God Is Young contains an interview with Pope Francis, who speaks with young people throughout the world. The book is being released in Italian, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Brazilian, Polish, Croatian, Slovak, Slovenian, Czech, and an English edition which will be available in time for the Synod on Youth in October. Here are some excerpts from the book.
Young people are prophets with wings
A young person is something like a prophet, and needs to realize that. He or she needs to be aware of having the wings of a prophet, the attitude of a prophet, the capacity of prophesying, of speaking but also of acting. A prophet today has the capacity, yes, of denouncing, but also of having perspective. Young people have both of these qualities. They know how to denounce, but many times they do not express that denunciation well. They also have the capability of surveying the future and looking ahead.
Young people today are growing up in an uprooted society
To understand a young person today you have to understand them in movement, you cannot sit still and pretend that you are on the same wave length. If you want to dialogue with a young person you must be ‘mobile,’ and then he or she will slow down in order to listen to us, he or she will decide to do it. And when he or she slows down, another movement will begin: a movement in which the young person will begin to pace him or herself more slowly in order to be heard and those who are older will accelerate in order to discover the point of encounter. Both are making an effort: the younger to go slower and the older to go quicker. This could indicate progress. (…) Often adults uproot the young, they eradicate their roots and instead of helping them to be prophets for the good of society, they make them orphans and discard them. Today’s young people are growing up in an uprooted society.
Asking our young people for pardon
We must ask pardon of our young people because we have not always taken them seriously. We do not always help them see the path and construct the means which might allow them not to end up discarded. Often we do not know how to make them dream and we are not capable of enthusing them. It is normal to seek money in order to build a family, a future, and so break out of a position of subordination to adults which today’s young people have endured much too long. What matters is avoiding the drive to accumulate.
Work feeds the soul, not money
Everyone should be able to work. Every human being needs to have the concrete possibility of working, of demonstrating to him or herself and to loved ones that they can earn a living. Exploitation cannot be accepted. It is not acceptable that many young people are exploited by employers making false promises of salaries which never materialize, with the excuse that they are young and need the experience. It is not acceptable that employers expect young people to do dangerous work—even without pay—as happens. (…) Young people ask us to listen to them and we have the duty of listening to them and of welcoming them, not exploiting them. There are no excuses that apply here.
Too many parents bring up their children according to a culture of the fleeting
It seems that it is bad to grow up, to grow old, to be seasoned. It is synonymous with a worn out, unsatisfactory life. Today it seems that everything is made-up and fake. It’s like there is no sense in living. I spoke recently about how sad it is that someone would want a face lift even for the heart! How sad that someone would want to erase the wrinkles of so many experiences, of so many joys and sorrows! Too often it is the adults who play at being teenagers, who feel the need of putting themselves at the level of an adolescent, but who do not understand that this is deceitful. It is playing with the devil. I cannot understand how it could be possible for an adult to feel that they are in competition with a young person, but unfortunately this is happening always more often. (…) There are too many parents who have adolescent mentalities, who play at eternally living a fleeting life and, whether they realize it or not, make their sons victims of this perverse ephemeral game. For on the one hand they bring up their children directed toward the culture of the fleeting, but on the other hand they bring them up always more rooted in a society which we have just defined as being “uprooted.”
Old dreamers and young prophets are the salvation for an uprooted society
Today, social networks seem to offer us this space of connection with others; the web makes young people feel part of a unique group. But the problem that the Internet brings is its own virtuality: the web leaves young people in the air and for this reason it is extremely volatile. (...) Dialogue has the strength to save us I think, the dialogue of young people with the elderly: an interaction between the old and the young, even excluding adults temporarily. The young and the old have to talk to each other and have to do it more and more often. This is very urgent! And those who are old must take the initiative just as much as those who are young. (...) But this society marginalizes both. It discards the young just as much as it discards the old. Yet the salvation of the elderly is to give the young the memory, this makes the elderly true dreamers of the future; while the salvation of the young is to take this teaching, these dreams, and bear them prophetically into the future. (...) Old dreamers and young prophets are the path of salvation of our uprooted society: two discarded generations can save everyone.
God is young because “he makes all things new” and because he is social
God is the One who always renews because he is always new: God is young! God is the Eternal who does not have time, but is capable of renewing, of rejuvenating himself continually and rejuvenating everything. The most peculiar characteristics of young people are God’s as well. He is young because “he makes all things new” and he loves new things; because he amazes and loves to astonish; because he knows how to dream and desires our dreams; because he is strong and enthusiastic; because he constructs relationships and asks us to do the same, he is social. I think of the imagination of the young and I see that they also possess the possibility of being “eternal,” putting into play their innocence, their creativity, their courage, their energy, accompanied by dreams and by the wisdom of their elders. It is a cycle which becomes closed, which creates with a new continuity and it reminds me of the image of eternity.
About the author
Thomas Leoncini, is an Italian journalist and author. In 2017 his book Born Liquid written with sociologist Zygmunt Bauman of Born Liquid, became a best seller in Italy.