Francis' Address to Young People in Assisi

A Response to Questions on Marriage, Work, Vocation and Mission

Assisi, Italy, (Zenit.org) | 2406 hits

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At 5:30 pm, after crossing the Square in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels, and greeting  the awaiting young people, the Holy Father went into the Basilica and was received by the Custodian of the monastery of the Porciuncula, Father Fabrizio Migliasso, OFM, and the Religious Community. Also present was the Papal Legate for the Basilicas of Saint Francis and Saint Mary of the Angels, Cardinal Attilio Nicora.

After the visit and silent prayer at the Porcincula, at 6:15 pm Pope Francis met with young people of Umbria in the Square of the Basilica.

The Pope was greeted by the Archbishop of Spoleto-Norcia, Renato Boccardo, president of the Regional Commission of Youth Ministry, together with eight young people representing the eight Umbrian dioceses. Then some young people asked the Holy Father four questions on: the family, work, vocation and mission.

Here is a translation of the young people’s questions and of Pope Francis’ answers.

YOUNG PEOPLE’S QUESTIONS TO THE HOLY FATHER

1.     FAMILY

Nicola and Chiara Volpi (Perugia-Citta della Pieve)

We live in a society where well-being is at the center, to amuse oneself and think of oneself. To live matrimony as young Christians is complex; to open oneself to life is a challenge and a frequent fear. As a young couple we feel the joy of living our marriage, but we experience the daily effort and challenges. How can the Church help us, how can our pastors support us, what steps are we also called to take?

2.     WORK

Danilo Zampolini (Spoleto-Norcia) and David Girolami (Foligno)

The general economic crisis of these last years has also caused situations of hardship and poverty in Umbria. The future appears uncertain and menacing. The risk is also to lose hope, together with economic security. How should a young Christian look at the future? What path should we choose to build a society worthy of God and worthy of man?

3.     VOCATION

Benedetto Fattorini (Orvieto-Todi) and Maria Chiaroli (Terni-Narni-Amelia)

What should I do in life? How and where should I use the talents that the Lord has given me?

Sometimes we are attracted by the idea of the priesthood or of consecrated life, but immediately fear arises. And then, such a commitment: “forever”. How can we recognize God’s call? What would you advise someone who wants to dedicate his life to the service of God and to brothers?

4.     MISSION

Luca Nassuato (Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino), Mirko Pierli (Citta di Castello) and Petra Sannipoli (Gubbio)

It’s lovely to be here together with you and to hear your words which encourage us and warm our heart. The Year of Faith, which will end in a few weeks, proposed to all believers again the urgency of the proclamation of the Good News. We also want to take part in this exciting adventure. But how? What can our contribution be? What must we do?

THE HOLY FATHER’S ANSWERS

Dear Young People of Umbria, Good evening!

Thank you for coming, thank you for this celebration. This is really a celebration! And thank you for your questions.

I’m happy that the first question was that of a young couple – a beautiful witness! Two young people who have chosen, who decided, with joy and courage to form a family. Yes, because it is in fact true that you need courage to form a family! Courage is needed! And your question, young spouses, is linked to that of vocation. What is matrimony? It is a true and proper vocation, as are the priesthood and the religious life. Two Christians who marry have recognized in their history of love the call of the Lord, the vocation of two, male and female, to become only one flesh, only one life. And the Sacrament of Matrimony envelops this love with the grace of God, it roots it in God Himself. With this gift, with the certainty of this call, one can begin with certainty, there is no fear of anything, everything can be faced together!

We think of our parents, of our grandparents and great-grandparents: they were married in conditions that were much poorer than ours, some in time of war, or of post-war; some were emigrants, such as my parents. Where did they find the strength? They found it in the certainty that the Lord was with them, that the family is blessed by God with the Sacrament of Matrimony, and that the mission is blessed to bring children into the world and to educate them. With these certainties they surmounted even the hardest tests. They were simple but true certainties; they were the columns that supported their love. Their life wasn’t easy; there were problems, so many problems. But these simple certainties helped them to go forward. And they succeeded in making a beautiful family, in giving life, in seeing their children grow up.

Dear friends, this moral and spiritual basis is needed to build well -- solidly! Today this basis is no longer guaranteed by families and by social tradition. In fact, the society in which you were born privileges individual rights rather than the family – these individual rights -- it privileges relations that last so long as problems don’t arise, and because of this sometimes there is talk of the relationship of couples, of the family, of marriage in a superficial and mistaken way. Suffice to watch certain television programs and these values are seen! How many times a parish priest – I also heard it sometimes – receives a couple that comes to get married and says to them: “But do you know that marriage is for your whole life?” “O, we love one another so much, but  … we will stay together as long as our love lasts. When it ends, one will go one way and the other another.” It is egoism: when I don’t feel it, I break the marriage and forget that “one flesh,” which cannot be divided. It’s risky to marry, it’s risky! It is egoism that menaces us, because within all of us there is the possibility of a double personality: one that says “I free, want this” … “I, me, with me, for me …” Always egoism, which turns away and is unable to open to others. The other difficulty is this culture of the provisional: it seems that nothing is definitive. Everything is provisional. As I said earlier: hum, love while it lasts. Once I heard a seminarian  --who was good – who said: “I want to become a priest, but for ten years. Then I’ll think about it again.” It’s the culture of the provisional, and Jesus didn’t save us provisionally, he saved us definitively!

