At 6:30 Saturday afternoon, April 8, 2017, a prayer vigil was held in Saint Mary Major, in preparation for the 32rd World Youth Day, which will be celebrated tomorrow at the diocesan level, on the theme “For He who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:49).
The Vigil was organized by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, in collaboration with the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life and with the Diocese of Lazio.
The meeting was preceded by singing, readings and testimonies of young people of Rome and Lazio.
In the course of the celebration, after the testimonies of a Sister and a youth, the Holy Father gave an off-the-cuff address to the young people.
Here is a translation of the transcription of the Holy Father’s address.
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Dear Young People,
Thank you for being here! This evening is a twofold beginning: the beginning of the path to the Synod, which has a long name: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,” but we say: “the Synod of Young People,” it’s understood better! And also the second beginning, of the path to Panama: the Archbishop of Panama is here [he points him out and addresses him]. I greet you greatly!
We have heard the Gospel, we have prayed, we have sung; we have brought flowers to Our Lady, to our Mother; and we have carried the Cross, which comes from Krakow and tomorrow will be handed over to the young people of Panama — from Krakow to Panama and, in between, the Synod, of which no young person must feel excluded! “But . . . we hold the Synod for Catholic young people . . . for young people who belong to Catholic associations, so that it is stronger . . .” No! The Synod is the Synod for and of all young people! Young people are its protagonists. “But also young people who feel themselves agnostics?” Yes! “Also young people who have a lukewarm faith?” Yes! “Also young people who have estranged themselves from the Church?” Yes! “Also young people that – I don’t know if there are any . . . perhaps there are some – young people who feel themselves atheists? Yes! This is the Synod of young people, and we all want to hear you. Every young person has something to say to others, something to say to adults, something to say to priests, to Sisters, to the Bishops and to the Pope. We all need to listen to you!
Let us recall Krakow a bit; the Cross reminds us of it. I said two things there, perhaps someone remembers: it is awful to see a young person who is retired at 20, it’s awful; and it is also awful to see a young person who lives on a couch, isn’t that so? — Neither “retired” young people nor “couch” young people.”[But rather you are] young people that are walking, young people of the road, young people that go on, one next to the other, but looking at the future!
We have heard the Gospel (cf. Luke 1:39-45). When Mary receives that gift, that very great vocation to bring God’s gift to us, the Gospel says that, having also heard the news that her elderly cousin was expecting a child and was in need of help, she went “in haste,”– in haste! Today’s world is in need of young people that go” in haste,” who do not tire of going in haste; of young people who have that vocation of hearing that life offers them a mission. And, as Maria Lisa [a young Sister] said so often in her testimony, young people on the way. She recounted her whole experience: it was an experience on the way. We are in need of young people on the way. The world can change only if young people are on the way. But this is the drama of our world: that young people – and this is the drama of today’s youth! – that young people are often rejected. They don’t have work, they don’t have an ideal to follow, education is lacking, integration is lacking . . . So many young people must flee, emigrate to other lands . . . Young people today, it’s hard to say it, but often they are material to be rejected. And we can’t tolerate this! And we must hold this Synod to say: “We young people are here!” And we are going to Panama to say: “We young people are here, on the way. We don’t want to be material to be rejected! We have a value to give.”
I thought, while Pompeo was talking [in the second testimony]: twice he was almost at the limit of being material to be rejected, at 8 years of age and at 18. And he made it; he made it. He was able to get up again. And, when we look at the horizon – Maria Lisa also said it – life always surprises us, always. Both said it.
We are on the way to the Synod and to Panama. And this way is risky but, if a youth doesn’t risk, he grows old. And we must risk.
Maria Lisa said that after the Sacrament of Confirmation she distanced herself from the Church. You know that here in Italy the Sacrament of Confirmation is called the Sacrament of the goodbye! After Confirmation, they don’t return to church. And why? Because so many young people don’t know what to do . . . And she [Maria Lisa] never stopped, she was always on the way: sometimes on dark paths, on paths without light, without ideals or with ideals she didn’t understand well; however, in the end, she also made it. You young people must risk in life, you must risk. Today you must prepare the future; the future is in your hands – the future is in your hands.
In the Synod, the whole Church wishes to hear young people: what they think, what they feel, what they want, what they criticize and of what things they are repentant – everything. The Church is in need of yet more Spring, and Spring is the season of young people.
And, in addition, I would like to invite you to undertake this way, this path to the Synod and to Panama, and to do so with joy, to do so with your aspirations, without fear, without embarrassment, to do so courageously. Courage is needed. And to seek to find beauty in small things, as Pompeo said, that everyday beauty: to see it, not to lose it. And to be thankful for what you are: “I am like this: thank you!” So often in life we waste time asking ourselves: “But, who am I?” You can ask yourself who you are and spend all your life trying to find out who you are. But ask yourself: For whom am I?” As Our Lady, who was able to ask herself: “For whom, for which person am I, at this moment? For my cousin,” and she went. For whom am I, not who am I: this comes later, yes, it’s a question that must be asked, but first of all why do a job, a job of my whole life, a job that makes you think, that makes you feel, that makes you work. The three languages: the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of the hand – and always to go on.
And there is another thing I would like to say to you: the Synod is not a “parlor.” The WYD will not be a parlor” or some good thing and then “bye-bye, I forget it.” No, concreteness! Life asks us for concreteness. Concreteness is needed in this liquid culture and your vocation is concreteness.
And I would like to end . . . there was a written address, but after seeing you, after hearing the two testimonies, it came to me to say all this: there will be moments in which you don’t understand anything, dark, awful moments, beautiful moments, dark moments, luminous moments . . . but there is something I want to stress. We are in the present. At my age, we are about to go leave . . . no? [He laughs] Who guarantees life? No one. Your age has the future before it. To young people today, to young people life asks for a mission, the Church asks them for a mission, and I would like to give you this mission: go back and talk to your grandparents. Today we are in need of it more than ever, we are in need of this bridge, of the dialogue between grandparents and young people, between the old and the young. In chapter 3, verse 2, the prophet Joel he says this to us, as a prophecy: “The old will dream dreams, and the young will prophesy,” namely, with prophesies they will take concrete things forward. This is the task I give you in the name of the Church: to talk with the elderly. “But it’s boring . . . they always say the same things . . .” No, listen to the elderly person. Talk <to them>, ask <them> about things. Let them dream and draw from those dreams to go on, to prophesy and to render that prophecy concrete. This is your mission today; this is the mission that the Church asks of you today.
Dear young people, be courageous! “But, Father, I have sinned, I fall so many times . . .” There comes to mind a very beautiful Alpine song, which Alpine troops sing: “In the art of climbing, what is important is not to not fall, but not to stay fallen.” Go on! You fall? Get up and go on. But think of what your grandfather dreamt, what the old man or the old woman dreamt. Make them talk, take up those things and build bridges to the future. This is the task and the mission that the Church gives to you today.
Thank you so much for your courage, and . . . see you in Panama! I don’t know if I will be there, but the Pope will be there. And, at Panama, the Pope will ask you: “ Did you talk with old people? Did you talk with the elderly? Did you take the elderly man’s dream and transformed it into a concrete prophecy?” This is your task. May the Lord bless you. Pray for me, and let us prepare ourselves, all together, for the Synod and for Panama.
Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]