Pope's Address to Youth in Sulmona

«The Secret of a Vocation Lies in the Relationship With God»

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SULMONA, Italy, JULY 5, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a transcription of Benedict XVI’s Sunday address to young people in the cathedral of Sulmona. The Pope made a one-day trip to the region, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2009.

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Dear young people!

First of all I want to say that I am very happy to meet you! I thank God for the possibility he gives me to be with you for a while, as a father of a family, together with your bishop and your priests. I thank you for the affection you manifest to me with so much warmth! But I also thank you for what you said to me, through your two «spokesmen,» Francesca and Cristian. 

You asked me questions, with much frankness and, at the same time, you showed you have firm points, convictions. This is very important. You are youth who reflect, who wonder, and who also have a sense of truth and goodness. That is, you know how to use the mind and heart, and this is not a small matter! On the contrary, I would say it is the principal element in this world: to learn to use well the intelligence and wisdom that God has given us. In the past, the people of this land of yours did not have many means to study, or to affirm themselves in society, but had what truly makes a man and a woman rich: faith and moral values. This is what builds persons and civil coexistence!

Two essential aspects arise from your words: one positive and one negative. The positive aspects comes from your Christian vision of life, an education that you evidently received from your parents, your grandparents and other educators: priests, professors, catechists. The negative aspect is in the shadows that darken your horizon: they are the concrete problems, which make it difficult to look to the future with serenity and optimism, but they are also the false values and illusory models, which are suggested to us and which promise to fill our life whereas instead they empty it. 

What should be done, then, so that these shadows will not become too heavy? First of all, I see that you are young people with a good memory! Yes, I have been impressed by the fact that you remembered phrases that I spoke in Sydney, in Australia, during World Youth Day of 2008. And you also remembered that World Youth Days were born 25 years ago. But above all you demonstrated that you have a historical memory linked to your land: you spoke to me of a figure born eight centuries ago, St. Peter Celestine V, and you said you consider him very timely! 

You see dear friends, in this way you have, as is often said, «an extra talent.» Yes, the historical memory is truly an «extra talent» in life, because without a memory there is no future. Once it was said that history is life’s teacher. The present consumerist culture tends instead to flatten man in the present, to make him lose a sense of the past, of history; but by doing so it also deprives him of the capacity to understand himself, to perceive problems, and to build the future. Hence, dear young people, I want to say to you: a Christian is one who has a good memory, who loves history and tries to know it.

Hence, I thank you, because you speak to me of St. Peter of Morrone, Celestine V, and you are able to appreciate his experience today, in such a different world, but precisely because of this, in need of rediscovering something that always has worth, that is perennial, as for example the capacity to listen to God in exterior but above all in interior silence. 

A short time ago you asked me: How can one recognize God’s call? Well, the secret of a vocation lies in the capacity and in the joy of distinguishing his voice, of listening to and following his voice. But to do this, it is necessary to accustom our heart to recognize the Lord, to hear him like a person who is near me and who loves me. As I said this morning, it is important to learn to live moments of interior silence in the day-to-day routine to be able to hear the Lord’s voice. Be sure that if one learns to listen to this voice, and to follow it with generosity, one fears nothing, he or she knows and feels that God is with him or her, and that he is a Friend, Father and Brother. Said in one word: the secret of a vocation lies in the relationship with God, in prayer that grows precisely in interior silence, in the capacity to feel that God is near. And this is true both before the decision, at the moment, that is, of deciding and of leaving, as well as later if one wishes to be faithful and to persevere along the way. Above all St. Peter Celestine was this: a man of listening, of interior silence, a man of action, a man of God. Dear young people: always find room in your days for God, to listen to him and to speak to him!

And here, I would like to say a second thing: true prayer is in fact not foreign to reality. If praying alienated you, took you away from your real life, beware: it would not be true prayer! On the contrary, dialogue with God is the guarantee of truth, of truthfulness with oneself and with others and, therefore, of liberty. To be with God, to listen to his Word, in the Gospel, in the liturgy of the Church, defends us from the fascinations of pride and of presumption, from fashions and conformism, and gives us the strength to be truly free, including from certain temptations masked as good things. 

