The Pope’s message to teens

Pope Francis celebrated a special teens-only Jubliee over the weekend, during which he reminded young people that they are made for happiness. His message reminded teens across the world that they are never alone, and that Jesus wants a relationship with them.

The Pope encouraged the teens of the world to seek happiness in ways that may seem uncomfortable, but that will satisfy their need for communion.

“Your happiness has no price,” the Pope said during Mass in St. Peter’s Square. “It cannot be bought: it is not an app that you can download on your phones nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love.”

He said love requires a dedication and self-gift that technology cannot.

“That is because love is a free gift which calls for an open heart,” he said. “It is a noble responsibility which is life-long; it is a daily task for those who can achieve great dreams!”

Pope Francis absolves a teenager during a special teens-only event for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Pope Francis absolves a teenager during a special teens-only event for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Credit: © L’Osservatore Romano

He reminded the teens that they should not listen to anyone who tries to tell them that their worth is in the clothes they wear or their resemblence to a movie character. He said the teens have worth by virtue of who they are.

Every teen is loved, he said. He begged the young people to recognize this.

“The biggest threat to growing up well comes from thinking that no one cares about us, from feeling that we are all alone,” he said. “The Lord, on the other hand, is always with you and he is happy to be with you.”

He suggested the teens practice being with Jesus by reflecting on his life. He said Jesus will use this time to transform their natural need to give and receive affection into a beautiful experience.

FrancisConfessionGirl

Pope Francis and other priests heard the teens’ Confessions during the special Jubilee event, held April 23. Credit: © L’Osservatore Romano

“The Lord, if you let him teach you, will show you how to make tenderness and affection even more beautiful,” the Pope said.

“Love is nurtured by trust, respect and forgiveness,” he said.

He reminded the teens that we all have a perfect example of love in Jesus, who “gives us himself in the Mass. He offers us forgiveness and peace in Confession. There we learn to receive his love, to make it ours and to give it to the world.”

Love must be the identity of every Christian, he said. Sometimes this love will be difficult, but then we all, young people included, should look to Jesus on the cross.

Pope Francis said to see Jesus on the cross as a real human being, whose hand could be grasped, not as a fictional character in a story. He wants to be asked for help when one of us faces a tough decision or makes a mistake.

“And when loving seems hard, when it is difficult to say no to something wrong, look up at Jesus on the cross, embrace the cross and don’t ever let go of his hand. He will point you ever higher, and pick you up whenever you fall,” Pope Francis said.

He encouraged the teens to become like Jesus by practicing acts of mercy. He encouraged them to look at acts of mercy as a sort of athletic training, a training that will help them to love better and become more fully Christian.

“Jesus is waiting patiently for you. He awaits your response. He is waiting for you to say ‘yes,'” the Pope said.

 

COMING UP: Collegiality and eucharistic integrity

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The concept of the “collegiality” of bishops has been sharply contested since the Second Vatican Council debated it in 1962, 1963, and 1964. That discussion was sufficiently contentious that a personal intervention from Pope Paul VI was required to incorporate the concept of episcopal collegiality within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in such a way that the pope’s primacy and universal jurisdiction were safeguarded. The debate about collegiality has continued ever since. Now, however, it’s focused more on what kind of collegiality exists within national conferences of bishops. Is it an “affective collegiality” of mutual support and encouragement? Or is episcopal collegiality within bishops’ conferences “effective,” such that a conference has real teaching and legislative authority?  

Whether collegiality is “affective,” “effective,” or some combination of the two, it ought to be clear what truly “collegial” behavior isn’t.   

It isn’t individual bishops attempting end-runs around their national conference, appealing for Roman interventions that would forestall debates that their brother bishops wish to engage. It isn’t bishops trying to browbeat the conference chairman into changing an agenda to suit the tastes of a distinct minority — and misleading their brother bishops as to what they’re about when soliciting support for such a gambit. And it isn’t trying to filibuster a conference meeting so that no action is possible on an agenda item that the great majority of bishops wish to consider and act upon. 

If any of those three maneuvers qualifies as collegial, then “collegiality” has no more meaning than the claim that my poor Baltimore Orioles have a great starting rotation. 

For years now — and by “years,” I mean long before the idea of a “President Biden” entered the stream of national consciousness — the bishops of the United States have been concerned that ours is becoming less of a eucharistic Church than Vatican II called us to be when it taught that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life. Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed that conciliar summons when, in his final encyclical, he taught that “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist,” which “recapitulates the heart and mystery of the Church.” Yet all around us we see declining Sunday Mass attendance: a sadness that preceded the pandemic but has been further exacerbated by it.  Moreover, surveys suggest that too many Catholics think of Sunday Mass as essentially a social occasion, rather than an encounter with the living God in which Christ is offered to the Father and is given back to his people in holy communion — a communion in and through the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, received under the forms of bread and wine.

If the Church lives from the Eucharist and yet the people of the Church don’t participate in the Eucharist as often as they should, or don’t understand what they’re celebrating and receiving when they do, then the Church suffers from a serious eucharistic deficit. Those ordained to leadership in the Church are obliged to do something about that. 

That is why the U.S. bishops have been determined for some time to undertake a comprehensive program of eucharistic education throughout the Church. For the great majority of bishops, that determination has been intensified by the fact that our eucharistic deficit is being compounded by the eucharistic incoherence of public officials who, rejecting authoritative Catholic teaching based on both revelation and reason, nonetheless present themselves for holy communion as if they were in full communion with the Church. The longstanding episcopal failure to address this incoherence exacerbates the eucharistic deficit in American Catholicism by implying that the Church really doesn’t mean what it teaches about the sacred nature of the Eucharist. 

Those suggesting that this is all about “politics” are either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the Church and the gullible parts of the media. Concern for the eucharistic integrity of the Church includes, but goes much deeper than, concerns about the eucharistic incoherence of Catholic public officials who act as if the Church’s settled convictions on the life issues and on worthiness to receive holy communion don’t exist. That is why the U.S. bishops are forging ahead with developing a teaching document that will clarify for the whole Church why we are a Eucharistic community, what the Eucharist truly is, what reception of the Eucharist means, and why everyone in the Church should examine conscience before receiving Christ in the sacrament. 

The wheels of collegiality may grind slowly. In this case, however, they are grinding truly, and for the sake of the Gospel.

George Weigel is an independent columnist whose weekly column is syndicated by the Archdiocese of Denver. The opinions and viewpoints expressed by Mr. Weigel therein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Archdiocese of Denver or the bishops of Denver.