Shun laziness and selfishness and do not be afraid to follow God’s plan for your life, Pope Francis told the thousands of young participants of the 2023 Medjugorje Youth Festival in a message on Thursday.
“God has a plan of love for each of you. Do not be afraid of his will, but place all your trust in his grace. To him you are precious and important, because you are the work of his hands,” Pope Francis said in a message published by the Vatican on July 27.
The youth festival, in its 34th edition, is being held July 26–30 at the site of alleged Marian apparitions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Also known as “Mladifest,” the five-day event is focused on prayer and includes daily Mass and eucharistic adoration, testimonials, and a candlelight procession.
“Only [God] knows your heart and your deepest desires. Only he who loves you with absolute love is able to fulfill your aspirations. No one but God can give you true happiness,” the pope continued.
He encouraged the festival’s attendees to follow the example of Mary in giving their unconditional “yes” to the Lord.
“Let there be no place in your life for selfishness nor for laziness,” he added. “Take advantage of your youth to lay, together with the Lord, the foundation of your existence, for your personal, professional, and social future will depend on the choices you make during these years.”
In his message, Pope Francis reflected on the theme of the 2023 festival — “Behold my mother, behold my brothers” — which comes from the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:49.
With these words, Jesus “wanted to indicate to us that it is adherence to the Father’s will that establishes us in union with him, a bond superior to the closest close ties of blood,” Francis explained.
“God’s will,” he continued, “is a priceless treasure!”
The pope acknowledged, however, that people often struggle to understand and accept God’s will.
“We would like a different life, without challenges, without suffering,” he said. “We would like ourselves to be different, perhaps smarter, richer in talents or natural dispositions.”
Yet there is no better will, more lovingly planned for our full happiness, than the will of the Father, he emphasized.
“We often fear this will because we are afraid that God might impose something on us out of sheer will and not for our good; we are afraid that accepting his will means giving up our freedom,” he said. “We must, instead, seek intensely, ask God the Father to make his will known to us and ask that it be done in us.”
“And the deepest reason for desiring it is pointed out to us by Jesus himself: Doing the Father’s will makes us his children, brothers, sisters, mothers, and makes us grow in love toward him and toward others.”
The alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje occurred to six children beginning on June 24, 1981.
According to the alleged visionaries, the apparitions conveyed a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer, and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.
These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children — now adults — continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.
Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions have been a source of controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, while many others claim the visions are not credible.
In January 2014, a Vatican commission ended a nearly four-year-long investigation into the doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the Medjugorje apparitions.
Pope Francis granted Catholics permission to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje in 2019, though the Church has not yet given a verdict on the authenticity of the apparitions. The pope has sent annual messages to the Medjugorje Youth Festival since 2020.