Pope Fracis says young people have a specific role to play — one that only they can accomplish — in the new evangelization.
He said this Tuesday evening in St. Peter’s when he addressed some 50,000 German-speaking altar servers, gathered for a week-long pilgrimage in Rome.
“Dear boys and girls, do not use your freedom badly!” he told the tens of thousands of young altar servers, ages 13 -27, representing the dioceses of Germany, but also some from Vienna, Switzerland, Lithuania, and northern Italy.
“Don’t spoil your great dignity as children of God,” he said. “If you follow Jesus and his Gospel, your freedom will blossom as a flowering plant, and will bear good and abundant fruits!”
Echoing the theme of this year’s pilgrimage, “Free! Because It Is Right to Do Good,” the Pope spoke on freedom during his vespers homily and folowing address.
He presided over vespers at 6:30 p.m. Then Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Episcopal Conference and Archbishop of Munich and Freising, gave a greeting. Pope Francis then addressed the youth, responding to questions posed to him by the primarily German young people.
The Argentine Pope emphasized that God has shown us that He is a good Father, who will always protect his children.
“And how does He do this? How does He do it?” he asked. “He does it through the Incarnation of his Son, who becomes like one of us. Through this concrete man called Jesus, we can understand what God truly intends. He wants free human persons, because they always feel protected as children of a good Father.”
Turning to Mary, the Holy Father noted she had the freedom to decide yes or no to God’s request of her, and she used her freedom to say yes. “Mary was totally free. In her freedom, she said ‘yes,’” he underscored. “If we want to know what God expects from us, His children,” he said, “Let us imitate her example.”
Mission for youth
Saying that all people have a mission to build the common good, Francis noted that Christians have an added responsibility: to be ‘channels’ that transmit the love of Jesus.
“And in this mission,” he added, “you youngsters and young people have a particular role: you are called to speak of Jesus to your contemporaries, not only in the parish community or in your association, but especially outside.”
This is especially important, he explained, because “with your courage, your enthusiasm, your spontaneity and ease of encounter you can reach more easily the minds and hearts of those who are estranged from the Lord.”
The Holy Father told them they are called you to be “joyful protagonists in His Church, ready to communicate to your friends what He has communicated to you,” especially His mercy.
In response to one youth’s question on how difficult it can be to combine the commitment of serving the Church with various other activities, the Pontiff responded, “It is necessary to organize oneself a bit, to plan things in a balanced way.”
“But you are German, and this comes easily to you!” he joked, adding, “Our life is made up of time, and time is a gift of God; hence, it must be used in good and fruitful actions.”
Rules, he said, are in place for a reason. The irony with guidelines is they give an appearance of restricting freedom, but, in realty, enable freedom, freedom to its fullest.
If freedom is not exercised well, it can lead us far from God and can the put dignity with which he has “clothed us” at risk, he said. Therefore, he stressed that “guidelines and indications are necessary, and also rules, both in society as well as in the Church.”
“Seek genuine joy,” he declared, “because He wants you to be men and women who are fully happy and fulfilled. Only by adhering to the will of God can we do well and be light of the world and salt of the earth!”
He concluded by praying that the Virgin Mary, who “recognized herself as ‘handmaid of the Lord’ (Luke 1:38), be your model in serving God,” and that she “help you to be, in the Church and in society, protagonists of good and peacemakers … full of hope and courage.”
Some young Germans told ZENIT how much they had been anticipating this encounter with the Pontiff, and how they were “overjoyed, because the Pope’s words gave us so much hope.”
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