‘Jesus Is at Your Side’ (Pope’s Q & A With Young People in Genoa)

‘It is Jesus Himself who sends you; it is Jesus who pushes you to the mission and He is beside you; it is in fact Jesus who works in your heart, who changes your look and makes you look at life with new eyes, not with the eyes of a tourist’

Papa & Leader Evangelici, 3 Giugno 2017 / © PHOTO.VA - OSSERVATORE ROMANO

Be missionaries of the faith …. Let Jesus, Who is always at your side, transform you … Don’t judge others …

At 12:30 pm Saturday, during his day trip to the northern Italian port city of Genoa, Pope Francis gave this advice to young people of the Diocesan Mission in the Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard, as he responded to their questions.

The Rector of the Shrine, Monsignor Marco Granara, received the Pope at the entrance. Before answering the questions posed to him by four young people — two girls and two boys — the Holy Father invited those present to pray to Our Lady in silence.

At the end of the prayer, the Pope greeted briefly the detainees in the Genoa prison, who were following the meeting on television.

Then, the Holy Father had lunch with the poor, the refugees, the homeless and the detainees in the Caminetto Hall in the Shrine.

Here is a working translation of the Pope’s words, his answers to the questions posed to him by the young people, and his brief greeting to the detainees.

DCL

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Prayer to Our Lady of the Guard 

I invite you to pray to Our Lady in silence: each one should tell her what is in his/her heart. She is our Mommy, Mother of Jesus, our Mother. In silence, each one tell her what he/she feels in the heart.

[Prayer to Our Lady of the Guard] [Cardinal Bagnasco’s Greeting] 

The Holy Father’s Answers to the Questions

 Chiara Parodi’s Question

Holiness, how good it is to have you here! In your Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, you invited the whole Church to go out. On the suggestion of our Cardinal, we started the mission “Full Joy,” to take up Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (15:11). We ask your blessing on us, on the young people we have met and will meet, and also your advice on how to be missionaries to our contemporaries who live in difficult situations of pain, and who are victims of drugs, alcohol, violence and the deceit of the Evil One. Thank you! We love you.

Luca Cianelli’s Question

Holy Father, you wished that next year the Synod of Bishops should be held, dedicated to young people. In fact, its title will be “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.” We think that we encounter God in every day life, in the everyday, at school, in work, with friends, in the life of prayer, in the silence of prayer. Therefore, we ask you for some advice on how to live our spiritual life and our life of prayer. Thank you! 

Emanuele Santolini’s Question

Hello, Pope Francis. Today our lives have very high, frenetic rhythms and this renders difficult encounter, listening and especially the building of true relationships, and true sharing. Thus many of us young people perhaps don’t have the time or the occasions to meet the person of our life, the person that Jesus has thought for us, to build that great project of love that is marriage. Can you give us some advice on how to succeed to live life in fullness and how to succeed in doing so by building true, full and sincere relationships? Thank you.

Francesca Marrollo’s Question 

Holy Father, every day the media communicate to us realities of violence and war, distant and close stories of great suffering. Many of our contemporaries, migrants from distant countries, bloodied by egoisms, live in our cities today in very difficult conditions. We are convinced that God is speaking to us through these brothers and sisters of ours. What is He saying to us? What gestures can we do, together with the adult Christian community, to respond to these challenges that history, inhabited by the Holy Spirit, is proposing to us today? Thank you!  

Pope Francis

Good morning! I’m somewhat fearful because Emanuele said that “we are all frenetic” . . . [he laughs, they laugh]. I don’t know how to answer. The Cardinal spoke of your love and he said that your love is a turbulent and joyful love. And this is good. Between “frenetic”, “turbulent” and “joyful” we’ll make a good fruit salad and the result will be good! It is a joy for me to meet with you. It’s a meeting I always desire: to meet young people. What do they think, what do they seek, what do they desire, what are their challenges and so many things. And you, who do not want ready made answers, you want concrete but personal answers, not like those clothes that are purchased pret-a-porter, no. You don’t want pret-a-porter answers. You want dialogue, things that touch the heart.

Chiara, thank you for sharing the experience you lived during this year. To hear Jesus’ invitation is always a full joy. And the Lord also says: “in the same passage of the Gospel, “and no one will take your joy from you (Cf. John 16:22). No one will take it — joy — away from you, which is not the same as having a good time. Yes, joy makes you happy, but it isn’t superficial. The joy that is within and is born of the heart, and this joy is that which you lived this year. I thank you.

