Papal Visit (v) - Pope addresses school groups at St Mary's

Children waiting for Pope's arrival

Children waiting for Pope's arrival

This morning in the Sports Field at St Mary's University in Twickenham, Pope Benedict received a standing ovation after he gave the following address to nearly 4,000 school pupils and their teachers. (A further report of the event will be posted up soon).

Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ, Dear Young Friends,

First of all I want to say how glad I am to be with you today. I greet you most warmly, those who have come to St Mary's University from across the United Kingdom, and all who are watching on television and via the internet. I thank Bishop MacMahon for his gracious welcome. I thanks the choir and the band for the lovely music which began our celebration, and I thank Miss Bellot for her kind words on behalf of all the young people present. In view of London's forthcoming Olympic Games, it has been a pleasure to inaugurate this Sports Foundation, named in honour of Pope John Paul II, and I pray that all who come here will give glory to God through their sporting activities, as well as bringing enjoyment to themselves and others.

It is not often that a Pope or indeed anyone else, has had the opportunity to speak to the students of all the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time. And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today, there are some of the future saints of the 21st century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the very best thing for you is to grow in holiness.

Perhaps some of you have never thought of this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to models themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment.  My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?

When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited  goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on ts own, it is not enough to make us happy.  Being highly skilled in some activity or profession os good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy.  Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key tp it is very simple. True happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place pour deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others - but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.

Not only does God love us with a depth and intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend,  but he invites us to respond to that love.  You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive , and yiu want to be that person's friend.  You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend.  God wants your friendship.  And once you enter into friendship with God,  everything in your life begins to change.  As you come to now him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life.  You are attracted to the practice of virtue.  You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins, for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage.  And you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and hungry. You want to comfort the sorrowful. You want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.

In your Catholic schools there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God and all that flows from that friendship. So you learn not just to be good students, but good citizens, good people. As you move higher up the school, you have to make choices regarding the subjects you study. You begin to specialise with a view to what you are going to do later in life. That is right and proper. Nut always remember that every subject you study is part of a bigger picture. Never allow yourself to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimensions of life. just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world.  We need good historians and philosophers and economists, but if the account they give of human life within  their particular field is too narrowly focussed, they can lead us seriously astray.

A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints. I know there are many non-Catholics studying in Catholic schools in Great Britain and I wish to incude all of you in my words today. I pray that you too will feel encouraged to pratice virtue and to grow in knowledge and friendship with God alongside your Catholic classmates. You are a reminder to them o the bigger picture that exists outside the school. Indeed it is only right that respect and friendship for members of other religious traditions should be among the virtues learned in a Catholic school. I hope too that you will want to share with everyone you meet, the values and insights you have learned the the Christian education you have received.

Dear friends, I thank you for your attention. I promise to pray for you, and I ask you to pray for me. I hope to see many of you next August at the World Youth Day in Madrid. In the meantime, may God Bless you all.

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