On October 30, in St. Peter’s Square this morning, Pope Benedict XVI met with 100,000 children and young people from Italian Catholic Action who are participating in a national meeting on the theme: “There is something more: Let us grow up together”.
The Pope replied to three questions put to him by a boy from Catholic Action, a young man and a school teacher.
To the first question – “What does it mean to grow up? What must I do to grow up while following Jesus?” – the Holy Father replied by recalling his own youth. “I wanted to do something grand, to make more of my life”, he said. “Being ‘grown up’ means loving Jesus, listening to Him and speaking with Him in prayer, meeting Him in the Sacraments, in Mass and Confession; it means ever greater knowledge of Him, and making Him known to others; it means being with one’s friends, even the poor and sick, so as to grow together”.
To the second question – “What does it mean to love unto the end? How can we learn to love authentically?” – the Pope said: “This is a vital question. It is very important, I would say fundamental, to learn to love, to love truly, to learn the art of true love. … You will grow up if you are capable of making your life a gift to others; not seeking yourself but giving yourself to others. … You cannot and must not make do with a love reduced to a commodity, to be consumed with no respect for self or for others, incapable of chastity and purity. That is not freedom. A lot of the ‘love’ presented by the media and on the internet is not love but selfishness and closure. … It binds you like a chain suffocating the most beautiful thoughts and feelings, the true impulses of the heart, that unquenchable force which is love and which finds in Jesus its highest expression, and in the Holy Spirit the strength and the fire to ignite your life, thoughts and affections. Of course it also takes some sacrifice to love truly – without sacrifice you cannot follow this path – but I am sure you are not afraid of the fatigue of a demanding and authentic love. It is the only thing which, in the final analysis, brings true happiness”.
The third question was: “What does it mean to be teachers today? How can we face the difficulties we meet in our service? How can we ensure that everyone takes responsibility for the present and the future of the new generations?”
Pope Benedict XVI replied by highlighting how “Being an educator means having joy in one’s heart and communicating it to everyone so as to make life good and beautiful; it means providing reasons and goals for life’s journey, presenting the beauty of the person of Jesus and making people love Him, His lifestyle, His freedom. … Above all it means holding up the goal of … that ‘extra’ that comes to us from God. This requires personal knowledge of Jesus, a personal, daily and loving contact with Him in prayer, meditation on the Word of God, faithfulness to the Sacraments, the Eucharist, Confession; it means communicating the joy of being part of the Church, of having friends with whom to share, not only the difficulties but also the beauties and surprises of a life of faith”.
“You will be good educators if you are able to involve everyone in the good of the young. You cannot be self-sufficient but must make the vital importance of educating the young generations felt at all levels. Without the presence of the family, for example, you risk building on sand; without a collaboration with schools it is not possible to create a profound knowledge of the faith; without the involvement of the those who work in the sector of leisure and communication your patient efforts risk being unproductive and ineffective in daily life. I am sure that Catholic Action is well rooted in the community and has the courage to be light and salt. Your presence here this morning tells not only me but everyone that education is possible, that it is tiring but beautiful to enthuse young people and children. Have the courage and audacity to ensure that no sector is deprived of Jesus, of His tenderness which you bring to everyone, especially the neediest and abandoned, through your mission as educators”.
The Pope concluded his remarks by inviting those present to remain faithful “to the identity and goals of Catholic Action”.