Freedom is a challenge to say yes to God, Pope Francis tells Romanian families

shutterstock 1412676713 Flag of Vatican City on display in front of the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, during Pope Francis 2019 visit in Romania. Via Shutterstock

At a Marian meeting with young people and families in Romania Saturday, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of personal vocation, authentic human relationships, and the freedom given to each person to serve the other.

"The Lord gives us a vocation, a challenge to discover the talents and abilities we possess and to put them at the service of others," the pope said June 1 in the square before the Palace of Culture in Iaşi.

"He asks us to use our freedom as a freedom to choose, to say yes to a loving plan, to a face, to a look. This is a much greater freedom than simply being able to consume and buy things. It is a vocation that sets us in motion, makes us fill in trenches and open up new avenues to remind us all that we are children and brothers and sisters to one another."

Francis' speech was preceded by an introduction from Bishop Petru Gherghel of Iaşi, and the testimony of a number of Romanian families.

The pope noted the variety of peoples and languages in Romania, and said that "the Holy Spirit has called us here and he helps us discover the beauty of being together, of being able to meet to journey together."

At Pentecost "the Spirit embraces our differences and gives us the strength to open up paths of hope by bringing out the best in each person," and he said this task of "journeying together" is not an easy one.

He emphasized the importance of rootedness in family: "It is the same dream, the same advice that Saint Paul gave to Timothy: to keep alive the faith of his mother and grandmother. As you continue to grow in every way … do not forget the most beautiful and worthwhile lesson you learned at home."

"When you grow up, do not forget your mother and your grandmother, and the simple but robust faith that gave them the strength and tenacity to keep going and not to give up," Pope Francis said. "It is a reason for you to give thanks and to ask for the generosity, courage and selflessness of a 'home-grown' faith that is unobtrusive, yet slowly but surely builds up the Kingdom of God."

Faith is not a tradeable commodity, but "gift that keeps alive a profound and beautiful certainty: that we are God's beloved children. God loves with a Father's love. Every life, and every one of us, belongs to him," he recalled.

"The Evil one divides, scatters, separates; he sows discord and distrust. He wants us to live 'detached' from others and from ourselves. The Spirit, on the contrary, reminds us that we are not anonymous, abstract, faceless beings, without history or identity. We are not meant to be empty or superficial," the pope said.

Francis stated that the "very strong spiritual network that unites us", connects and sustains us, "its roots: the realization that we belong to one another, that each of our lives is anchored in the lives of others."

We flourish in love "because love draws us out of ourselves and invites us to take root in the lives of others," he said.

The pope quoted from Romania's national poet, Mihai Eminescu, and referred to a story told about the monk Galaction Ilie of Sihăstria Monastery, a prominent institution of Romanian Orthodoxy, to illustrate that "when there is no more Christian love and understanding between brothers and sisters, relatives, Christians and between peoples … when persons lose all their love, then it will truly be the end of the world. Because without love and without God, no one can live on the earth!"

Reiterating the importance of journeying together, Francis said: "Life begins to wilt and droop, our hearts stop beating and wither, the elderly no longer dream and young people no longer prophesy when pathways between neighbours disappear."

While there are many "challenges that can discourage us and make us close in on ourselves … that cannot make us forget that faith itself offers us the greatest challenge of all: a challenge that, far from enclosing or isolating us, can bring out the best in us all," Francis said.

"The Lord is the first to challenge us. He tells us that the worst comes when there are no more paths between neighbors, when we see more trenches than roads. The Lord is the one who gives us a song more powerful than all the siren songs that would paralyze us on our journey. And he always does it the same way: by singing a more beautiful and challenging song."

The pope concluded focusing on the importance of "allowing faith to grow."

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"As I mentioned to you at the beginning: faith is not transmitted only by words, but also by gestures, looks and caresses, like those of our mothers and grandmothers; with the flavour of those things we learned at home in a straightforward and simple way."

Mary, he said, "is a Mother who encourages her children's dreams, who cherishes their hopes, who brings joy to their homes. She is a tender and true Mother who cares for us. You are that living, flourishing and hope-filled community that we can offer to our Mother. To her let us consecrate the future of young people, families and the Church."

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