By Hannah Brockhaus
Be courageous and seize the work you are called to do for the good of the world; do not live like you have already entered the period of retirement, Pope Francis told Italian young adults Saturday.
Speaking during a lengthy question and answer session Aug. 11, with both prepared and off-the-cuff remarks, the pope asked young adults, “have you ever wondered where your dreams come from?”
Do they come from television, from your friends, are they big or small, “content with as little as possible?… dreams of comfort, dreams of wellness… dreams of young people asleep?” he asked. “I have said a few times. It is an ugly thing, young people in retirement,” he continued. “The Bible tells us that great dreams are those capable of being fruitful… of sowing peace and fraternity, sowing joy like today, behold, these are great dreams.”
“It is scary, because you could fall. But with God, do not be afraid. Go forward,” he said.
Pope Francis met with around 70,000 Italians ages 16-29 for an evening of prayer and worship in Rome’s Circus Maximus.
The teens and young adults convened in Rome Aug. 11-12 for the end of a pilgrimage organized by the Italian bishops’ conference ahead of October’s Synod of Bishops. Around 40,000 of those in attendance made a walking pilgrimage prior to arriving in Rome.
The pilgrimage was conceived as a way to ignite and strengthen the faith of Italian young people, and to pray in a particular way for the synod, which will focus on the faith and vocational discernment of young people. Youth from 195 dioceses participated.
Following the prayer vigil, churches across Rome will remain open late into the night for pilgrims to visit for prayer, adoration, confession, and other cultural and spiritual opportunities.
Sunday morning they will attend Mass in St. Peter’s Square, celebrated by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, followed by an encounter with Pope Francis, the Angelus, and Benediction.
To a question from a young woman who said she felt unsupported in the decision to marry young, before having a career, and who said it is difficult for young people to consider making a life-long commitment, the pope said to marry, but to do so “with discernment.”
“To choose, to be able to decide for oneself seems to be the highest expression of freedom. And in a sense, it is,” he said. But today, society has a view of freedom that is without constraints, without commitments. “Pay attention to this” he continued: it is “how freedom crumbles and no longer keeps its promises of life and happiness.”
And when this happens, people conclude that freedom is a deception and that “happiness does not exist.”
During the prayer vigil, Francis also gave a reflection on the discovery of the empty tomb in the Gospel of John, when the disciples Peter and John ran to the tomb after Mary Magdalene told them the stone had been removed.
Referencing the walking pilgrimage many of those present had made to arrive in Rome, he said, “you have set off and have come to this meeting. And now my joy is to feel that your hearts beat with love for Jesus, like those of Mary Magdalene, of Peter, of John.”
“And because you are young, I, like Peter, am happy to see you run faster, like John, driven by the impulse of your heart,” he continued, “sensitive to the voice of the Spirit that animates your dreams.”
He encouraged the youth not to be content with standing “at the end of the line,” but to have the courage to “leap forward,” to help bring about the Kingdom of God. “The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith,” he said.