(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 26.08.2022).- On Friday, August 26, Pope Francis received in a special audience in Paul VI Hall, the participants in a National Acolytes’ Pilgrimage of the Church of France, being held in Rome from August 22-26 with the theme ”Come, Serve and Go!”
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Dear Acolytes of France, good morning and welcome!
I’m pleased to welcome you on the occasion of your pilgrimage. I thank Monsignor de Moulins-Beaufort for the words he addressed to me in his name and in that of the Bishops present.
You have made a hiatus in your vacations to take up the pilgrim’s staff! You started out, together with others, to follow in the footsteps of Christ’s numerous witnesses who, in the course of the centuries, have come to Rome to be regenerated in the faith. A great number of you have come, from different parishes and regions of France, to live this privileged time of encounter, of exchange, of prayer and of rest. I hope you’ll return home strengthened by this beautiful experience of faith, in the heart of the Church.
The theme of your pilgrimage –“Come, Serve and Go!”– is very beautiful and expressive.
“Come”: the Lord is calling you. He calls you to encounter Him, and in a very special way in that very important event that is Sunday Mass. Dear young man, I know that, perhaps, at Mass you find yourself only with people of your age, and this seems sad to you, or that sometimes you feel a bit uncomfortable in the midst of older people. No doubt you ask yourself questions about the Church. You wonder how you can give back to young people of your age the taste for God, so that they join you. However, I ask you, personally: How do you see your place in the Church? Do you really feel yourself a member of this great family of God? Do you contribute to its witness?
You have chosen to be acolytes and I want to thank you from my heart for the efforts and at times the sacrifices you accept to dedicate yourselves to this commitment as ministers, while many of your other friends prefer to sleep on Sunday mornings, or to do sport . . . You can’t imagine to what point you can be a model, a point of reference for so many young people of your age. And you can be really proud of what you do. Don’t be embarrassed to serve at the Altar, even if you are alone, even if you are growing. It’s an honour to serve Jesus when He gives His life for us in the Eucharist. With your participation in the Liturgy, assuring your service, you offer a concrete witness of the Gospel to all. Your attitude during the celebrations is already an apostolate for those that see you. If you carry out your service at the altar with joy, with dignity and with a prayerful attitude, you will no doubt awaken in other young people the desire to take participate in the Church also.
However, to serve at Mass requires a follow-up: “Serve and go!” You know that Jesus is present in the person of the brothers we encounter. After serving Jesus in the Mass, He sends you to serve Him in the people you encounter during the day, especially if they are poor and disadvantaged, because He is united to them in a special way.
Perhaps you have friends who live in difficult neighbourhoods, or who are facing great sufferings, including addiction. You know uprooted young people, immigrants or refugees. I ask you all to receive them with generosity, to draw them out of their loneliness and become friends of theirs.
Many young people of your age need someone to tell them that Jesus knows them, that He loves them, that He forgives them, that He shares their problems, that He looks at them tenderly without judging them. With your courage, your enthusiasm, your spontaneity, you can reach them. I invite you to be close to one another, to be close to the members of your family, to be close to other young people. Avoid the temptation to withdraw into yourself, to be egoistic, to shut yourself in your own world, in small groups, in virtual social networks. It’s better that you prefer real, not virtual friendships, which are illusory, imprison you and separate you from reality.
Another equally important thing is your relationship with older people, with your grandparents. What is your view of older people? For those that have the good fortune of still having a grandfather or a grandmother, it’s valuable that you benefit from their presence, their advice, their experiences. They are often the ones that accompany you to Mass and talk to you of God. Older people are a necessary resource for your human maturity. Today, the risk is not to know where one comes from, to lose one’s roots, to lose one’s direction. Tell me, how are you thinking of building your future, of planning your life, if you don’t have strong roots that help you to keep erect and attached to the earth? It’s easy to fly away when one doesn’t have a place to hold onto, to settle in (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, 179). Look for your roots, learn to know and love your culture, your history, to truly converse with those that are different from you, strong in what you are and respectful with others.
At your age, it’s the time to set down a solid base for a life that grows in Christ, to build wonderful friendships, to set goals for yourself to reach. At your age, it’s the time when you dream big, big, you want to conquer the world. I never stop saying to young people I meet, and today I say it to you, to each and all of you, especially you, young ministers: “Never give up on your dreams, never bury definitively a vocation” (Ibid., 272). And it is precisely in the service at the altar what might awaken in you the desire to respond to the Lord’s call in the religious or priestly life. Why not? Don’t be afraid. Nourish this call in your heart and, one day, have the courage to talk about it with someone you trust. How beautiful it is to see young people commit themselves generously to the Kingdom of God, to the service of the Church! It is really a beautiful adventure.
Finally, I earnestly invite you to entrust yourselves to the Lord through the Virgin Mary. Like every girl, She had her dreams, Her plans. But, in face of God’s call She became a handmaid with Her generous, fruitful and joyful “yes.” On your paths, in your moments of difficulty and loneliness, don’t forget to entrust yourselves to Her.
Dear young people, thank you for coming! I keep you in my prayers. I give each one of you and your dear ones, as well as your Bishops, your priests, your leaders present here and all the young people of your dioceses, my heartfelt Blessing.
And, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Bon voyage!
Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester