Pope Benedict XVI spoke of his prayer life as he encouraged the children of Benin in their love for Christ.
“The day of my First Holy Communion was one of the most beautiful days of my life. It is the same for you, isn’t it? And why is that?” asked the Pope.
“It’s not only because of our nice clothes or the gifts we receive, nor even because of the parties! It is above all because, that day, we receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time!”
The Pope addressed over 800 children gathered at St. Rita’s parish in Benin’s largest city, Cotonou. His talk followed a visit to a nearby shelter for abandoned, sick and malnourished children run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. There the children sang and danced for Pope Benedict.
His meeting with the children at St. Rita’s began with Eucharistic adoration. He told the children that Jesus, “who loves us very much, is truly present in the tabernacles of all the churches around the world.” Therefore, he said, “I ask you to visit him often to tell him of your love for him.”
Moving onto his own prayer life, he explained that “when I receive Communion, Jesus comes to live in me,” so “I should welcome him with love and listen closely to him.”
“In the depths of my heart, I can tell him, for example: “Jesus, I know that you love me. Give me your love so that I can love you in return and love others with your love. I give you all my joys, my troubles and my future.”
As a model of youthful piety, he held up the example of the 19th century Ugandan martyr Saint Kizito who “was put to death because he wanted to live according to the baptism which he had just received,” said the Pope. “Kizito prayed,” he said, because “he realized that God is not only important, but that he is everything.”
Prayer, he told the children, “is a cry of love directed to God our Father, with the will to imitate Jesus our brother.” So, just as Jesus went off to pray by himself, the Pope too “can find a calm place to pray where I can quietly stand before a Cross or a holy picture in order to speak to Jesus and to listen to him.”
Alternatively, he told them, “I can also use the Gospels,” so that, “I keep within my heart a passage which has touched me and which will guide me throughout the day.”
Even just staying with Jesus “for a little while,” helps “fill me with his love, light and life!” he said.
He told them that this love which is received in prayer should call them, in turn, to give it “to my parents, to my friends, to everyone with whom I live, even with those who do not like me, and those whom I do not appreciate enough.”
“Dear young people, Jesus loves you,” said the Pope, urging the children to ask their parents to pray with them. “Sometimes you may even have to push them a little. But do not hesitate to do so. God is that important!”
Finally, he said he entrusted each one of them to the Virgin Mary who can “teach you to love more and more through prayer, forgiveness and charity.”