However, the Holy Spirit always elicits new answer to the new exigencies! And thus ways were multiplied in the Church for engaged couples, courses of preparation for Marriage, groups of young couples in parishes, family movements … They are a huge richness! They are points of reference for all: young who are seeking, couples in crisis, parents in difficulty with their children and vice versa. All are helped! And then there are the different forms of reception: entrustment, adoption, family-houses of various types … The imagination – I allow myself the word – the imagination of the Holy Spirit is infinite, but it’s also very concrete! Now I would like to say to you not to be afraid “to take definitive steps” – don’t be afraid to take them. How many times I’ve heard mothers say to me: “But, Father, I have a 30-year-old son who isn’t married: I don’t know what to do! He has a beautiful girlfriend, but he doesn’t decide.” But, Madam, don’t iron his shirts anymore! It’s like this! Don’t be afraid to take definitive steps, such as that of marriage: deepen your love, respecting the times and expressions, pray, prepare yourselves well, but then trust that the Lord doesn’t leave you alone! Make him come into your home as one of the family. He will always support you.

The family is the vocation that God has written in man’s and woman’s nature, but there is another vocation that is complementary to marriage: the call to celibacy and to virginity for the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s the vocation that Jesus himself lived. How can it be recognized? How can it be followed? It’s the third question you asked me. But some of you might think: how good this Bishop is! We asked the questions and he has the answers all ready, written! I received the questions a few days ago. That’s why I know them. And I answer you with two essential elements about how to recognize a vocation to the priesthood or to consecrated life. Pray and walk in the Church. These two things go together, they are intertwined. At the origin of consecrated life there is always an intense experience of God, an experience that isn’t forgotten, which is remembered throughout one’s life! It’s the one Francis had. We can’t calculate or plan this. God always surprises us! It’s God who calls, but it’s important to have a daily relationship with Him, to listen to Him in silence before the Tabernacle and in the depth of our being, to speak with Him, to approach the Sacraments. To have this familiar relationship with the Lord is like having the window of our life open, so He has us hear his voice, what he wants from us. It would be lovely to hear you, to hear the priests present here, the Sisters … It would be very lovely, because each story is unique, but they all begin from an encounter that illumines in depth, which touches the heart and involves the whole person: affection, intellect, senses, everything. The relationship with God is not about a part of ourselves, but the whole of ourselves. It’s such a great love, so beautiful, so true, that it merits all, it merits all our trust. And I would like to say something forcefully, especially today: virginity for the Kingdom of God isn’t a “no,” it’s a “yes”!  Of course, it entails the giving up of a conjugal bond and one’s own family, but at the base there is the “yes,” as the answer to Christ’s total “yes” to us, and this “yes” renders one fruitful.

However, here at Assisi there is no need for words! Francis is here, Clare is here, they speak! Their charism continues to speak to so many young people in the whole world: young men and young women who leave everything to follow Jesus on the way of the Gospel.

So, Gospel. I would like to take up the word “Gospel” to answer the other two questions that you asked me, the second and the fourth. One is about the social commitment, in this period of crisis that menaces hope; and the other is about evangelization, taking Jesus’ proclamation to others. You asked me: what can we do? What can be our contribution?

Here at Assisi, here close to the Porciuncula, I seem to hear Saint Francis’ voice that repeats: “Gospel, Gospel!” He says it also to me, in fact, first to me: Pope Francis, be the servant of the Gospel! If I don’t succeed in being a servant of the Gospel, my life isn’t worth anything!

But the Gospel, dear friends, is not just about religion, it’s about man, the whole man, it’s about the world, society, human civilization. The Gospel is God’s message of salvation for humanity. However, when we say “message of salvation,” it’s not a way of saying things, they are not simple words or empty words of which there are so many today! Humanity is truly in need of being saved! We see it every day when we glance through the newspaper, or listen to the news on television; but we also see it around us, in persons, in situations; and we see it in ourselves! Every one of us is in need of salvation! We can’t do it alone! We are in need of salvation! Salvation from what? From evil, evil operates, it does its work. But evil isn’t invincible and the Christian is not resigned in face of evil. And you, young people, do you want to be resigned in face of evil, of injustices, of difficulties? Do you or don’t you? [The young people answered: No!] Ah, good. This pleases me! Our secret is that God is greater than evil: this is true! God is greater than evil. God is infinite love, limitless mercy. And this Love has defeated evil at the root in the Death and Resurrection of Christ. This is the Gospel, the Good News; God’s love has conquered! Christ died on the cross for our sins and he rose. We can fight against evil and conquer it with Him every day. Do we believe this or not? [Yes! The young people answered]. But this “yes” must be in our lives! If I believe that Jesus has conquered evil and saves me, I must follow Jesus, I must follow Jesus’ way my whole life.

Now this Gospel, this message of salvation, has two destinations that are linked: the first, to awaken faith, and this is evangelization; the second, to transform the world according to God’s plan, and this is the Christian animation of society. But they aren’t two separate things, they are one mission: to take the Gospel with the witness of our life transforms the world! This is the way: to take the Gospel with the witness of our life.

Let us look at Francis: he did both these things, with the sole force of the Gospel. Francis brought faith to grow, he renewed the Church and, at the same time, he renewed society, he made it more fraternal, but always with the Gospel, with his witness. You know what Francis said once to his Brothers? “Always preach the Gospel and if it’s necessary, use words!” But how? Can the Gospel be preached without words? Yes! With witness! First witness, then words! But witness!

Young people of Umbria: do this also! Today, in the name of Francis, I say to you: I don’t have gold or silver to give you, but something much more precious, the Gospel of Jesus. Go with courage! With the Gospel in your heart and in your hands; be witnesses of the faith with your life: take Christ to your homes, proclaim him among your friends, welcome him and serve him in the poor. Young people, give Umbria a message of life, of peace and of hope! You can do it!

Recitation of the Our Father and the Blessing

And please, I ask you, pray for me!

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]