Young people from Italian Catholic Action (ACI) were received by Pope Benedict for a traditional exchange of Christmas good wishes. In his address to them, the Pontiff recalled the heroic virtue of Antonia Meo and asked that the group stay committed to the path to Christ.
After greeting Luigi Alici, national president of ACI, and Bishop Domenico Sigalini of Palestrina, Italy, the group's general ecclesiastical assistant, the Pope began his remarks by mentioning the Italian child Antonia Meo, whose heroic virtues were promulgated recently by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Born in 1930, Antonia, known as Nennolina, died of bone cancer in 1937 shortly before her seventh birthday. The Holy Father recalled how she "showed special faith, hope and charity" and, presenting her as a model for the young people of ACI (of which she was a member), he affirmed that "her existence, so simple and yet so important, shows that sanctity is for all ages: for babies and for young people, for adults and for the elderly."
"She traveled quickly down the 'highway' that leads to Jesus ... Who is, in fact, the true 'path' that leads to the Father, and to His and our definitive home which is heaven,” said the Holy Father.
"Jesus is the way that leads to the true life, the life that never ends. It is often a steep and narrow way but, if one allows oneself to be attracted by Him, it is always stupendous, like a mountain path: the higher one climbs the easier it becomes to gaze down upon new panoramas, ever more beautiful and vast. The journey is tiring but we are not alone. ... What is important is not to lose our way, not to miss the path, otherwise we risk falling into an abyss or getting lost in the woods.
"Dear friends," the Holy Father added, "God made Himself man to show us the way. Indeed, by becoming a child He made Himself the 'way,' also for young people like you: He was like you, He was your age."
Finally, Pope Benedict expressed the hope that Italian Catholic Action as a whole may "walk jointly and briskly along the path of Christ, bearing witness, in the Church and in society, to the fact that this is a beautiful path. It is true that it requires commitment, but it leads to true joy."