Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, on Wednesday addressed an international gathering of youth at the opening of the Big Hope Conference at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool. Calling young people “remarkably generous and self-giving,” he told them that community, dialogue and a personal, interior spiritual life were “pointers to hope” crucial to human flourishing and to nurturing greater hope for God.
Community, he said, can be one such pointer. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor told of his visit to a men’s house for recovering drug addicts in Lourdes. He said that the house’s community was “a glimpse of the Kingdom of God” and relied totally on providence in its regular life of prayer and work. Each member supported the others in overcoming their addictions. He recalled one member told him “We are taught to have a mind to the person beside us in whatever we are doing, whether it is making a meal, or painting a wall, or working in the field. It moves us beyond our self to look at the other.”
The cardinal said, “I think that is something of what young people crave. They need to know that they are loved, that someone is looking out for them. In community they can discover a place of healing, of forgiveness, and the opportunity of a fresh start.”
On the topic of dialogue, he said that Catholics must recognize not all people share our views or even “our deepest convictions.” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor explained that this means “We can recognise people’s differences without saying that our differences are unimportant. This is precisely why we need to have space in our societies for proper dialogue where nobody is prevented from expressing his or her convictions simply to conform to somebody’s idea of political correctness.”
This dialogue, the cardinal said, included not only dialogue between “people of religion” but also dialogue with people who do not believe.
“Out of dialogue emerges a commitment to the common good,” he told the youth. “That common good by far transcends our private goals.”
He expressed his hope that tomorrow’s leaders “will be people of courage and compassion; people who can combine a passion for truth with the ability to see beyond ideas to the men, women and children who express them.”
The cardinal also emphasized the importance of a “life of interiority” for young people, noting the first words of the Rule of St. Benedict were “Listen, my son.”
“It is not easy for young men and women, in a world bombarded by noise and rapidly changing pictures, to be able to be silent,” he said. “To stay sane we need to be able to decide what is worth ignoring and what is valuable. So silence is a discipline. It is not easy to learn but one which can help in the discernment of sense and non-sense, good and bad, what is peripheral and what is genuine.”
Finally, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that amid these hopes, we must never forget the greater hope who is God. He quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s words on hope:
“We need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great Hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God Who encompasses the whole of reality and Who can bestow upon us and what we by ourselves cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as gift is actually part of hope.”