Below is a working ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ prepared address to the participants in the Congress promoted by the National Office for the Pastoral of Vocations of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), on the theme “Arise, Go Forth and Fear Not. Vocations and Sanctity: I Am on a Mission” (Rome, January 3-5, 2017). He had handed it to them in the Vatican this morning before giving off-the-cuff remarks. ZENIT will provide a translation of the pronounced address after the Vatican has released the final text:
Dear Brothers and Sisters! At the end of your Congress on vocational pastoral care, organized by the Office of the Italian Episcopal Conference, I am happy to be able to receive you and meet with you. I thank Monsignor Galantino for his courteous words and I congratulate you for the commitment with which you carried forward this annual appointment, in which the joy of fraternity and the beauty of the different vocations is shared.
Opening before us is the horizon and path towards the Synodal Assembly of 2018, on the theme “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.” The total and generous “Yes” of a dedicated life is similar to a source of water, hidden for a long time in the depth of the earth, which waits to gush forth and flow outside, in a rivulet of purity and freshness. Young people today are in need of a source of fresh water to quench themselves and then continue on their path of search. “Young people have the desire of a great life. The encounter with Christ, letting oneself be gripped and guided by His love, widens the horizon of existence and gives a solid hope that does not disappoint” (Encyclical Lumen Fidei, 53).
Your service, with its style of vocational proclamation and accompaniment is also placed on this horizon. Such a commitment requires passion and a sense of gratuitousness. The passion of personal involvement, in being able to take care of the lives that are assigned to you, as cases that enclose a precious treasure to be protected, and the gratuitousness of a service and ministry in the Church that calls for great respect of those of whom you are companions on the way. It is the commitment to seek their happiness, and this goes well beyond your preferences and expectations. I make my own Pope Benedict XVI’s words: “Be sowers of trust and hope. Profound, in fact, is the sense of loss that today’s youth often lives. Not rarely, human words are deprived of future and prospect, deprived also of meaning and wisdom. […] Yet, this can be the hour of God” (Address to the participants in the European Congress on Vocational Pastoral Care, July 4, 2009).
To be credible and to be attuned to young people, it is necessary to favor the way of listening, of being able to “lose time” in taking up their questions and desires. Your testimony will be all the more persuasive if you are able to tell with joy and truth the beauty, the astonishment and wonder of being in love with God, of being men and women who live with gratitude their choice of life to help others and leave an unheard of and original mark in history. This requires not being disorientated by external solicitations, but entrusting oneself to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord reviving the fidelity to our choices and the freshness of our “first love” (cf. Revelation 2:5).
The priority of the vocational proclamation is not the efficiency of what we do, but rather the privileged attention we give to vigilance and discernment. It is to have a look that is able to gush positivity in the human and spiritual events we meet; an astonished and grateful heart in face of the gifts that individuals bear in themselves, putting in the light their potentialities more than their limitations, the present and the future in continuity with the past.
Today, there is need of a vocational pastoral of wide horizons and of the breath of communion, capable of reading the reality as it is with courage, with the efforts and resistances, recognizing the signs of generosity and of beauty of the human heart. There is the urgency to bring back within Christian communities a new “vocational culture.” ‘The capacity to dream and to have great desires, the astonishment that enables one to appreciate beauty and to choose it for its intrinsic value, because it renders life good and true, is also a part of this vocational culture’ (Pontifical Work for Vocations, New Vocations for a New Europe, December 8, 1997, 13B).
Dear brothers and sisters do not tire of repeating to yourselves: “I am a mission” and not simply “I have a mission.” ‘It is necessary to recognize oneself as marked by the fire of such a mission to illumine, bless, vivify, relieve, heal and liberate’ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 273). To be on permanent mission requires courage, audacity, imagination and the desire to go beyond, of going further. In fact, “Arise, go and fear not” was the theme of your Congress. This helps you to remember the many vocation stories in which the Lord invited those called to go out of themselves to be a gift for others; He entrusts a mission to them and assures them: “Fear not, for I am with you’ (Isaiah 41:10). His blessing gives constant and impassioned encouragement to be able to go beyond the fears that shut one in on oneself and paralyze every desire of the good. It is good to know that the Lord takes charge of our frailty, puts us back on our feet to rediscover, day after day, the infinite patience to begin again.
Let us feel ourselves spurred by the Holy Spirit to identify with courage new ways in the proclamation of the Gospel of vocation, to be men and women that, as watchmen (cf. Psalm 130:6), are able to receive the rays of light of a new dawn, in a renewed experience of faith and of passion for the Church and for the Kingdom of God. May the Spirit push us to be capable of a loving patience, which does not fear the inevitable slowness and resistances of the human heart.
I assure you of my prayer, and you, please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation of Pope’s prepared text by ZENIT]