Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
Pope Francis World Youth Day Message this year is about helping young people overcome their fears and insecurities, and enabling them to live a full life in Christ.
The Holy Father begins the message, whose theme is “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God,” by asking young people, “what are your fears? What worries you most deeply?”
He says an “underlying” fear that many young people have is that “of not being loved, well-liked or accepted for who you are.” Today, he adds, there are many young people who feel the need “to be different from who they really are” and so try to adapt to an “artificial and unattainable standard.”
They continuously “photo-shop” their images, he continues, “hiding behind masks and false identities, almost becoming fake selves. Many are obsessed by receiving as many ‘likes’ as possible.”
He says young people can have “multiple fears and uncertainties” stemming from “this sense of inadequacy,” while others fear that they “will not be able to find an emotional security and that they will remain alone.”
Others fear they won’t find work that will “fulfill their dreams” and notes that today many youth are “full of fear, both believers and non-believers.” Some who seek to take their vocation seriously “are not exempt from fears” and wonder if God is “asking or will ask too much of me” and question their ability to see through God’s will.
But he urges young people to join the Blessed Mother in listening to the voice of God who inspires courage and bestows the grace needed to respond to his call: “Do not be afraid, Mary, because you have found favor with God” — the words to Mary from the Archangel Gabriel, as given in the Gospel of Luke.
He then gives further observations and clues on how to overcome these fears, 12 of which are highlighted below. The Holy Father doesn't explicitly discuss Heaven, eternity, or working out one's salvation, preferring in the message to focus instead on a more this-world perspective of overcoming fear and obstacles to living a full life in Christ.
The message was released today, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, ahead of the Church's 33rd World Youth Day which takes place on Palm Sunday, March 25:
- In moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, discernment becomes necessary. It allows us to bring order to the confusion of our thoughts and feelings, to act in a just and prudent way.
- I invite all of you to look within yourselves and to “name” your fears. Ask yourselves: what upsets me, what do I fear most in this specific moment of my life today? What blocks me and prevents me from moving forward?
- For us Christians in particular, fear must never have the last word but rather should be an occasion to make an act of faith in God... and in life!
- We have to act! Never close yourself in! In the Sacred Scriptures the expression “do not be afraid” is repeated 365 times with different variations, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year.
- Discernment in this context principally means opening ourselves to the Other who calls. Prayerful silence is therefore required in order to hear the voice of God that resounds within our conscience.
- Do not allow the spark of youth to be extinguished in the darkness of a closed room in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smartphone. Open wide the doors of your life!
- God calls each one of you by name. All of you are the “you” of God, precious in his eyes, worthy of respect and loved… Our life is not pure chance or a mere struggle for survival, rather each of us is a cherished story loved by God.
- Divine grace is continuous, not something passing or fleeting; for this reason, it will never fail. Even in the future, the grace of God will always be there to sustain us, especially in moments of trial and darkness.
- The unknown that tomorrow holds for us is not a dark threat we need to overcome, but a favorable time given to us for living out the uniqueness of our personal vocation.
- From the certainty that God’s grace is with us comes the strength to take courage in the present moment: the courage to carry forward what God asks of us here and now, in every area of our lives; courage to embrace the vocation which God reveals to us.
- Make use of this strength and this energy to improve the world, beginning with the realities closest to you.
- If we allow ourselves to be truly touched by Mary’s example, we will live out authentically that charity which urges us to love God above all else and above ourselves, to love those with whom we share our daily life.