Drawing on the metaphor of a plant that grows firm on a foundation of strong roots, Pope Benedict XVI asked youth in his message for World Youth Day 2011 to strengthen their faith to counter the influence of secular society. The presence of youth, he wrote, "renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church."
Directing his words to all youth who might be interested in coming, the Holy Father encouraged participation in the "decisive" experience offered by World Youth Day 2011. The encounter is set to take place in Madrid, Spain from Aug. 16-21 under the theme "Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith."
Imploring young people to pursue their yearning for "something really truly greater," Pope Benedict challenged them to confront secular culture. Next year's celebration, he wrote, comes at an important time "when Europe greatly needs to rediscover its Christian roots."
Against what he called the "eclipse of God" in a contemporary culture that has the tendency to exclude God and consider faith only relevant to the private sphere, he encouraged youth to strengthen their faith, exclaiming, "You are the future of society and of the Church!"
A "solid foundation" amidst a "growing mentality of relativism" is needed, Benedict XVI wrote, adding that young people are entitled to "solid points of reference" from their predecessors to assist them in making life choices: "like a young plant which needs solid support until it can sink deep roots and become a sturdy tree capable of bearing fruit."
As today's "strong current of secularist thought" aims to marginalize God and create a "paradise" without Him, the Pope explained, "experience tells us that a world without God becomes a 'hell' filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope.
"On the other hand, wherever individuals and nations accept God’s presence, worship him in truth and listen to his voice, then the civilization of love is being built, a civilization in which the dignity of all is respected, and communion increases, with all its benefits."
The Pope invited youth to "see" and "meet" God personally in the lead-up to next year's celebration, gaining strength through participation in the sacraments, prayer, reading the Gospel and the Catechism, and service to all. He also emphasized the importance of including their peers, evangelizing, as they do so.
Concluding his message, Benedict XVI told young people not to be discouraged as they make the difficult decisions concerning their faith, but to seek support in the Church.
He also urged them to prepare carefully for next August's celebration, underscoring that "(t)he quality of our meeting will depend above all on our spiritual preparation, our prayer, our common hearing of the word of God and our mutual support."
The Church, he wrote, is depending on youth of the world. "She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope."
"Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church. That is why World Youth Days are a grace, not only for you, but for the entire People of God."