Pope's teachings

Surfers of love. The Pope with the youth at WYD

World Youth Day brought together more than one million young people from all over the world. They came with different expectations. But they were called one by one. Before them and with them "a singular choreography" unfolded: the fullness (catholicity) of a call and an encounter.

Ramiro Pellitero-September 2, 2023-Reading time: 8 minutes
WYD youth

As Francis underlined on Wednesday following the days spent in Lisbon, the World Youth Day (WYD) after the pandemic was "felt by all as a gift from God that has set in motion the hearts and steps of young people, many young people from all parts of the world - so many of them!" (General Audience, 9-VIII-2023).

The forced isolation that the pandemic meant for everyone, particularly felt by young people, was now overcome by a "push" to go out to meet many others, precisely in Portugal, on the shores of the sea that unites heaven and earth and the continents with each other. And all this with a certain "haste", represented by the figure of Mary in her visit to her cousin Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39).

It was a festive atmosphere, with a certain amount of effort in terms of the road and the dream, and also because of the work of the organizers and 25,000 volunteers who made it possible to welcome everyone. 

Taking note of a certain controversy that had arisen weeks earlier, the Pope noted a posteriori : "Youth Day is an encounter with the living Christ through the Church. Young people go to meet Christ. It is true, where there are young people there is joy and there is a little bit of all these things.". The encounter with Christ and joy, celebration and effort, work and service must not be opposed to one another. 

In a world of conflicts and wars, the young people showed that another world is possible, without hatred and weapons. "Will the great ones of the earth listen to this message?". The Pope threw the question into the air. 

Dreaming big

In its meeting with the authorities (Cfr. Speech 2-VIII-2023), he recalled the signing, in 2007, of the Treaty on the Reform of the European Union. He noted that the world needs Europe, its role as a builder of bridges and peace between countries and continents:

"Europe will be able to contribute, within the international scenario, its specific originality, outlined in the last century when, from the crucible of world conflicts, it lit the spark of reconciliation, making possible the dream of building tomorrow with yesterday's enemy, of opening paths of dialogue, itineraries of inclusion, developing a diplomacy of peace that extinguishes conflicts and eases tensions, capable of catching the faintest signs of détente and of reading between the most twisted lines.". He will be able to tell the West that technology, which has marked progress and globalized the world, is not enough, let alone weapons, which rather represent the impoverishment of real human capital: education, health, welfare for all. 

And he proposed three "laboratories of hope": care for the environment, care for the future (especially for young people who need work, an equitable economy, a culture of life and adequate education) and fraternity (they urge us to break down rigid barriers erected in the name of different opinions and beliefs). With regard to education, he underlined the need for an education that can not only impart technical notions for economic progress, but that is "...".intended to enter into a history, to transmit a tradition, to value man's religious need and to foster social friendship.". 

Overcoming "the fatigue of the good guys".

On the same day, at Vespers which he celebrated in the Hieronymites monastery (cf. Homily, 2-VIII-2023), he insisted on this program that interprets the dream that God, in relation to the vocation and mission of Christians: "finding ways for a joyful, generous and transformative participation for the Church and humanity". Jesus called us not because of our works, but because of his grace (cf. 2 Tim 1:9). And today too he wants to count on the fishermen of Galilee and their weariness, to bring the closeness of God to others. 

He referred to the dangerous "weariness of the good" in our countries of ancient Christian tradition, today affected by so many social and cultural changes and by secularism and indifference to the faith. The danger consists in allowing worldliness to enter hand in hand with resignation and pessimism, facilitated by the anti-witnesses and scandals (among us) that disfigure the face of the Church. "and that call for a humble, constant purification, starting from the cry of pain of the victims, who must always be welcomed and listened to". 

In the face of this danger, which can turn us into mere "functionaries" of the things of God, we must once again welcome Jesus who climbs into our boat. "He comes to look for us in our loneliness, in our crises, to help us start again.". As a great Portuguese missionary (António Vieira) used to say, God gave us a small land to be born, but looking out over the ocean, he gave us the whole world to die. 

Navigating together, without accusations

Therefore, Francis deduces, it is not the time to moor the boat or to look back, to escape from our time because it frightens us and to take refuge in forms and styles of the past; rather, we are before a time of graceThe Pope proposes three decisions. The Pope proposes three decisions.

First, to sail out to sea, rejecting all sadness, cynicism and defeatism, and trusting in the Lord. Of course, for this, much prayer is needed; a prayer that will free us from nostalgia and regrets, from spiritual worldliness and clericalism. 

Second: go all togetherliving the spirit of communion and co-responsibility, building a network of human, spiritual and pastoral relationships. And to call everyone. Francis insists, as he has been doing in the last months: to "everyone, everyone, everyone"each one as he stands before God.

Third: to be fishermen of men: "We, as the Church, have been entrusted with the task of immersing ourselves in the waters of this sea, casting the net of the Gospel, without pointing fingers, without accusing, but bringing to the people of our time a proposal of life, that of Jesus: to bring the welcome of the Gospel, to invite them to the feast, to a multicultural society; to bring the closeness of the Father to the situations of precariousness and poverty that are increasing, especially among the young; to bring the love of Christ where the family is fragile and relationships are wounded; to transmit the joy of the Spirit where demoralization and fatalism reign.". And Francis specifies that it is not a matter of beginning by accusing: "This is a sin"The goal is to invite everyone and then bring them closer to Jesus, to repentance. 

