The Trip So Far


(AP Photo/Angela Barbour, Visita do Papa-HO)

American Papist is the place to go for photos of B16 in Brazil and links to everything conceivably related. John Allen is in the press entourage and is writing about everything --including what it's like on the papal plane. Just a few addresses so far: ceremony at the airport. Blessing of the faithful. Above he's shown praying in the chapel at the monastery where he's staying. That was the night of his arrival. Things were somewhat noisier last night, as the Rock Star Pope addressed a youth rally.
Victor Caivano/AP

Sergio Moraes (BRAZIL)/Reuters

More excellent pix. The Pope looks so happy. Here's what he said to that huge crowd. Typical Ratzi: simple yet profound. He takes as his starting point Christ's encounter with the rich young man (his discussion is similar to the first chapter of his predecessor's encyclical, The Splendor of Truth).

The young man poses what for all of us is the essential question: the young man’s question raises the issue of life’s meaning. It can therefore be formulated in this way: what must I do so that my life has meaning? How must I live so as to reap the full fruits of life? Or again: what must I do so that my life is not wasted?

Jesus responds with a question.

before giving his response, Jesus asks about a very important aspect of the young man’s enquiry: why do you ask me about what is good? In this question, we find the key to the answer. This young man perceives that Jesus is good and that he is a teacher—a teacher who does not deceive. We are here because we have the very same conviction: Jesus is good. It may be that we do not know how to explain fully the reason for this perception, but it undoubtedly draws us to him and opens us up to his teaching: he is a good teacher. To recognize the good means to love. And whoever loves—to use a felicitous expression of Saint John—knows God (cf. 1 Jn 4:7). The young man in the Gospel has perceived God in Jesus Christ.

Then Christ recognizes that the young man is already keeping the commandments, and the Pope talks about that:

Whoever keeps the commandments is on the way that leads to God. It is not enough, however, simply to know them. Witness is even more important than knowledge; or rather, it is applied knowledge. The commandments are not imposed upon us from without; they do not diminish our freedom. On the contrary: they are strong internal incentives leading us to act in a certain way. At the heart of them we find both grace and nature, which do not allow us to stay still. We must walk. We are motivated to do something in order fulfil our potential. To find fulfilment through action is, in reality, to become real. To a large extent, from the time of our youth, we are whatever we want to be. We are, so to speak, the work of our own hands.

And this power to choose who we become means "real life" begins now --not in some imagined future date when we'll be grown up. Being free means being free for something:

These years of your life are the years which will prepare you for your future. Your “tomorrow” depends much on how you are living the “today” of your youth. Stretching out in front of you, my dear young friends, is a life that all of us hope will be long; yet it is only one life, it is unique: do not let it pass it vain; do not squander it. Live it with enthusiasm and with joy, but most of all, with a sense of responsibility.

Something striking in both B16 and in JP the Great before him is their refusal to speak down to young people. It's not the same old message of self-esteem, even though there is always of course the you are loved dimension. There's a long passage, for example, where he speaks frankly about the worries of a pastor and commissions them to evangelize others precisely so as to help them be free:

Men and women who are illprepared for the real challenges presented by a correct interpretation of the Christian life in their own surroundings will easily fall prey to all the assaults of materialism and secularism, which are more and more active at all levels. Be men and women who are free and responsible; make the family a centre that radiates peace and joy; be promoters of life, from its beginning to its natural end; protect the elderly, since they deserve respect and admiration for the good they have done. The Pope also expects young people to seek to sanctify their work, carrying it out with technical skill and diligence, so as to contribute to the progress of all their brothers and sisters, and to shed the light of the Word upon all human activities (cf. Lumen Gentium, 36). But above all, the Pope wants them to set about building a more just and fraternal society, fulfilling their duties towards the State: respecting its laws; not allowing themselves to be swept along by hatred and violence; seeking to be an example of Christian conduct in their professional and social milieu, distinguishing themselves by the integrity of their social and professional relationships.

That's just a part of what he tells them; he spends a lot of time on marriage and the family, too. Then he comes to the "down" part of the story, where the young man goes away sad. The Pope makes an interesting point --that youth itself is a form of wealth.

youth appears as a form of wealth because it leads to the discovery of life as a gift and a task. The young man in the Gospel understood that his youth was itself a treasure. He went to Jesus, the good Teacher, in order to seek some direction. At the moment of the great decision, however, he lacked the courage to wager everything on Jesus Christ.

What a marvelous line! Continuing...

In consequence, he went away sad and downcast. This is what happens whenever our decisions waver and become cowardly and self-seeking. He understood that what he lacked was generosity, and this did not allow him to realize his full potential.

And he closes, admonishing them to be generous and have guts:

My appeal to you today, young people present at this gathering, is this: do not waste your youth. Do not seek to escape from it. Live it intensely. Consecrate it to the high ideals of faith and human solidarity.
You, young people, are not just the future of the Church and of humanity, as if we could somehow run away from the present. On the contrary: you are that young man now; you are that young man in the Church and in humanity today. You are his young face. The Church needs you, as young people, to manifest to the world the face of Jesus Christ, visible in the Christian community.

Papa Ratzi doesn't disappoint. As I'm writing this, the ceremony to canonize Brazil's first saint is taking place. I'm half watching it on EWTN.