Now, I would like to ask – it would please me, but there isn’t any time and it can’t be done, but . . . how did you feel this experience you lived transformed you: is this true or just words? Why – this is the question – why to go on mission means to let oneself be transformed by the Lord? Normally, when we live these things, these activities, as Chiara well stressed, we rejoice when things go well. And this is good. However, there is also another transformation, which so often is not seen, it is hidden and is born in the life of every one of us. The mission, our being missionaries leads us to learn to look. Hear this well: to learn to look; to learn to look with new eyes because the mission renews the eyes. To learn to look at the city, at our life, at our family, at all that is around us. The missionary experience opens the eyes and the heart: to learn to look also with the heart. And thus, we stop being – allow me the word – tourists of life, to become men and women, young people that love with commitment in life. “Tourists of life”: you have seen these who take photographs of everything, when they come for tourism, and don’t look at anything. They don’t know how to look . . . and then they look at the photographs at home! However, it is one thing to look at reality, and something else to look at a photograph. And if our life is that of a tourist, we will only look at the photographs or the things that we think of the reality. It is a temptation, for young people, to be tourists. I’m not saying to have an outing here or there, no, this is good! I mean to look at life with the eyes of a tourist, namely, superficially, and to take photographs to look at them later. This means that I don’t touch the reality, I don’t look at the things that are happening. I don’t look at things as they are. The first thing I would answer, in regard to your transformation, is to abandon this tourist attitude to become young people with a serious commitment in life, seriously. The time of the mission prepares us and helps us to be more sensitive, more attentive and to look carefully. And to the many people that live with us, in daily life, in the places where we live and that, by not knowing how to look, we end up by ignoring. How many people there are of whom we can say: “yes, yes, it’s he, it’s he,” but we are unable to look at their heart, we don’t know what they think, what they feel, because my heart has never been close to them. Perhaps, I’ve talked with them many times, but superficially. The mission can teach us to look with new eyes, it brings our heart close to so many persons, and this is a most beautiful thing, it’s a most beautiful thing!

And it destroys hypocrisy. To meet grownup people, hypocritical adults is awful, but it is grownup people that do with their life what they want, they know what they do . . . However, to meet a young man or young woman that begins life with a hypocritical attitude, this is suicidal. Have you understood? It’s suicidal. It is not to abandon the tourist’s way of life, and to spend it feigning, and not looking at people’ heart to talk with authenticity, with transparency.

And then, there is something else: you said that the mission is good and that you learned. However, when I go on mission, it’s not only my decision, which makes me go. There is Another who sends me, who sends me to do the mission. And one can’t do the mission without being sent by Jesus. It is Jesus Himself who sends you; it is Jesus who pushes you to the mission and He is beside you; it is in fact Jesus who works in your heart, who changes your look and makes you look at life with new eyes, not with the eyes of a tourist. Have you understood?

Thus, one learns that to live shut-in on oneself, also closed in “tourism,” is futile, it doesn’t help. We must live on mission, which implies that I listen to Him who sends me, who is always Jesus, and I go to people, I go to others to talk to them of my life, of Jesus and of so many things but with a transformation of my personality that makes me look in another way, and also feel things in another way. To understand this, let us think of Jesus when He went on the road, always among the people. Once Jesus paused and said: “Who touched me” (Cf. Mark 5:25-34). And the disciples said to Him: “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say ‘Who touched me? ‘Who touched me.’ Jesus was not used to the fact of being touched. No, He wasn’t a “tourist”: He understood people’s intentions and He understood that a person touched him to be cured. And that woman said to herself: “If I touch Him, I shall be healed.” So should we act. We must know people as they are, because we have an open heart and are not tourists among the people: we are sent and we are missionaries.

The mission also helps us to look among ourselves, in the eyes, and to recognize that we are brothers among ourselves, that there is no city and less so a Church of the good and a city and a Church of the evil. The mission helps us noT to be “Cathars.” The mission purifies our thinking that there is a Church of the pure and one of the impure: we are all sinners and we are all in need of the proclamation of Christ, and when I proclaim Jesus Christ in the mission, if I do not think, if I don’t feel that I am saying it to myself, I detach myself from the person and believe myself – I can believe myself – pure and the other as impure who is in need. The mission involves us all, as People of God, it transforms us: it changes our look, it changes our way of being in life, from a “tourist” to one who is involved, and who takes out of his head the idea that there are groups, that there are the pure and the impure in the Church: we are all children of God, all sinners and all with the Holy Spirit within Whom, has the capacity to make us saints.

