, which if not peacefully and equally shared, is destined to become a motive for tension and bitter conflict”.

And after having invited the young people once again – just as last night – to participate in the World Youth Day Sydney 2008, the pope turned to the Blessed Virgin: “In the end …..We turn our eyes towards Mary, model of humility and of courage. Help us, Virgin of Nazareth, to be docile to the work of the Holy Spirit, as you were; help us to become ever more saintly, disciples in love with your Son Jesus Christ; sustain and accompany these young people so that they may be joyful and tireless missionaries of the Gospel among their contemporaries, in every corner of Italy. Amen!”

At the end of his homily, the applause, waving of banners, scarves and the shouting of slogans lasted so long that the pope was forced to ask for silence in order to continue the mass.

The silence of the Home and the witness of the town square

In the Angelus, the pontiff returned once again to underlining the bond between Loreto and Nazareth, the place of the annunciation to Mary: “Loreto second only to Nazareth, is the ideal place to pray and meditate on the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God….the place where the Virgin said ‘yes’ to God and conceived in her womb the eternal incarnate Word”.

The pope recalled that every “agorà”, every public moment, needs a “home”, a place of contemplation: “The town square is big, it is open, it is the meeting place for many for dialogue and confrontation; the home, instead, is the place of inner gathering and silence, where the Word can be heard in its depths. In order to bring God to the town square, first you must gather him to your inner being at home, just like Mary in the Annunciation”. And he adds that likewise” the home must open out onto the square: this is further suggested by the Holy House in Loreto, which has three walls not four: it is an open Home, open on the world, open to life and even to the Agorà of young Italians”.

The last proposal made by the pope is that Loreto become a constant reference point in the lives of the young: “In the most important moment of your lives come here, at least in your hearts, to gather yourselves spiritually between the walls of the Holy House…. Then will you become its true witnesses in the ‘squares’, in society, bringers of a Gospel that is not abstract, but incarnated in your own lives”.

Confirming this commitment to witnessing God in society, at the end of the mass 72 young people from diocese across Italy received the missionary Mandate of the Italian Agorà, to bring the faith “with joy and gratitude” throughout the world. The pope bestowed on them the so-called “pilgrims sackcloth”, distributed by two bishops.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had the chance to follow the whole ceremony (saturday night and sunday morning) on the Italian TV!
It has been really amazing! great and powerful thanks to the Holy Spirit that leads the whole youth, the Pope and the whole Church!
It has been such a pity that no other network has diffused those images! This is why I'm still optimistic about the resurgence of our wonderful faith throguout the world (thanks to the Holy Spirit and of course to people like you!)
Gopd bless yoU!