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Young peoples involvement in the lay apostolate

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 31 August 1994 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Affirming the need for Christian education and reminding pastors of their gravest duty to provide it for all, the Second Vatican Council observed that the young "...are the hope of the Church" (Gravissimum Educationis 2). What are the reasons for this hope?

One could say that the first is of a demographic order. Young people, "in a great many countries of the world...represent half the entire population, and often constitute in number half of the People of God living in those countries" (CL 46).

But there is another even stronger reason of a psychological, spiritual and ecclesiological kind. The Church today observes the generosity of many young people, their desire to make the world a better place and to make the Christian community advance (cf. CL 46). Thus she focuses her attention on them, seeing in them a privileged participation in the hope which comes to her from the Holy Spirit.

The grace operating in young people paves the way for the Church's progress as regards both her expansion and her quality. Very rightly we can speak of the Church of the young, remembering that the Holy Spirit renews in everyone--even in the elderly, provided they remain open and receptive--the vibrance of grace.

2. This conviction stems from the reality of the Church's origins. Jesus began his ministry and the work of founding the Church when he was about thirty. To give life to the Church, he chose at least some young people. With their cooperation he wished to inaugurate a new age, to give new direction to the history of salvation. He chose them and trained them with a spirit that could be called youthful, spelling out the principle: "No one pours new wine into old wineskins" (Mk 2:22). This is a metaphor of the new life which springs from the eternal and merges with the desire for change and novelty, characteristic of young people. Even the radicality of dedication to a cause, typical of a youthful age, must have been present in those persons whom Jesus chose as future apostles. We can deduce this from his conversation with the rich young man, who did not have the courage to follow his proposal (cf. Mk 10:17-22), and from Peter's subsequent appraisal (cf. Mk 10:28).

The Church was born from those youthful impulses that came from the Holy Spirit, dwelling in Christ and communicated by him to his disciples and apostles, and then to the communities which they gathered from the days of Pentecost.

3. The sense of trust and friendship with which the Church viewed youth right from the start derives from these same impulses. This can be deduced from the words of the Apostle John, who was young when Christ called him, even though he was already old when he wrote. "I write to you, children, because you know the Father.... I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one" (1 Jn 2:14).

This reference to youthful vitality is interesting. It is known that young people appreciate physical strength, which is expended in sports, for example. But St. John wished to recognize and praise the spiritual vigor shown by the young people of the Christian community to whom he addressed his letter. This force comes from the Holy Spirit and obtains the victory in struggles and temptation. Young people's moral victory is a manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised to his disciples. It urges the young Christians of today, like those in the first century, to participate actively in the life of the Church.

4. It is a constant factor, not only of psychology, but also of the spirituality of youth that they are not satisfied with passive adherence to the faith. Young people feel the desire to contribute actively to the Church's development, as well as to that of civil society. This is especially evident in many fine girls and boys of today, who wish to be "leading characters in evangelization and participants in the renewal of society. Youth is a time of an especially intensive discovery of one's 'self' and one's 'choice of life'" (CL 46). Today, more than ever, it is necessary to help young people to get to know themselves with regard to what is beautiful and promising within them. Their qualities and creative capacity should be oriented to the highest aim that can attract and infect them with enthusiasm: the good of society, solidarity toward all their brothers and sisters, the spread of the Gospel ideal of life and concrete commitment to neighbor, participation in the Church's efforts to encourage the advent of a better world.

5. In this light, let us say that today we need to encourage young people to dedicate themselves in particular to promoting the values that they themselves most appreciate and want to assert. As the Fathers of the 1987 Synod said, "The sensitivity of young people profoundly affects their perceiving of the values of justice, non-violence and peace. Their hearts are disposed to fellowship, friendship and solidarity. They are greatly moved by causes that relate to the quality of life and the conservation of nature" (Ench. Vat., 2206).

These values certainly conform to the teaching of the Gospel. We know that Jesus proclaimed a new order of justice and love. In defining himself as "meek and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29), he rejected all violence, and desired to give man his peace, which is more genuine, consistent and permanent than that of the world (cf. Jn 14:27). These are interior and spiritual values. But we know that Jesus himself encouraged his followers to express them in mutual love, fellowship, friendship, solidarity, respect for persons and for nature itself, which is the work of God and the area of man's collaboration with him. Thus young people find in the Gospel a most worthwhile, sincere support, which they feel corresponds to their aspirations and plans.

