Monday, 29 August 2011

Words of the Holy Father to Young People in the UK

Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough  to go to World Youth Day in Madrid. We were in a crowd of close to a million people waiting to welcome the Pope into Madrid on Thursday evening when I heard something that made me very excited. We had to arrive about 7 hours early to get a good spot (which actually turned out to be a terrible spot because we could see neither the Pope or a screen), and whilst we were waiting there was a festival atmosphere. Amidst all of the music, singing, chanting, and the sound of sweat dripping of the floor the vast majority of people totally missed a magical moment. On the loud speakers, which were dotted around the surrounding streets, all of a sudden came the sound of Pope Benedict's voice speaking to young school students at St Mary's college Twickenham - in my opinion the highlight of his visit to the UK (aside from the beautification). Wow. Not only that but it was set to music, which was . . . interesting.

If you have even a mustard seed of Catholic in you (and I include a lots of non-catholic's in that description) then I can only recommend you read this message. The intended audience is school children, but given the author - that makes it set at about right for a 20 something. 

If you would rather watch the video you will need to skip almost to the end - its brilliant!

Papal Visit: The Big Assembly from Catholic Church (England/Wales) on Vimeo.

My emphasis in bold, my comments in [red brackets].

Sports Arena of St Mary’s University College

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Dear young friends,
         [OK - you can ignore the first paragraph it's just introductions]

First of all, I want to say how glad I am to be here with you today. I greet you most warmly, those who have come to Saint Mary’s University from Catholic schools and colleges across the United Kingdom, and all who are watching on television and via the internet. I thank Bishop McMahon for his gracious welcome, I thank the choir and the band for the lovely music which began our celebration, and I thank Miss Bellot and Elaine for her kind words on behalf of all the young people present. In view of London’s forthcoming Olympic Games, it has been a pleasure to inaugurate this Sports Foundation, named in honour of Pope John Paul II, and I pray that all who come here will give glory to God through their sporting activities, as well as bringing enjoyment to themselves and to others.
It is not often that a Pope, or indeed anyone else, has the opportunity to speak to the students of all the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time. And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century[we can sometimes forget that there are people in the world right now who will be saints one day - and there is literally no reason why we cannot be one of them]. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.[that's right! I did just bold all of that and I'm not ashamed] 
Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?[most people - often including myself - have absolutely no idea! We see what we're told to see and think what we are told to think] 
When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best[another quote by the Pope 'the world offers you comfort: you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness']. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it[so many people confuse pleasure with happiness - when in fact is is normally those who seek pleasure the most who end up the unhappiest], because they look for it in the wrong places[drugs, Facebook friend numbers, sex, careers, power, money, politics - even charity] . The key to it is very simpletrue happiness is to be found in God[and only there; as Saint Augustine said 'our hearts are restless Lord until they rest in you]. We need to have the courage [it's not a word most people associate with being a Christian but fear - fear to commit, fear to accept wrongness, fear to seems stupid, fear to trust - is the biggest reason why church's are empty]to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts. 
Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend. God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness [the two big vices of the 21st century] and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage[if you haven't had chance to read the post on contraception below please do to see how true this is] , and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.
In your Catholic schools, there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn [it's very true for university studies too, and life in general]. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God, and all that flows from that friendship. So you learn not just to be good students, but good citizens, good people. As you move higher up the school, you have to make choices regarding the subjects you study, you begin to specialize with a view to what you are going to do later on in life. That is right and proper. But always remember that every subject you study is part of a bigger picture. Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world. We need good historians and philosophers and economists, but if the account they give of human life within their particular field is too narrowly focused, they can lead us seriously astray. 
A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints[most Catholic schools in fact act as a pathway out of the church with their half baked watered down faith and teachers who have no faith]. I know that there are many non-Catholics studying in the Catholic schools in Great Britain, and I wish to include all of you in my words today. I pray that you too will feel encouraged to practise virtue and to grow in knowledge and friendship with God alongside your Catholic classmates. You are a reminder to them of the bigger picture that exists outside the school, and indeed, it is only right that respect and friendship for members of other religious traditions should be among the virtues learned in a Catholic school. I hope too that you will want to share with everyone you meet the values and insights you have learned through the Christian education you have received. 
Dear friends, I thank you for your attention, I promise to pray for you, and I ask you to pray for me. I hope to see many of you next August, at the World Youth Day in Madrid[wahey! that was me]. In the meantime, may God bless you all!

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