The Pope speaks to young people – all the time! Papa Francisco continues the traditions of his predecessors and makes a point of communicating regularly to young people. We in Catholic Youth Ministry should make it a continued practice, or tradition, to make sure to transmit the words of the Holy Father to our own local young people. These can be via our teachings as well as our websites, e-newsletters, and Sunday bulletins.
So, what has Pope Francis been saying to us lately?
WORLD YOUTH DAY
These events are often considered as the mega-youth gathering that the church assembles every few years. The next event will be hosted in Panama in January 2019. But “off year” celebrations occur in Rome annually on Palm Sunday. You can find the messages on-line from Popes Francis, Benedict, and (the founder of the feast) Saint John Paul. Pope Francis’ most recent WYD message featured this wonderful piece about Mary, service, and hospitality:
Our age does not need young people who are “couch-potatoes.” According to Luke’s Gospel, once Mary has received the message of the angel and said “yes” to the call to become the Mother of the Savior, she sets out in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was in the sixth month of her pregnancy. Mary is very young; what she was told is a great gift, but it also entails great challenges… Yet Mary does not shut herself up at home or let herself be paralyzed by fear or pride. Mary is not the type that, to be comfortable, needs a good sofa where she can feel safe and sound. She is no couch potato! If her elderly cousin needs a hand, she does not hesitate, but immediately sets off.
God choses each of us not based on what we think our gifts are, but what He knows our gifts are. Young people are called to change the world and the lives of others.
Other recent Vatican messages include mention of the concerns of the poor and the importance of charity. The First World Day of the Poor was celebrated on November 19, 2017. Pope Francis called the Church to action by loving others “not with words but with deeds”. Again, he speaks about stepping out of our comfort zones to draw near to the poor and be with them. By showing others love and charity in their most desperate of times, we are caring for Christ and drawing closer to Him. Think about how you are teaching your teens about charity and love. Is caring for the poor a regular part of your ministry? How can it become a “thing”?
When the Popes step outside of Rome, they often have many different meetings and gatherings. He meets with bishops and priests, Inter-religious leaders, government officials, and, YES, young people. Pope Francis’s most recent trips offers two excellent examples of his connection and desire to inspire.
In Myanmar, he met with young people and shared his take-away from the first reading of the day. Pope Francis affirmed them and reminded them they are a “welcome sound and a beautiful and encouraging sight.” He told the young people that their youth, enthusiasm, and their faith inspire the community to draw closer to Christ.
Days later, at Notre Dame College in Dhaka, Bangladesh, he told young people that they “are always ready to move forward, to make things happen and to take risks.” Pope Francis said, “I encourage you to keep moving with this enthusiasm in the good times and the bad times. Keep moving, especially in those moments when you feel weighed down by problems and sadness, and when you look out and God seems to be nowhere on the horizon.” In cautioning young people to “journey” rather than “wander”, Francis reminded them that “life is not without direction, it has a purpose given to us by God.” What an inspiring thing to say to people at a time when they are really searching to find who they are and where they are supposed to go?
KEEPING UP ON VATICAN NEWS
Utilizing the Vatican website as well as services such as Zenit or Catholic News Service, you can keep your eyes open for other encounters between the Pope and young people. In doing so, you might discover that Pope Francis recently sent a video message to the young people of Canada or that, in a WYD homily last Palm Sunday in Rome, Pope Francis told young people then that happiness “is not an ‘app’ that you can download on your phones” and that love leads to true freedom, which is a gift that comes from “being able to choose good.”
The Pope’s messages are often quite relatable and understandable. We can often link his messages to our own, thereby attaching ourselves to papal credibility. More than anything else, we need to help our Popes in communicating their message
to young people. They need to hear that they are important and essential to the Church. Young people need to know that the Church and her leadership are both speaking to them as well as listening to their concerns.