By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Part of a pilgrimage of more than 70,000 young Italians included an evening prayer vigil in Rome on Saturday. The week-long pilgrimage was organized by the National Service for Youth Ministry of the Italian Bishops’ Conference in view of the Synod for Young People in October and World Youth Day in January.
During the prayer vigil at the Circus Maximus, Pope Francis responded to 4 questions presented by a few of the young people present.
Dreams are shining stars
Letizia and Lucamatteo both asked the Pope a question involving the realization of the dreams they carry within them.
Pope Francis responded saying that their dreams are the most important because “they are the most brilliant”. He encouraged them to make their dreams their future as well and he invited them to ask themselves where their dreams come from. The scope of their dreams needs to be like the “great dreams” narrated in the Bible, he said. What made them great is that they included everyone.
“Great dreams include, involve, are extroverted, share, and generate new life”. In the face of adults who are afraid of young people’s dreams, Pope Francis encouraged them now to allow themselves to be “robbed of your dreams” but to seek mentors to “help you understand them and gradually concretize them”.
Take the risk and love
Martina posed a question regarding the difficulty of planning her personal future involving permanent commitments and the pressures she feels to plan her professional future first. Being able to make decisions for oneself is “the highest expression of freedom”, the Pope responded. “[Martina] pointed out the wound”, he continued. Every excuse to postpone a definitive decision “stops us, does not let us move forward, does not allow us to dream, takes away our freedom”. The Pope then reflected at length on the biblical portrayal of man and woman who together image God. A couple realizes this noble “ideal” when the man “makes his wife more of a woman” and vice versa, he said. “Don’t be afraid to think about love: but a love that takes risks, faithful love, love that fosters growth in another and in oneself”, the Pope concluded.
Witness, don't talk
Dario presented the third question regarding faith and the search for meaning in a Church that he says no longer responds adequately and is no longer credible because of frequent scandals. Dario too “pointed out the wound”, Pope Francis said. His question, the Pope continued, asks “all of us, pastors and faithful, to accompany, listen, and give witness”. The Pope illustrated this with a personal experience he had with a young person during World Youth Day in Krakow who asked him what he could say to a fellow university student who was agnostic “to make him understand that ours is the true religion. I said”, the Pope continued, “the last thing you need to do is say something. Begin to live as a Christian and he will ask you why you live like that”. The Pope ended asking each one there to ask how they themselves are witnessing their faith. “And this is the last thing,” he concluded, “Jesus’ message, the Church without witness, is only smoke”.