Saturday, April 7, 2018

Meeting with children from Brecia

At noon today (6:00am EDT), in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience a group of children from the Diocese of Brescia.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the meeting with children from the
Diocese of Brescia

Dear boys and girls, welcome!

They say that where children, there is always noise, but here there is silence ....

(Festive shouts from the children)

I thank you for your festive welcome.  I thank your Bishop for his introduction and those who have accompanied you on this pilgrimage.  Thank you all!

I was struck by the words of that young person who the Bishop quoted a little while ago - and who I knew beforehand: Do the bishops really believe that the young people can help the Church to change?  I don't know if that young person, who asked that question, is here among you ... Yes? ... No, ok.  But in any case I can say to him and to all of you that this question is very dear to me.  It is also very important to me that the upcoming Synod of Bishops, which will study Youth, faith and vocational discernment, should be prepared by truly listening to young people.  And I can tell you that this is being done.  You too have shown me that this is important, through the work that you are doing in your dioceses.  And when I say I am really listening, I also want to assure you of the possibility to change things, to change together, to share dreams, like that young boy said.

However, I too have the right to ask some questions, and I want to ask you something.  You were just asking whether we bishops are truly willing to listen and to change something in the Church.  And I ask you: are you willing to listen to Jesus and to change something within you?  Let that question echo in your hearts.  I repeat: are you willing to listen to Jesus and to change something about yourself?  If you are here, I think that you are, but I cannot and I don't want to take this for granted.  Every one of you should reflect silently within your own hearts: Am I willing to make Jesus' dreams my own?  Or am I afraid that his dreams may disturb my own dreams?

And what is Jesus' dream?  Jesus' dream is something that is spoken of in the gospel as the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God means love with God and love among ourselves, forming a large family of brothers and sisters with God as our Father, who loves all his children ad is full of joy when one of us who was lost comes back home.  This is Jesus' dream.  I wonder: are you willing to make this dream your own?  Are you willing to make this dream your own?  Are you also willing to change in order to embrace this dream?  (The children all answer: Yes!)  Good.

Jesus is very clear.  He says: If someone wants to follow after me - to be with me, to follow after me - he must deny himself.  Why does he use this word that sounds a bit brutal, renounce himself?  Why does he use this word?  In what sense should we understand this word?  It does not mean that we should despise something that God himself has given us: life, desires, our bodies, our relationships ... No, God wanted all this and still desires it for our good.  Jesus also asks all those who want to follow him to renounce themselves, because there is a part of every one of us that is what the Bible calls the old man, there is always an old man, a self-centred person who does not follow God's logic, the reasoning of love, but follows an opposing reasoning, the reasoning of self-centredness, of doing what I want, often hidden beneath good desires that try to hide our true intentions.  You know all these things, they are the things of life.  Jesus died on a cross in order to free us from slavery to being old men, a slavery that is not external but internal, within us.  Many of us are slaves to egotism, to getting attached to riches and other vices.  These are all internal slaveries, sinfulness ... that makes us all die inside.  Only He, Jesus, can salve us from this evil, but he needs us to collaborate; he needs all of us to say: Jesus, forgive me, give me a heart like yours, humble and full of love.  This prayer is beautiful: Jesus, forgive me, give me a heart like yours, humble and full of love.  Jesus' heart was full of love.  Jesus loved in this way.  Jesus lived in this way.

You know?  A prayer like that, Jesus takes it seriously!  Yes, and those who trust Him receive surprising experiences as gifts.  For example, they experience new joy in reading the gospel, the bible, they experience a sense of beauty and truth in His word.  Or, they feel drawn to participate in the Mass, which is something not too common for a young person; am I right or not?  Instead, you feel a desire to spend time with God, to remain silent before the Eucharist.  Or Jesus makes himself felt in the presence of suffering people, sick persons or those who are excluded ... Think about what you felt with you did something good, when you helped someone else.  Is it not true that you felt a new breath?  This experience must have been a gift from God.  He is the one who changes us, that's the way it is.  Or he gives us the courage to do his will by going against the crowd, but without becoming proud, without presuming ourselves to be entitled, without judgement of others ... All these things are His gifts - they are His gifts! - which always make us feel more emptied of ourselves and filled up with Him.

The saints demonstrate all of this.  Saint Francis of Assisi for example: he was a young man who was full of dreams, but they were worldly dreams, not God's dreams.  Jesus spoke to him from the crucifix, in the little church of San Damiano, and his life was changed.  He embraced the dream of Jesus, he stripped himself of the old man within himself, he denied his own self-centredness and welcomed the presence of Jesus - humble, poor, simple, merciful, full of joy and admiration for the beauty of creation.

And we can also think about Giovanni Battista Montini, Pope Paul VI: we are used to remembering him as Pope; but before he was so famous, he was a young man, just like you, from a place not far from where you live.  I want to give you a task, some homework: try to find out what Giovanni Battista Montini was like as a young man; how he was in his family, as a student, how he was when he went to the chapel ...; what were his dreams? ... Try to find out about those things.

Dear boys and girls, I thank you for this visit, which gives me much joy, a lot of joy.  Thank you!  May the Lord bless you and may Our Lady accompany you on your journey.  Life is a journey!  You must set out on this journey ... and I want to ask you: please don't forget to pray for me.  Thank you!

And now, I want to give you my blessing, but first, let us pray the Hail Mary together: Hail Mary ...

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