By Devin Watkins
“The most important point of reference for the choices we must make is found in yourself, in your own conscience.”
That was the advice Pope Francis gave on Saturday to a thousand-strong group of school-age children who attend the Barbarigo Catholic School in the Italian city of Padua.
The Holy Father was responding to a question posed by Sofia, a 13-year-old middle school student.
Who to trust?
Sofia asked the Pope how to find people in whom to trust, saying it is not easy for young people to find adults worthy of being points of reference.
Pope Francis invited Sofia and other students to trust in themselves, as they find guidance in dialogue with their priests and family members.
He invited them to speak often with their families, especially with their grandparents, whom he said are the roots of society.
The Pope also said youth is “not passivity, but a tenacious effort aimed at reaching important goals”. Youth, he said, means rejecting compromises and mediocrity, while striving towards solidarity with all.
Where to find answers?
15-year old Aldo told the Pope that the Barbarigo Catholic School teaches them to ask questions about truth, justice, and beauty. And he wondered how to find answers to difficult questions regarding the faith.
Pope Francis told Aldo that his Catholic school offers its students the wonderful opportunity to deal directly with the problems of life and to seek meaning for their own lives.
“If you don’t go home with a new question for yourself, you are missing something,” he said.
The Pope also encouraged students to get a part-time job while they study, citing his own experience of working while in school.
Work, he said, “helped me, that is, the effort of waking up early to catch the bus and go to work at 7 AM… Work is important.”
How to find my path?
Finally, 19-year-old Giovanni asked the Holy Father how he could discover the plans God has for his life.
In response, the Pope told Giovanni to pray, and ask God what He wants him to do.
“Pray with your heart, before the Lord. Dialogue with the Lord,” he said. “True prayer is important in the moment before making a choice.”
Pope Francis also told Giovanni not to make a choice “in a laboratory”.
“Choices must be made with the language of the head, the heart, and the hands.”
Pope Francis concluded by telling the young Catholic students from Padua that life must be lived with passion.
“Don’t lose your passion!” he said.