‘Don’t lose hope and go forward.’
Working with young people requires much patience…
Pope Francis stressed these points to participants in the Congress of National Centers for the Vocations of the Churches of Europe, taking place in Rome, June 4-7, at the Casa San Juan de Avila, when receiving them in the Vatican today, June 6, 2019.
Pope Francis had a prepared address, which he delivered to the participants, but abandoned it to improvise.
After giving various pieces of advice, the Argentine Pontiff admitted: “This is tiring.”
“It’s necessary to get tired!” he said, adding: “One can’t work for vocations without getting tired. It’s what life asks of us, the reality, the Lord, and all.”
Here below is ZENIT’s full English translation of his off-the-cuff remarks:
The Holy Father’s Off-the-Cuff Address
Thank you for this visit; thank you to the Lord Cardinal for his words.
I prepared a reflection, which I will give to the Cardinal, and I permit myself to speak a bit off-the-cuff about what comes from my heart.
When there is talk of vocations, many things come to mind, many things to say, which can be thought of or done, apostolic plans or proposals . . . However, I would like to clarify something, first of all: that the work for vocations, with vocations, must not be, is not proselytism. It’s not “seeking new members for this club.” No. It must move in the line of growth that Benedict XVI so clearly has said to us: the growth of the Church is by attraction, not by proselytism. He also said it to us [Latin American Bishops] at Aparecida. It’s not about looking to see where people can be taken . . . , as those little Sisters that were going around in the Philippines in the years ’90, ’91. ’92. They didn’t have Houses in the Philippines, but they went there and brought the girls here. And I remember that in the ’94 Synod, it came out in the newspaper: “The Trafficking of Novices.” The Philippine Episcopal Conference said: “No. First of all, no one comes here to fish for vocations; it doesn’t work. And the Sisters that have Houses in the Philippines, do the first part of the formation in the Philippines, so any deformation is avoided. I wanted to clarify this, because the spirit of proselytism hurts us.
Then, I think — in connection with vocation — of the capacity of persons that help. To help a young man or young woman to choose the vocation of his/her life, be it as a layman, a laywoman, as priest, religious is to help <them> find the dialogue with the Lord. <They> must learn to ask the Lord: “What do you want from me?” This is important, it’s not an intellectual convincing — no. The choice of a vocation must be born of the dialogue with the Lord, whatever the vocation is. The Lord inspires me to go forward in life thus, on this path. And this means hard work for you: to help the dialogue. Understood is that if you don’t dialogue with the Lord, it will be quite difficult to teach others to dialogue on this point — the dialogue with the Lord.
Then the attitudes. To work with young people calls for much, much patience! A great capacity to listen, because sometimes young people repeat themselves, they repeat themselves . . . Patience and the capacity to listen, and then to rejuvenate oneself, namely, to get going, in movement with them. Today the work with young people in general, of whatever type, is done in movement. When I was young, the work with young people was done in circles of reflection. We got together, reflected on this or that topic, each one studied the topic first . . . And we were satisfied, and we carried out some works of mercy, visits to hospitals, to rest homes . . . but it was more sedentary. Today young people are in movement, and one must work with them in movement, and seek in movement to help them find their vocation in life.
This is tiring . . . it’s necessary to get tired! One can’t work for vocations without getting tired. It’s what life asks of us, the reality, the Lord, and all.
Then one thing: the Lord’s language. I was at a meeting today with the COMECE Commission. The President did a reflection <and> he said to me: “I went to Thailand with a group of 30, 40 young people to do reconstruction in the north, to help those people.” “And why did you do this?” I asked. And he said to me: “To understand well the language of young people.” Sometimes we speak to young people as we are accustomed to speak to adults. For them, our language is often “Esperanto,” it’s in fact as if we spoke Esperanto, because they don’t understand anything. To understand their language, which is a poor language of communion because they know a lot about contacts, but they don’t communicate. To communicate is perhaps the challenge that we should have with young people communication, communion. To teach them that computer science is good yes, to have some contact, but this isn’t the language: this is a “gaseous” language. True language is to communicate. To communicate, to speak . . . And this is filigree work, of “lace” <makers> as they say here. It’s a work to do going step by step. And it’s for us to understand also what is means to a youth to live always “connected,” where the capacity has gone to recollect themselves: this is a job for young people. It’s not easy, it’s not easy, but one can’t go with preconceptions or with a purely doctrinal imposition, in the good sense of the word: “You must do this.” No. One must accompany, guide, and help so that the encounter with the Lord makes them see what their path in life is. Young people are different from one another, they are different in all places, but they are the same in their restlessness, in the thirst for greatness, in the wish to do good. They are all the same. There is diversity and equality.
Perhaps what came to me to say [might be useful for you], instead of reading the address, which you have to reflect on. Thank you for your work! Don’t lose hope and go forward with joy.
And now that I see this courageous Capuchin from Iceland, we end with a joke. North of his land, in winter it’s 40 below zero. And there was one of the faithful who went to buy a fridge, and they asked him: “But why are you going to buy a fridge?” “To warm my son!” <he replied>!
It’s midday, let’s pray the Regina Coeli together.
[Regina Coeli] [Blessing] [Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester] [Vatican-provided text]