Here is a translation of the text of the Video-Message that the Holy Father Francis sent at the end of the virtual meeting with young people, parents, and teachers worldwide, organized by the Scholas Occurrentes Foundation, on the occasion of World Environment Day, June 5, 2020.
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The Holy Father’s Video-Message
Dear Scholas Brothers and Sisters:
Today, after all these years sharing the question that founded us, it is a great joy to call you “community” — community of friends, community of brothers and sisters.
I still remember the origin: two teachers, two professors, in the midst of a crisis, with a bit of madness and a bit of intuition. An un-planed endeavor lived as it went journeying. When at that time the crisis left a land of violence, that education gathered young people generating meaning and, therefore, generating beauty.
Three images of this journey come to my heart, which were three images that guided three years of reflection and encounter: the madman of Fellini’s “La Strada,” Caravaggio’s “The Calling of Matthew and Dostoyevski’s “The Idiot”: the Meaning — the madman –, the Call — Matthew — and Beauty. The three stories are the story of a crisis. Therefore at play here is human responsibility. Originally crisis meant “rupture,” gash, “opening,” danger but also “opportunity.”
When roots need space to continue growing the pot ends up breaking. It’s that life is greater than our own life and, therefore, it breaks. But that is life! It grows and it breaks. Poor humanity without crisis! All perfect, all ordered, all starched. Poor thing; it would be . . . we think of such humanity, as a sick humanity, very sick. Thank God it isn’t so. It would be a humanity that is asleep.
On the other hand, just as the crisis is our foundation calling us to openness, the danger happens when we are not taught how to relate to that openness. Therefore, if crises aren’t well accompanied they are dangerous because one can get disoriented. And the advice of the wise is true, even for small personal, marital, social crises: “never go alone into a crisis, go accompanied.”
There, in the crisis, fear invades us; we close ourselves as individuals, or we begin to repeat what is suitable for very few, emptying ourselves of meaning, plugging our call, losing beauty. This is what happens when one goes through a crisis alone, without reserves. However, there is this beauty that, as Dostoyevski said, will save the world.
Scholas was born of a crisis, but it didn’t raise its fists to fight with the culture, or lower its arms in resignation, or leave weeping: What a calamity, what terrible times! It went out to listen to young people’s heart, to cultivate the new reality. “Is this not working? Let’s go look at it.”
Scholas appears through the world’s fissures, not with the head but with the whole body, to see if from openness another answer comes. And that means to educate. Education listens, or it doesn’t educate. If it doesn’t listen, it doesn’t educate. Education creates culture, or it doesn’t educate. Education teaches us to celebrate, or it doesn’t educate. Someone might say to me: ”But isn’t to educate to know things?” No. That is knowledge, but to educate is to listen, to create culture, to celebrate. And this is how Scholas grew.
Not even these two madmen — the Founding Fathers — we can say laughing, imagined that the educational experience in the diocese of Buenos Aires, would, after twenty years, grow as a new culture, “inhabiting this earth poetically,” as Holderlin taught us: listening, creating and celebrating life; that new culture inhabiting the earth poetically. Harmonizing the language of thought with sentiments and actions. It’s what you’ve heard me say several times: language of the head, of the heart and of the hands, synchronized; head, heart, and hands growing harmoniously.
In Scholas I saw Japanese professors and students dancing with Colombians. It’s impossible! I saw it. I saw the young people of Israel playing with those of Palestine. I saw it. I saw the students of Haiti thinking with those of Dubai; the children of Mozambique painting with those of Portugal . . . I saw, between East and West, an olive tree creating the culture of encounter. Therefore, in this new crisis that humanity faces today, where culture has shown to have lost its vitality, I wish to celebrate that Scholas, as a community that educates, as an intuition that grows, opens the doors of the University of Meaning, because to educate is to seek the meaning of things. It’s to teach to seek the meaning of things.
Gathering the dream of children and young people with the experience of the adults and the elderly. That encounter must always happen, otherwise, there is no humanity, because there are no roots, no history, no promise, no growth, no dreams, no prophecy. There must be students from all realities, languages, and beliefs so that no one remains outside when what is taught isn’t a thing, but Life. The same life that gives us, and will always give us, other worlds. <They will be> different, unique worlds, as we also are. In our profoundest sorrows, joys, desires and nostalgias, worlds of Gratuity, of Meaning and of Beauty. “The Idiot,” Caravaggio’s “The Calling” and the madman of “La Strada.” Never forget these last three words: gratuity, meaning, and beauty. They might seem useless, especially today. Who starts an enterprise seeking gratuitousness, meaning, and beauty? This doesn’t produce, it doesn’t produce; and yet, from this thing that seems useless the whole of humanity, the <very> future, depends.
Keep going, take that mysticism that was given, that no one invented, and the first to be surprised were these two madmen that founded it. And therefore they hand over, they give it, because it’s not theirs. It’s something that came to them as a gift. Go on sowing and reaping, with a smile, with risk, but all together and always holding hands to overcome any crisis. May God bless you. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you very much.[Original text: Spanish] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]