You asked me – Emanuele also asked the same thing – how to be missionaries to our contemporaries, especially those living in difficult situations, who are victims of drugs, alcohol, violence, the deceit of the Evil One? I believe the first thing is to love them. We can’t do anything without love – a gesture of love, a look of love . . . One can make programs to help them, but without love . . . And love is to give one’s life. Jesus says: “No one has greater love than he who gives his life” (Cf. John 15:13). He gave us the example, He gave His life. To love. If you don’t feel it, or at least don’t have – and I say “you” but I mean all, because she asked the question, but I say it to all – if you don’t have a heart willing to love – the Lord teaches us to love – you won’t be able to do a good mission. The mission is like an adventure, tourism. To prepare oneself is to go with a heart willing to love; to help them to love. One of the things I ask, not every person, but when there is an opportunity in the confessional is: “But do you help people? Do you give alms?” Many say “yes.” Yes, because people are good, people want to help. “And, tell me, when you give alms, do you touch the hand of the person to whom you give alms, do you look into the eyes of homeless person who asks you for alms? Or do you pass in a hurry?” To love. To love is to have the capacity to shake a dirty hand and the capacity to look into the eyes of those in a situation of degradation and say: “For me, you are Jesus.” And this is the beginning of every mission; I must go to talk with this love. If I speak to people thinking: “Oh, these stupid <people> who don’t know about religion, I will give them, I will teach them how to do . . . “ Please! It’s better to stay at home and pray a Rosary, it will do you better than to go on mission. I don’t know if you’ve understood this thing.

And why must I love these people? — those victims of drugs, of alcohol, of violence, of the deceit of the Evil One? Behind all these situations that you have mentioned, there is a certainty that we cannot forget, a certainty that must make us “hard-headed” in hope: to engage in mission one needs to be hard-headed in hope – not only love but also hope, and be hard-headed. In every one of these persons that are victims of difficult situations; there is the image of God that for different reasons has been mistreated, stricken. There is a story of pain, of wounds that we cannot ignore. And this is the madness of the faith. When Jesus says to us: “I was in prison and you came to me” – “But you are mad!”: it’s the madness of the faith, the madness of the cross, of which Saint Paul speaks; the madness of the proclamation of the Gospel. Jesus is there, and this means to learn to look with Jesus’ eyes: as Jesus looks at these people, as He looks at them. If Jesus, when He says to us – the questions that we will be asked when we go to the other side (Cf. Matthew 25:31-46) – He says to us that he was those people, it’s the mystery of love in Jesus’ heart.

Once I had the occasion – in Argentina I was used to visiting prisons – and on one occasion I greeted someone who had committed more than 50 homicides. And I remained thinking: “But you are Jesus,” because He said if you come to me in prison, I am there, in that man. To be missionaries we must have this madness of the cross, this madness of the proclamation of the Gospel” that Jesus does miracles, that Jesus is not a witch doctor that cures. Jesus is in each one of us, in each one of us. And perhaps at this moment one of you is in a situation of mortal sin, is in a situation of estrangement, far from Jesus, perhaps . . . But Jesus is there, He waits. He is there with you, but He lets you be. If I go with love, not as a tourist, and this transforms me, I go as a hardhead in hope and I go knowing that I touch, see, hear Jesus who works in the heart of each one I encounter in the mission. Understood? And, in connection with what you mentioned, the most rejected of society – it is important – I said we must not feel bad to shake the dirty hand of a tramp, of these people, to give an example.

We are all dirty. And if He has saved me, I say: thank you, Lord, because I could also be that person . . . If I don’t end up drugged, why Lord? By your will, but if the Lord had let go of my hand, I also, all of us [ where would we have ended up?] And this is love, grace, which we must proclaim: Jesus is in those people. Please, don’t give adjectives to people! I go to do the mission with love, the hard-headedness of hope, to bring a message to people with a name, not with adjectives. And how often our society scorns and classifies: ‘No, he is a drunk!’ ‘No, I don’t give alms to this one because he’s going to buy himself a glass of wine and has no other happiness, poor man, in life’; ìOh no, this one is a drug addict’; ‘This one, that one, this one, that one’ . . . Never give adjectives to persons! Only God can give adjectives to people, only God’s judgment <can do so>. And He will do so: in the Last Judgment, definitively, on every one of us: “Come, blessed of my Father, go away accursed . . . The adjectives: He will do so, but we must never use adjectives: “this one” and “that one,” “this one, that one.” I go on mission to bring great love.

Then, in that transformation — I was enthused by your question, I wrote it down and I reflected on it – we are used to a culture of emptiness, of a culture of loneliness. People, we also, are lonely within and we are in need of noise not to feel this emptiness, this loneliness. This is the world’s proposal and this has nothing to do with the joy of which we spoke. The emptiness: if there is something that destroys our cities it is this isolation. To go on mission is to help to come out of the isolation and to create community, fraternity. “But I don’t like him . . .” “He is like this . . .” Never use adjectives: Jesus loves all. If I go on mission I must be willing to love all. There is not that full joy, which is what you said the mission gave you. Whereas there are so many of our brothers with the look disfigured by a society that defends only with exclusion, isolating people, ignoring them. However, if we want to be missionaries and take the Gospel and have this joy, <we must> never exclude, never isolate anyone, never ignore. I don’t know if I’ve answered in some way.

