A sea of young people listened to Pope Benedict on Monday morning as he challenged them to meet Jesus, place their hope in Him and respond to the vocation that He places on their hearts. In turn, young Catholics must become messengers of hope to the world, the Holy Father said.
After the Holy Father celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech Republic, he spoke to the 10,000 young people as they sat near their tents.
"Being with you makes the Pope feel young!" the Pope said, thanking them for their enthusiasm and "generosity."
He then touched on the aspiration for happiness that youths feel so acutely. "In every young person there is an aspiration towards happiness, sometimes tinged with anxiety: an aspiration that is often exploited, however, by present-day consumerist society in false and alienating ways. Instead, that longing for happiness must be taken seriously, it demands a true and comprehensive response. At your age, the first major choices are made, choices that can set your lives on a particular course, for better or worse."
To point the young pilgrims in the right direction, Pope Benedict recalled the experience of St. Augustine, who said that “the heart of every person is restless until it finds what it truly seeks. He discovered that Jesus Christ alone is the answer that can satisfy his and every person's desire for a life of happiness, filled with meaning and value.
"As he did with Augustine," the Pope counseled his young audience, "so the Lord comes to meet each one of you. He knocks at the door of your freedom and asks to be welcomed as a friend. He wants to make you happy, to fill you with humanity and dignity. The Christian faith is this: encounter with Christ, the living Person Who gives life a new horizon and thereby a definitive direction."
Benedict XVI also spoke to the youths about listening to the Lord for the vocation he places on their hearts. "The Lord calls each of us by name, and entrusts to us a specific mission in the Church and in society." He "constantly renews His invitation to you to be His disciples and His witnesses.
“Many of you He calls to marriage,” the Pope said, noting that “the preparation for this Sacrament constitutes a real vocational journey.”
“Consider seriously the divine call to raise a Christian family, and let your youth be the time in which to build your future with a sense of responsibility. Society needs Christian families, saintly families!" he urged.
Speaking to those who may be called to priestly and religious life, Pope Benedict offered his encouragement, saying, "And if the Lord is calling you to follow Him in the ministerial priesthood or in the consecrated life, do not hesitate to respond to His invitation. In particular, in this Year for Priests, I appeal to you, young men. ... The Church in every country, including this one, needs many holy priests and also persons fully consecrated to the service of Christ, Hope of the world.”
"Hope! This word, to which I often return, sits well with youth. You, my dear young people, are the hope of the Church! She expects you to become messengers of hope," the Holy Father challenged them.
As he drew his message to a close, Benedict asked them to participate in the next World Youth Day, due to take place in the Spanish capital city of Madrid in August 2011.
Young people, strive to “live your faith with joy and enthusiasm; to grow in unity among yourselves and with Christ; to pray and to be diligent in frequenting the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession," Pope Benedict said.