John Paul II's Address to Youth in Madrid

«It Is Worthwhile Dedicating Oneself to the Cause of Christ»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 8, 2003 ( Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave at the Cuatro Vientos air base in Madrid, Spain, last Saturday. More than 700,000 young people were on hand.

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Dear Young People, Dear Friends:

I am back with you again. We know one another from previous meetings, such as the one in Toronto, Canada. I embrace each one of you.

1. I greet you affectionately, young people of Madrid and Spain! Many of you have come from far away, from all the dioceses and regions of the country, and from America and other countries of the world. I am deeply touched by your warm and cordial welcome. I confess to you that I have been looking forward very much to this meeting with you.

I greet you and I repeat to you the same words I used when I addressed the young people in Santiago Bernabéu Stadium during my first visit to Spain more than 20 years ago: «You are the hope of the Church and of society … I continue to believe in young people, in you» (November 3, 1982, n. 1).

I embrace you with great affection, and with you, I also greet the bishops, priests and other pastoral collaborators who accompany you on your journey of faith.

I am grateful for the presence of Their Royal Highnesses, the Prince of Asturias, the Duke and Duchess of Lugo, and the Duke and Duchess of Palma, as well as the Authorities of the Spanish Government.

I would also like to thank Archbishop Braulio Rodríguez, president of the Episcopal Commission of the Lay Apostolate, and the young people, Margarita and José, for their cordial words of welcome on behalf of everyone here. I greet Archbishop Manuel Estepa, Military Ordinary, and the Military Authorities who are giving us hospitality at this Air Base.

2. Dear young people, the grace of God must shine forth in your lives, as it shone in Mary, full of grace.

At this Vigil you have fittingly wished to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary, putting into practice the ancient spiritual maxim: «To Jesus through Mary.» Undoubtedly, in the Rosary we learn from Mary to contemplate the beauty of the face of Christ, and to feel the depth of his love. As we begin this prayer, therefore, let us turn our gaze to the Mother of the Lord and ask her to guide us to her Son Jesus:

«Queen of Heaven, rejoice!
For Christ whom you deserved to bear in your womb has risen! Alleluia!».

[After the proclamation of the Mysteries of the Rosary and the testimonies of five teen-agers, the Holy Father addressed the young people, calling them to be fearless disciples of Jesus as they live his message of hope each day. Here is a translation of the Pope’s Address, given in Spanish.]

1. Led by the hand of the Virgin Mary and accompanied by the example and intercession of the new Saints, we have revisited in prayer several moments in the life of Jesus.

Indeed, in its simplicity and depth the Rosary is a true compendium of the Gospel and leads to the very heart of the Christian message: «God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life» (Jn 3:16).

Mary, in addition to being our Mother who is close, discreet and understanding, is the best Teacher for achieving knowledge of the truth through contemplation. The drama of contemporary culture is the lack of interiority, the absence of contemplation. Without interiority culture has no content; it is like a body that has not yet found its soul. What can humanity do without interiority? Unfortunately, we know the answer very well. When the contemplative spirit is missing, life is not protected and all that is human is denigrated. Without interiority, modern man puts his own integrity at risk.

Never separate action from contemplation

2. Dear young people, I invite you to be part of the «School of the Virgin Mary.» She is the incomparable model of contemplation and wonderful example of fruitful, joyful, and enriching interiority. She will teach you never to separate action from contemplation, so as to contribute to making a great dream come true: the birth of the new Europe in the spirit. A Europe that is faithful to its Christian roots, not closed in on itself but open to dialogue and collaboration with the other peoples of the earth; a Europe aware that it is called to be the beacon of civilization and an incentive to progress for the world, determined to combine its efforts and its creativity to serve peace and solidarity among peoples.

«Never let yourselves be discouraged by evil’

3. Beloved young people, you know well how concerned I am for peace in the world. The spiral of violence, terrorism, and war still causes hatred and death, even in our day. Peace, as we know, is first of all a gift from on High for which we must constantly ask and which, furthermore, we must all build together by means of a profound inner conversion. Consequently, today I want to exhort you to work to build peace and be artisans of peace. Respond to blind violence and inhuman hatred with the fascinating power of love. Overcome enmity with the force of forgiveness. Keep far away from any form of exasperated nationalism, racism, and intolerance. Witness with your life that ideas are not imposed but proposed. Never let yourselves be discouraged by evil! For this you will need the help of prayer and the consolation that is born from an intimate friendship with Christ. Only in this way, living the experience of God’s love and radiating Gospel fellowship, will you be able to be the builders of a better world, genuine peaceful and peacemaking men and women.

Do not be afraid to talk about Christ

4. Tomorrow I will have the joy of canonizing five new Saints, sons and daughters of this noble Nation and of this Church. They «were young like you, full of energy, joy, and love of life. Their encounter with Christ transformed their lives. … Thus, they were enabled to attract other young people, their friends, and to create associations for prayer, evangelization, and charity which still endure» (Message to the Spanish Bishops on the occasion of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Visit, n. 4).

Dear young people, go forward with confidence to meet Jesus! And like the new Saints, do not be afraid to talk about him! For Christ is the true answer to all questions about man and his destiny. You, young people, must become the apostles of your peers. I know well that this is not easy. You will often be tempted to say like the Prophet Jeremiah: «Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth» (Jer 1:6). Do not be disheartened for you are not alone: the Lord will always accompany you, with his grace and the gift of his Spirit.

«It is worthwhile to give one’s life for the Gospel»

5. The Lord’s faithful presence makes you capable of taking on the commitment of the new evangelization, to which all the Church’s children are called. It is a task for all. Lay people play a lead role in it, especially husbands and wives and Christian families; nevertheless, today evangelization urgently needs priests and consecrated persons. This is why I want to say to each one of you, young people: if you hear the call of God that says to you: «Follow me!» (Mk 2:14; Lk 5:27), do not silence his call. Be generous, respond like Mary, offering God the joyful «yes» of yourself and your life.

I give you my own witness: I was ordained a priest when I was 26 years old. Fifty-six years have passed since then. So how old is the Pope? Almost 83! A young man of 83! Looking back and remembering those years of my life, I can assure you that it is worthwhile dedicating oneself to the cause of Christ and, out of love for him, devoting oneself to serving humanity. It is worthwhile to give one’s life for the Gospel and for one’s brothers and sisters! How many hours are there still to go until midnight? Three hours. Just three hours until midnight and then comes morning.

6. To
conclude, I would like to call on Mary, the shining star that announces the Sun that is born from on High, Jesus Christ:

Hail, Mary, full of grace!
This evening I pray to you for the youth of Spain,
young people full of dreams and hopes.
They are the dawn watchmen,
the people of the beatitudes;
they are the living hope of the Church and of the Pope.
Holy Mary, Mother of the young,
intercede so that they may be witnesses of the Risen Christ,
humble and courageous apostles of the third millennium,
generous heralds of the Gospel.
Holy Mary, Immaculate Virgin,
pray with us,
pray for us. Amen.

[Translation by L’Osservatore Romano]

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