And thank you, Luca, for your anxiety. Genoa is a port city, which historically has been able to receive many ships and which has generated great navigators! To be a disciple one must have the same heart of a navigator — have horizon and courage. If you don’t have a horizon and are even incapable of looking at your nose, you will never be a good missionary. If you don’t have courage, you won’t be one. It is the virtue of navigators: they are able to read the horizon, to go, and they have the courage to go. We think of the great navigators of the 15th century, so many left from here. You have the opportunity to know everything with the new technologies but these technologies of information makes us fall into a trap very often, because instead of informing us they saturate us, and when you are saturated, the horizon comes closer, it comes closer, and you have a wall in front of you, you have lost the capacity of a horizon. Be careful: always look at what they sell you! – what they sell you in the media also; contemplation, the capacity to contemplate the horizon, to make a proper judgment, and not eat what they serve you on a plate. This is a challenge: it is a challenge that I think must lead us to prayer, and to say to the Lord: “Lord, I ask you for a favor: please, don’t stop challenging me” – challenges of the horizon that require courage. Are you Genoese? A navigator: have horizon and courage. And I say to all the Genoese: go ahead! That prayer, which I proposed to you: “Lord, I ask you for a favor, challenge me today.” Yes, “Jesus, please come, importune me, give me the courage to be able to respond to the challenge and to you.” I very much like this Jesus that disturbs, that importunes, because it is the living Jesus, who moves you within with the Holy Spirit. And how good is a boy or a girl who lets him/herself be importuned by Jesus; it is the boy or girl who doesn’t let his/her mouth be easily covered, who learns not to be with the mouth closed, who is not happy with simplistic answers, who seeks the truth, seeks the profound, goes the long <way>, goes ahead, ahead, and has the courage to ask him/herself questions about truth and so many things. We must learn to challenge the present. A healthy spiritual life generates young people who are awake, who in face of some things that this culture – “normal” they say, it might be, I don’t know –, proposes to us today, can ask themselves” “Is this normal or not normal?” And so often — I say this with sadness – young people are the first victims of these vendors of smoke ; they make them believe so many things, they put in their head so many things . . . But one of the first forms of courage that you must have is to ask yourselves: “But is this normal or isn’t it normal?” – the courage to seek the truth. Is it normal that every day that sense of indifference grows? I don’t care what happens to others; indifference with friends, neighbors, in the neighborhood, at work, in school . . . Is it normal – as Francesca invited us to reflect – that many of our contemporaries, migrants or from distant countries, difficult, bloodied by egoisms that lead to death, live in our cities in truly difficult conditions? Is this normal? Is it normal that the Mediterranean has become a cemetery? Is this normal? Is it normal that many, so many countries — and I don’t say it of Italy, because Italy is so generous – many countries close the doors to these people who come wounded and fleeing from hunger, from war , these exploited people, who come to seek some security … is it normal? This question: is it normal? If it’s not normal, I must get involved so that this won’t happen; beloved, one needs courage for this, one needs courage.

Turning to the navigators, Christopher Columbus, who they say was one of yours – but it’s known that so many like him or he himself, perhaps, left from here –, of him they said: “This madman the ‘normality’ of certain things and he engaged in a great challenge: he had the courage.” Is it normal that in face of the pain of others our attitude is one of closing the doors? If it’s not normal, get involved. And if you don’t have the courage to get involved, be quiet and lower your head and humble yourself before the Lord, and ask for courage. To challenge the present is to have the courage to say: “There are things that seem normal but are not normal.” And you, you must think about this: they are not things willed by God and they should not be willed by us! And this must be said forcefully! This is Jesus: unseasonable, who breaks our systems, our projects. It is Jesus who sows in our hearts the anxiety to ask ourselves this question. And this is good; this is very good!

I am sure that you Genoese are capable of great horizons and much courage, but it depends on you if you want to do it, it does not depend on me. I return this evening and leave the seed. I leave you the challenge, or as we say in my land: “I throw the glove in your face.” You will see to it.

I finish with a suggestion: every morning say a simple prayer: “Lord, I ask you, please, today do not fail to challenge me. Yes, Jesus, please, come to importune me a bit and give me the courage to be able to respond.” Thank you!

You are here, seated, in the shade: here we are cool [in the Shrine]. But outside there there are – do you hear them? They know how to make noise – so many who have endured the sun, standing . . . Applaud them! I could see them; I could see them from here. They were all quiet because they were listening and followed everything. It seems to be that they have some courage and horizons: at least they <do>; I hope you do also! Now I’ll give you the blessing, but before receiving the blessing, we greet Our Lady:

“Hail Mary . . .’

[Blessing]

Greeting to Detainees 

I would also like to greet and bless all the detainees of Genoa and Liguria who have followed this meeting. I will give – you in silence – the blessing to them.

[Blessing] [Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

 

 

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