The Church is preparing to celebrate its 33rd World Youth Day. This will be followed by a Synod of Bishops on the topic 'Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment'. This book brings together a rich collection of Pope Francis's talks, conversations, allocutions and letters-all directed to young people. Throughout the book Francis exhorts young people "to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture which sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love."
The Pope underscores three desires present in the hearts of young people: the desire for beauty which drives the creative spirit in the hearts of the young; the desire for goodness which drives behaviours which are directed toward human flourishing, the good life and a just society; the desire for truth which because it is not a possession, is rather a process which demands a continuous walk on the path of life which leads to the truth, the Truth that is God.
The Pope talks to students who are still in education. He asks what education is for. Attentive to his own Jesuit tradition he says that the purpose of education is to form a magnanimous human being. That human person will dedicate herself to service and there in the experience of service will discover the secret of what it is to be free.
In his Message for World Youth Day 2017 Francis organises his discourse around the theme of Mary's Magnificat. He tells the youth that our age does not need couch potatoes. Like Mary, who did not rest on her laurels after knowing that she was to be the mother of the saviour, young people have to get up and go, just as Mary did in going to her cousin Elizabeth who needed her. He also appeals for a contemplative depth in young people, to be connected with the tradition, to pray and finally to sing their own Magnificat.
The reader may have to note, however, despite Francis's upbeat attitude, that after thirty-two World Youth Days, little fruit has been visible. I have often wondered where all that energy goes. No world-wide youth movement has emerged. Generally speaking, there has been no follow-up. Does that reflect the genuinely profound malaise and pastoral ennui which characterize our church nowadays?
In any case, this is a fine collection of Pope Francis's thoughts and aspirations. It illustrates the Spirit which moves him. There is a new hope in the church, but maybe the way forward will not be forged by the young but rather by a generation of Sara's and Abraham's.
Pope Francis, The Courage To Be Happy, Orbis Books, 2018, 16.99 (available from Alban Books Edinburgh)
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