6. On the other hand, it is true that young people are also "troubled by anxieties, by disappointment, by anguish and fear of the world, as well as by the temptations that come with their state" (CL 46). This is the other facet of the reality of youth which cannot be ignored. But while being wisely demanding with youth, a sincere affection for them will lead to discovering the most appropriate ways to help them overcome their difficulties. Perhaps the best way is in commitment to the lay apostolate, as a service to their own brothers and sisters, near and far, in communion with the evangelizing Church.

I hope that young people will find ever wider openings in the apostolate. The Church must introduce them to the message of the Gospel with its promises and demands. In turn, young people must express their aspirations and their plans to the Church. "This mutual dialogue, by taking place with great cordiality, clarity and courage, will provide a favorable setting for the meeting and exchange between generations, and will be a source of richness and youthfulness for the Church and for civil society" (CL 46).

7. The Pope will never tire of repeating the invitation to dialogue, and of urging the involvement of youth. He has done so in a great many texts addressed to them, and in particular in the Letter on the Occasion of the International Youth Year proclaimed by the United Nations (1985). He has done so and does it in numerous meetings with youth groups in parishes, associations, movements, and especially in the Palm Sunday liturgies and his world youth meetings, as at Santiago de Compostela, Czestochowa and Denver.

This is one of the most comforting experiences of my pontifical ministry, as it is that of the pastoral activities of my brother bishops throughout the world. Like the Pope, they see the Church advancing with the youth in prayer, at the service of humanity, in evangelization. We all yearn to conform increasingly to the example and teaching of Jesus, who called people to follow him in the manner of "children" and "young people."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers frères et sśurs, Je suis heureux d’accueillir les pèlerins venant de France ou d’autres pays francophones. À tous, particulièrement aux jeunes, je souhaite d’affermir leur foi pendant ce séjour à Rome, et je les bénis de grand cśur.

Ai presenti di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters, The Little Flowers of Taiwan Folk Dancing Group has brought youthful grace and joy to today’s general audience. For this we thank them, and encourage them in their efforts to be true ambassadors of peace and goodwill. Upon them and upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially from Great Britain, Ireland and the United States, I invoke an abundance of God’s blessings.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder! Mit diesen Gedanken richte ich einen herzlichen Willkommensgrub an alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Mit meinen besten Wünschen für erholsame Ferientage erteile ich Euch sowie Euren lieben Angehörigen und Freunden in der Heimat von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas, Saludo muy cordialmente a los grupos de peregrinos y visitantes de lengua espańola. En particular, a los empresarios puertorriqueńos, a los miembros consagrados del “ Regnum Christi ” de México, así como a los peregrinos de El Salvador, llegados a Roma después de haber visitado Tierra Santa. A todas las personas, familias y grupos provenientes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de Espańa les imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai presenti di espressione portoghese

Queridos Irmãos e Irmãs de língua portuguesa, Saúdo afectuosamente todos os presentes: os peregrinos de Portugal - mormente os da Basílica do Sagrado Coração em Lisboa, e da Paróquia de Nevogilde no Porto - e o grupo de brasileiros de ascendęncia italiana e os visitantes do Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Bahia, e Mato Grosso. Penhor daquela juventude de alma e coração que brota do Espírito Santo em acção na Igreja e no mundo, seja para vós e vossos familiares a minha Bęnção Apostólica.

Ai fedeli provenienti dalla Polonia

Serdecznie witam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski. W szczególny sposób pragnę powitać obecnych na tej audiencji moich rówieśników, koleżanki i kolegów, z którymi wspólnie zdawaliśmy maturę w gimnazjum wadowickim 56 lat temu.

Bardzo się cieszę, że temat dzisiejszej katechezy o młodzieży i o młodości odnosi się także do nas. Powiedziane było bowiem, że młodymi są nie tylko ci, którzy są młodzi wiekiem, ale także ci, którzy są młodzi duchem. O to się wspólnie staramy.

Pragnę w szczególny sposób zwrócić się do niektórych, a więc: do pielgrzymów z Czańca i Wilamowic - chór; do grupy teatralnej z Cieszyna - z parafii św. Elżbiety; do Chóru “Ave Maria” z Rzeszowa oraz parafii św. Judy Tadeusza; do kapłanów z Częstochowy, którzy obchodzą w tym roku 25-lecie święceń oraz grupy świeckich, którzy przybyli razem z nimi; prócz tego do grup z Warszawy, Łodzi - parafia salezjańska, z Gdańska - “Cantores Minores Gedanenses”, z Legnicy - parafie franciszkańskie, z Krakowa, Torunia, Wrześni, Olsztyna, Bydgoszczy i z Carlsbergu.