You asked me: how can we be in the world without being of the world? I answer you: precisely thanks to prayer, to personal contact with God. It is not about multiplying words — Jesus already said that — but of being in the presence of God, of making one’s own, in one’s mind and heart, the phrases of the «Our Father,» which embrace all the problems of our life, and also of adoring the Eucharist, meditating on the Gospel in our rooms, or participating with recollection in the liturgy. All this does not separate us from life, but helps us to be ourselves in every environment, faithful to God’s voice that speaks to our consciences, free from the conditioning of the moment. 

Thus it was for St. Celestine V: He was always able to act according to his conscience in obedience to God and, because of this, without fear and with great courage, including in difficult moments, such as those related to his brief pontificate, not fearful of losing his own dignity, but knowing that this consists in being in the truth. And God is the guarantor of truth. Whoever follows him is not afraid, not even of denying himself, his own ideas, because «whoever has God, lacks nothing,» as St. Teresa of Avila said.

Dear friends! Faith and prayer do not resolve problems, but enable one to address them with a new light and strength, in a way fitting to man, and also more serenely and effectively. If we look at the history of the Church, we will see that it is rich in figures of saints and blesseds who, precisely beginning with an intense and constant dialogue with God, illumined by faith, were always able to find new, creative solutions to respond to concrete human needs in every century: health, education, work, etc. Their daring was animated by the Holy Spirit and by a strong and generous love of brothers, especially of the weakest and most underprivileged. 

Dear young people! Let yourselves be conquered totally by Christ! You too, begin to undertake with determination the path of holiness, that is, be in contact, in conformity with God — a way that is open to all — because this will also make you be more creative in seeking solutions to the problems you find, and in seeking them together! This is another distinctive sign of a Christian: he is never an individualist. 

Perhaps you will say to me, but if we look at St. Peter Celestine, for example, in his choice of life, is this not perhaps individualism, a fleeing from responsibilities? This temptation certainly exists. But in the experiences approved by the Church, the solitary life of prayer and penance is always at the service of the community, open to others, it is never in oppositio
n to the needs of the community. Hermitages and monasteries are oases and sources of spiritual life from which all can drink. The monk does not live for himself, but for others, and it is for the good of the Church and of society that he cultivates the contemplative life, so that the Church and society can always be sprinkled with new energies, by the Lord’s action. 

Dear young people! Love your Christian communities, do not be afraid to commit yourselves to live together the experience of faith! Love the Church very much: she has given you the faith, she has brought you to know Christ! And love your bishop, your priests very much: with all our weaknesses, priests are beautiful presences in life!

The rich young man of the Gospel, after Jesus suggested that he leave everything and follow him — as we know — left there sad, because he was too attached to his goods (cf. Matthew 19:22). In you, instead, I read joy! And this is also a sign that you are Christians: that for you Jesus Christ means a lot. Although it might be difficult to follow him, it is worth more than anything. You believe that God is the precious pearl that gives value to everything else: in the family, in study, in work, in human love … in life itself. You have understood that God is infinite Love: the only one who satiates our heart. I would like to recall the experience of St. Augustine, a young man who sought with great difficulty, for a long time, outside of God, something that would satiate his thirst for truth and happiness. But at the end of this journey of seeking he understood that our heart is without peace while it does not find God, while it does not rest in him (cf. The Confessions 1, 1). 

Dear young people! Keep your enthusiasm, your joy, the one born from having encountered the Lord, and be able to communicate this also to your friends, to your contemporaries! Now I must go and I must say that I very much regret leaving you. With you I feel that the Church is young! But I leave happy, as a father who is serene because he has seen that his children are growing and are growing well. Carry on, dear young people! Carry on in the way of the Gospel; love the Church, our Mother; be simple and pure of heart; be humble and generous. I entrust you all to your holy patrons, to St. Peter Celestine and above all to the Virgin Mary, and I bless you with great affection. Amen.

[Translation of Vatican Radio transcription by ZENIT]
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