During evening prayer with local college students on Nov. 30, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of remaining faithful to the truth in the face of modern ideologies.
“If you don’t let yourselves be conditioned by prevailing opinions, but remain faithful to Christian ethical and religious principles, you will find the courage even to go against the current,” he said in his homily at St. Peter’s Basilica.
“The fullness of the Christian life that God carries out in man, in fact, is always threatened by the temptation to succumb to the spirit of the world,” he cautioned.
“For this reason God gives us his aid by which we can preserve the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the new life in the Spirit that He has given us.”
“Dear young university students,” Pope Francis encouraged, “your willpower and your capabilities, united to the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in each one of you from the day of your baptism, permits you to be not spectators, but protagonists in contemporary events.”
He then acknowledged the importance of facing life’s many difficulties. “One can’t live without looking at the challenges, without responding to the challenges.”
But “God is more powerful than our weaknesses,” he stressed. “God’s faithfulness never disappoints.”
“There are several challenges that you university students are called to confront with inner strength and evangelical courage,” he continued.
“The socio-cultural context in which you are placed is sometimes weighed down by mediocrity and boredom. We must not resign ourselves to the monotony of everyday life, but cultivate large-scale projects, going beyond the ordinary: don’t let your youthful enthusiasm be stolen!” he urged.
Christian youth must find the balance between independent thought and fidelity to the truth, he noted.
“The model to follow is not the sphere, in which every protrusion is leveled and every difference disappears; instead, the model is the prism, which includes a multiplicity of elements and respects unity in variety,” explained the Pope.
Independent thought becomes fruitful not merely because it stands apart, but rather “when it is an expression of an open mind that discerns, always illuminated by truth, by goodness, and by beauty.”
“In fact,” he said, “the plurality of thought and of individuality reflects the multiform wisdom of God when it approaches truth, when it approaches the good, when it approaches beauty, with honesty and intellectual rigor.”
“May the task of journeying in the faith and of carrying yourselves in a manner consistent with the gospel accompany you in this time of Advent, in order to live in an authentic way the commemoration of the birth of the Lord,” the Pontiff concluded.
The Nov. 30 celebration of Vespers with the university students of Rome is a papal tradition taking place every year in anticipation of the first Sunday of Advent.
An icon of Mary, patroness of university students, stood under the title “Seat of Wisdom” to the side of the altar. At the end of the evening, a group of French students processed out bearing the image on their shoulders.
The icon had been kept for the celebration of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and will now be received in university chaplaincies in France.