Setting aside his prepared text, Pope Francis tackled questions from children about having faith in times of doubt, his friends and his favorite aspects of Jesuit spirituality.
“Walking is an art because if we always walk in a hurry we get tired and we can’t reach the end,” he said in response to an older boy who admitted he had doubts about his faith.
“Walking is the art of looking at the horizon thinking where I want to go, but also to accept the tiredness of the walk,” the Pope reflected.
“So many times the walk is difficult.”
Pope Francis received around 7,000 students from Jesuit-run schools in Italy and Albania, accompanied by their teachers, alumni and family members in Paul VI Hall on June 7.
The overall atmosphere was relaxed, with the Pope joking that his five-page set of remarks was “boring” and giving honest and sometimes funny answers to the children who posed questions.
The rapport Pope Francis had with the students inspired him to set aside his prepared address and speak off-the-cuff in a question and answer format.
“There are days of darkness and some days of falls, one falls, falls. But always think this, don’t be afraid of the failures, don’t be afraid of the falls,” he said as he continued his words of encouragement to the student with doubts.
“Don’t be afraid of falling, in the art of falling what is important isn’t not falling, but not remaining down,” he said.
The Pope noted, “this is beautiful, working on this each day, this walking humanly, but it is ugly and boring to walk alone.”
“Walk in community with friends and it helps us arrive to the end where we need to arrive,” he remarked.
A young girl asked him if he still kept his friends from Argentina.
“I’ve only been Pope for two and a half months and my friends are very far from here, but they write me,” said Pope Francis. “You can’t live without friends, that’s important.”
He then answered a question on what he liked the most about being a Jesuit, which he said was the missionary work.
“When I studied theology, I wrote to the general so that he send me to Japan,” said the Pope.
“But he answered that my pulmonary illness wasn’t good for such a work, so I stayed in Buenos Aires,” he explained.
He mentioned “going out of oneself” and “announcing Christ” and not remaining “within one’s self” as particular aspects that the Jesuit spirituality focuses on.
“For us Jesuits, the key point for the growth of people is magnanimity,” said the Pope.
“We have to be magnanimous with a big heart, without fear, submit yourself to big ideals, but also magnanimity with small things, with daily things with a big heart,” he said.
He underscored the importance of finding this magnanimity “with the contemplation of Jesus.”
The pontiff described this generosity of heart as “walking with Jesus” and “being attentive to what Jesus says,” adding that he is the one who “opens the windows to the horizon.”
“In this path, I would like to say something to educators,” he stated. “Educating is like a balance, balancing well the steps.”
He explained that balancing involves “a firm step in the frame of safety” and another step “in a risky zone.”
“When that risk become safe, the other step searches for another area of risk,” said the Pope.
During the exchange the Holy Father also revealed that he did not want to become Pope going into the conclave that resulted in his selection and that he decided to live in Saint Martha’s House because he needs to be near people.