Pope Benedict XVI has appealed to young people not to follow the ways of the world but rather follow the path of true love and humility.
Speaking to a vast crowd of young people gathered near the Marian shrine in Loreto, Italy, close to the Adriatic Sea coast, he called on youth to live a lifestyle that “goes against the trend” and to emulate the example of Mary by transforming society through humility.
“Do not follow the path of pride, rather, follow the path of humility,” the Pope told an estimated 500,000 youth in his homily that concluded the ‘Youth Agorà’. “Go against the current trend: do not listen to the persuasive and biased chorus of voices that today form much of the propaganda of life, drenched in arrogance and violence, in dominance and success at all costs, where appearance and possession to the detriment of others is openly promoted.”
The Pope warned that all these messages carried in the mass media are aimed at them. “Be vigilant!”, he pleaded. “Be critical! Do not follow the trend produced by this powerfully persuasive media. Do not be afraid, my dear friends, to prefer the ‘alternative’ route indicated by true love: a sober style of life, a life of solidarity; an honest commitment to your studies and work; a cultivated interest in the common good. Do not be afraid to appear different, or the criticism that you are out of fashion or a loser. People your age, even adults, all of those who seem far from the mentality of the Gospel values, have a deep seated need to see someone who dares to live according to the fullness of humanity manifested by Jesus Christ”.
“Dear young people”, the Pope continued, “it seems to me that for you to grasp the important message of God on humility has never been more important than now, that you want to follow Christ and be a part of the Church. The message is this: don’t follow the way of pride, but of humility”. This humility, the Pope went on, is the master route, “not only because humility is a great virtue, but because above all it represents the very way in which God himself behaves. It is the path chosen by Christ”. It is not about giving up anything, but about courage, he added. “It’s not about defeat,” the Pope said, “but it’s the result of love’s victory over selfishness, and of grace over sin. Following Christ and imitating Mary, we must have the courage of humility; we must entrust ourselves with humility to the Lord because only then can we become docile instruments in his hands, and have the permission to do great things”.
The Pope then gave examples of saints who have done just that: St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, the patron of Italy, and other Italian saints such as Sts. Gemma Galgani, Gabriele of Addolorata, Luigi Gonzaga, Domenico Savio and Maria Goretti. The Holy Father also recalled those saints who were “anonymous” to us, but not to God. “For him, each person is unique, with his own name and his own face. Everyone, as you know, is called to be a saint!” The Pope then called on the youth to look to Mary as an example of how to live a life of humility.
Before closing, the Pope looked forward to World Youth Day, to be held in Sydney, Australia, next July. “I invite you to prepare for this great youthful testimony to faith,” he said. “I await so many of you in Australia”. The Pope concluded his homily by calling on the Virgin to help young people to become more holy with the help of the Holy Spirit, and to be disciples of Jesus. “Support and accompany these young people”, he prayed, “to be joyful and tireless missionaries of the Gospel among their peers, in every corner of Italy. Amen!”
The Pope’s homily was met with lengthy and warm applause.
At the Angelus address that followed the Mass, the Pope reminded those present of the importance of Loreto as a Marian shrine, and the example of Mary who said “yes” to God. “During the most important moments of your life, come here, at least in your heart, to spiritually recollect yourselves within the walls of the Holy House [of Loreto]”, the Pope said. “In order to bring God to the town square, first you must gather him to your inner being at home, just like Mary in the Annunciation.” Then you will become his true witnesses in the “square”, in society, bearers not of an abstract Gospel, but the embodiment of it”.