DHAKA, Bangladesh — Speaking to youth in Bangladesh, Pope Francis said he is always rejuvenated by young people, and encouraged them to never lose their sense of enthusiasm and adventure for life, even when things are hard.
He also stressed the importance of clinging to God and his wisdom, using it as a guide to help them avoid the world’s false promises, and to go out of themselves in order to grow in faith and solidarity.
“There is something unique about young people: you are always full of enthusiasm, and I feel rejuvenated whenever I meet with you,” the Pope said Dec. 2.
In his prepared remarks, Francis said this youthful enthusiasm “is linked to a spirit of adventure,” and pointed to Bangladeshi poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, who called the nation’s youth “fearless.”
Young people, he said, “are always ready to move forward, to make things happen and to take risks. I encourage you to keep moving with this enthusiasm in the good times and the bad times.”
No matter what, he told them to “keep moving, especially in those moments when you feel weighed down by problems and sadness, and when you look out and God seems to be nowhere on the horizon.”
However, he also stressed the importance of making sure they are moving forward on the right path, which means “journeying” through life, rather than “wandering aimlessly.”
“Our life is not without direction, it has a purpose given to us by God. He guides and directs us with his grace,” the Pope said, explaining that this direction is like “a computer software” God has placed within us that “helps us to discern his divine program and, in freedom, to respond.”
But like all software, this too “needs constantly to be updated,” he said, and told the youths to “keep updating your program, by listening to God and accepting the challenge of doing his will.”
Pope Francis spoke to youth in Dhaka on the last day of his Nov. 27-30 visit to south Asia, which included stops in both Burma and Bangladesh.
His visit to both countries concluded with meetings with youth, which is a decision Vatican spokesman Greg Burke previously said the Pope made intentionally in order to show that they are an essential part of the Church, and that in each country, it is “a young Church with hope.”
Before arriving to Notre Dame College for his encounter with the youth of Bangladesh, the Pope visited the Missionaries of Charity’s “Mother Teresa House” for orphans and disabled people, and had an audience with the country’s priests and religious.
Dhaka’s Notre Dame College was founded in 1949 by the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and in 1954 it was opened to students from all religious confessions.
When he arrived Pope Francis was greeted by Bishop Gervas Rozario, vice president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Bangladesh. He then listened to two testimonies from young people, the first being student Upasana Ruth Gomez, who spoke about the struggle to stay hopeful in the face of oppression and injustice. The second testimony was from Anthony Toranga Nokrek, who spoke about the need to stay focused in order to be open to and welcome God’s message to them.
In his speech, Pope Francis pointed to how Anthony had said that youth are now “growing up in a fragile world that cries out for wisdom.”
This word, he said, is key, because “once you move from ‘journeying’ to ‘wandering aimlessly,’ all wisdom is lost! The one thing that directs and guides us on to the right path is wisdom, the wisdom born of faith.”
Francis stressed that this “is not the false wisdom of this world,” and to attain it, “we have to look at the world, our situations, our problems, everything, with the eyes of God.”
When we look at the world with the eyes and wisdom of God, we are also able to recognize and reject the false forms of happiness the world offers, he said, adding that “a culture that makes these false promises cannot deliver.”
“It only leads to a self-centeredness that fills the heart with darkness and bitterness,” whereas the wisdom of God “helps us to know how to welcome and accept those who act and think differently than ourselves.”
Pope Francis said it’s sad when we start to “shut ourselves up in our little world and become inward-looking,” living by the “my way or the highway” principle.
By doing this, “we become trapped, self-enclosed,” he said, explaining that when an entire people, religion or society does this, turning into “a little world,” they lose the best part of themselves and “plunge into a self-righteous mentality of ‘I am good and you are bad.’”
God’s wisdom, however, “opens us up to others. It helps us to look beyond our personal comforts and the false securities which blind us to those grand ideals which make life more beautiful and worthwhile.”
The Pope then noted how the crowd wasn’t just made up of Catholics, but that many Muslims and youth from other religions were also present. This fact, he said, is a visible sign of their determination “to foster an environment of harmony, of reaching out to others, regardless of your religious differences.”
He recalled an experience working with students in Buenos Aires who were building rooms for a new parish in a poor neighborhood. They all came from different backgrounds and held different beliefs, but, “they were all working for the common good.”
Despite their different backgrounds, these students “were open to social friendship and were determined to say no to anything that would detract from their ability to come together and to help one another.”
As he often does, the Pope then emphasized the importance of interacting with the elderly, who he said help us “to appreciate the continuity of generations.”
Elderly, he said, have the wisdom to help us avoid repeating past mistakes, and have the “charism of bridging the gap,” meaning they are sure to pass on the most important values to their children and grandchildren.
Francis said the elderly also help us to realize that history didn’t begin with us, and that we are part of something much bigger than we are, so “keep talking to your parents and grandparents. Do not spend the whole day playing with your phone and ignoring the world around you!”
He closed his speech noting how both Anthony and Upasana had ended their testimonies with an expression of hope for the future.
The wisdom of God “reinforces the hope in us and helps us to face the future with courage,” he said, noting that Christians find this wisdom in a personal encounter with Jesus in prayer, in the sacraments, and in service to the poor, sick, suffering and abandoned.
“In Jesus we discover the solidarity of God, who constantly walks by our side,” he said, and told the youth that he is “filled with joy and hope” when he looks at their faces.
He prayed that God’s wisdom would “continue to inspire your efforts to grow in love, fraternity and goodness,” and voiced his hope that they would continue to grow in love of God and neighbor, telling them “please, do not forget to pray for me!”