Loved as we are, "without makeup".

Already in the welcoming ceremony (cf. Speech at Edward VII Park(Lisbon, 3-VIII-2023), the Pope welcomed the young people. He told them that they had not come by chance, but called by the Lord, from the beginning of their lives, and also concretely now. 

We have been called before our qualities and before our wounds, because we have been loved. "Each of us is unique and is original and the beauty of it all we can't glimpse." And that is why our days must be "vibrant echoes of God's loving call, because we are precious in his eyes."

Before the Pope, so many flags, languages and nations were unfurled. To all he said that we come from a single heartbeat of God for each one of us: "Not as we would like to be, as we are now." And this is the starting point of life: "loved as we are, without makeup"

God has called us by name because he loves us. Not like the algorithms of virtual commerce, which associate our name simply to market preferences, to promise us false happiness that leaves us empty inside. We are not the community of the bestWe are all sinners, called as we are, brothers and sisters of Jesus, children of the same Father. 

Francis knows how to touch the hearts of young people. He insists: "In the Church there is room for everyone.". Also with gestures: "The Lord does not point his finger, but opens his arms. It is curious: the Lord does not know how to do this. (pointing with finger), but does this (makes the gesture of embracing)". Therefore, he leaves them his message: "Do not be afraid, have courage, go forward, knowing that we are "amortized" by God's love for us.".

Search, educate, integrate

Hours later, also to the university students (Cfr. Speech at the Catholic University of Lisbon, 3-VIII-2023) he proposes to go forward "desirous of meaning and future", without substituting faces for screens, without substituting questions that tear for easy answers that anesthetize. 

On the contrary, we must have the courage to replace fears with dreams. Also because we are responsible for others and education must reach everyone. Lest we do not know how to answer when God asks us: Where are you? (Gen 3:9) and Where is your brother? (Gen 4:9).

Addressing the educators, he raised the need for a conversion of the heart (towards compassion, hope and service). And also from "a change in the anthropological vision".to achieve true progress, using scientific and technological means to overcome partial visions and achieve an integrated and sustainable integral ecology.

All of this needs God, because - as if echoing something Benedict XVI insisted - "there can be no future in a world without God". To educate with a Christian inspiration, the Pope proposed some criteria. First, to make the faith credible through actions, attitudes and lifestyles. Second, to support the Global education pact and its proposals (with special attention to the person, youth, women, the family, the most vulnerable, true progress, and integral ecology). Third, to integrate education with the Gospel message. All this leads to the need for overall visions (so characteristic of a Catholic vision) and educational projects. 

Stain your hands, but not your heart

Particularly educational was the meeting with the young people from Scholas Occurrentes (Cfr. Meeting in Cascais, August 3, 2023). 

They had prepared a mural of three and a half kilometers, collecting situations and feelings, based on lines and somewhat disjointed brush strokes, many of which had been captured by those who experienced them... When the Pope arrived, they showed it to him. And then they gave him a paintbrush to give the final touch to this "work of art", to this "Sistine Chapel", as Francis called it, half jokingly.

For his part, he explained the icon of the Good Samaritan, and spoke to them about the need for compassion, also to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He invited us to ask ourselves where each one of us is, if we hurt others or have compassion for them, if we get our hands dirty helping in real difficulties or not. Because, he said, "sometimes, in life, you have to get your hands dirty so as not to dirty your heart".

Already at the vigil of the final day (Cfr. Speech in Tejo Park, Lisbon, 5-VIII-2023), the Bishop of Rome focused on the figure of Mary, who goes in haste to Elizabeth's house, because joy is missionary. We Christians are to bring our joy to others, just as we have received it from others. 

A joy that must be sought and discovered in our dialogue with others, with a lot of training; and that sometimes tires. Then we have to get up, and this happens many times. And that is why we have to help others to get up. That was the central idea that he wanted to leave: "Walk and, if you fall, get up; walk with a goal; train every day in life. In life, nothing is free. Everything is paid for. There is only one thing free: the love of Jesus.".

Surfers of love 

Finally, the next day the Gospel of the Mass presented the scene of the Transfiguration (cf. Homily 6-VIII-2023). To concretize what the young people could take back to their daily lives, the Pope went through three steps. 

First glow. Jesus shone before the three apostles. Jesus has also enlightened us, so that we may enlighten others. Well then: "We become luminous, we shine when, welcoming Jesus, we learn to love like Him. To love like Jesus, that makes us luminous, that leads us to do works of love.". Instead we shut down when we focus on ourselves. 

Second, listen. The whole secret is there. "He teaches us the way of love, listen to Jesus. Because, with good will, we sometimes take paths that seem to be of love, but in the end they are selfishness disguised as love. Beware of selfishness disguised as love.".

Third, not to be afraid. This appears frequently in the Bible. Fear, pessimism and discouragement must be overcome. But with Jesus we can stop being afraid, because He is always watching us and knows us well. 

In his farewell speech to the volunteers (Cfr. Speech at the Algés Maritime Pass, 6-VIII-2023), the Pope thanked them for their efforts, because they came to Lisbon to serve and not to be served. 

It was for them a way to meet Jesus. "Meeting Jesus and meeting others. This is very important. The encounter with Jesus is a personal, unique moment, which can be described and recounted only to a certain extent, but it always comes thanks to a journey made in company, realized thanks to the help of others. To meet Jesus and to meet him in the service of others (...) Be surfers of love!"

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