Nawiazujac do tematu katechezy, który mówił o młodzieży, jej miejscu w Kościele, nadziejach, jakie z nią wiąże Kościół, pragnę w szczególny sposób wszystkim obecnym, wszystkim środowiskom, w szczególności oczywiście młodzieży i dzieci, oraz ich rodzinom w przededniu rozpoczęcia nowego roku szkolnego z całego serca pobłogosławić, życząc wytrwałości w poznawaniu świata i jego Stwórcy.

Un saluto ai pellegrini croati

Saluto cordialmente gli studenti del liceo di Dubrovnik e il gruppo di professori di Valpovo. In un modo particolare saluto voi, cari bambini croati, orfani di guerra, provenienti dalla Bosnia ed Erzegovina, che siete testimoni innocenti degli orrori della guerra nella vostra Patria. Benedico tutti voi qui presenti e i vostri cari. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Agli ungheresi

Il dialogo tra la Chiesa e i giovani si attui con cordialità, chiarezza e coraggio. Vi saluto cordialmente, cari pellegrini di Dombovár, Gödöllo, Miskolc, Szekszárd e voi, piccoli cantori del coro “Magnificat” di Budapest. Contribuite tutti con parole e opere, affinché si attui il reciproco dialogo fra la Chiesa e la gioventù, con grande cordialità, con chiarezza e coraggio, perché diventi fonte di bene per la Chiesa e per la società civile. Questo chiedo nella mia preghiera e con la mia benedizione apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai cechi

Sappiate apprezzare il dono di una famiglia dove si ama Dio e si rispetta il diritto di ogni creatura alla vita. Saluto cordialmente i giovani studenti di Brno e tutti i pellegrini della Moravia e della Boemia. Vi benedico, unitamente ai vostri genitori e ai parenti lontani. Sappiate sempre apprezzare la gioia ed il dono di poter contare su una famiglia dove si ama Dio e si rispetta il diritto di ogni creatura alla vita. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Agli slovacchi

Fate parte della Chiesa, la grande famiglia di Dio. Saluto i pellegrini slovacchi provenienti da Bratislava, Starà Lubovna, da Hlohovec e dai dintorni di Trencìn. Fratelli e sorelle, vedete che il vostro gruppo in questa assemblea non è straniero: appartenete alla grande famiglia di Dio, alla Chiesa; lavorate in suo favore, e così contribuirete alla rinascita della nazione slovacca. Con affetto imparto la mia benedizione apostolica a voi e a tutta la Slovacchia. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.

Agli ucraini

La visita a Roma sia occasione per valorizzare la vostra millenaria tradizione cristiana. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Saluto cordialmente il gruppo di bambini ucraini di Kiev e i loro accompagnatori adulti, ospiti della parrocchia di Massa Martana nella diocesi di Orvieto-Todi. Saluto cordialmente i professori e studenti universitari ucraini dell’Istituto Politecnico di Lviv e del Museo di Storia di Religione, che partecipano al Seminario “I principi di Spiritualità cristiana” presso la Pro-Cattedrale Santa Sofia a Roma. Auguro che la vostra breve permanenza nel centro della cristianità sia per voi l’occasione per approfondire la fede e meglio valorizzare la vostra millenaria tradizione cristiana. A tutti voi, ai vostri familiari ed a tutti i cari ucraini imparto la mia benedizione apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana

Saluto con affetto i pellegrini italiani ed auguro ai numerosi gruppi parrocchiali che la visita a Roma rafforzi in tutti lo spirito di fede e di comunione ecclesiale. Accolgo con piacere anche gli Allievi Ufficiali della Scuola Militare di Cesano di Roma ed auspico che il loro servizio alla patria sia sempre generoso e leale.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati alle coppie di sposi novelli

Rivolgo ora il mio cordiale pensiero ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli qui presenti.

Cari giovani, il Vangelo è esigente, ma solo Cristo ha parole di vita eterna. Vi auguro pertanto di seguirlo sempre con cuore aperto ed entusiasta e di testimoniarlo ogni giorno della vostra vita.

E voi, cari malati, che state sperimentando sul vostro corpo della fatica della sofferenza sappiate imitare Cristo sulla croce, cooperando alla salvezza del mondo intero.

Voi, infine, cari sposi novelli, che da poco avete ricevuto nel sacramento del matrimonio l’effusione dello Spirito dell’amore, impegnatevi a trovare quotidianamente forza e coraggio in Dio. Vivrete così in pienezza la vostra vocazione.

A tutti la mia benedizione.

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