APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF POPE FRANCIS TO BULGARIA AND NORTH MACEDONIA
ECUMENICAL AND INTERRELIGIOUS MEETING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE - 7 May 2019
Having these meetings always gives me joy and hope. Thank you for making this possible and offering me this opportunity. I am very grateful for your dance – so beautiful – and for your questions. I knew about these questions: I received them and thought about them, and so I have prepared some points to reflect with you on these questions.
I will begin with the last question: after all, as the Lord said, the last shall be first! Liridona, after you shared your hopes with us, you asked me: “Am I dreaming too much?” A very fine question, and I would like all of us to answer it together. What do you think? Is Liridona dreaming too much?
Dreaming too much?
Let me tell you that one can never dream too much. One of the big problems people have today, including so many young people, is that they have lost their ability to dream. They don’t dream, either much or little. When someone does not dream, when a young person does not dream, that empty space gets filled with complaints and a sense of hopelessness or sadness. This is why, dear Liridona, dear friends, a person can never, never dream too much. Try to think of your greatest dreams, like Liridona’s dream – do you remember it? To give hope to a weary world, together with others, both Christians and Muslims.
A few months ago, a friend of mine, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and I had a dream much like yours, that made us want to make a commitment and sign a document that says that faith must lead us believers to see other persons as our brothers and sisters. As brothers and sisters that we need to support and love, without letting ourselves be manipulated by petty interests.
To experience an adventure
This makes me think of what Bozanka told us. She said that, as young people, you like adventures. I am glad about that, for it is a beautiful way to be young: to experience an adventure, a good adventure. Young people do not fear making of their lives a good adventure. So I would ask you: what adventure requires more courage than the dream that Liridona shared with us, the dream of giving hope to a weary world? Our world is weary; our world has become old. The world is divided, and we can be tempted to keep it divided, and to become divided ourselves.
There are those adults who want us to be divided; be on your guard. Yet how forcefully do we hear our Lord’s words: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9)! What can give us more excitement than being committed daily to becoming faithful builders of dreams, artisans of hope? Dreaming helps us to keep alive our certainty that another world is indeed possible, and that we are called to get involved, to help build that world through our work, our efforts and our actions.
We need to work at our dreams. A stone carver takes a stone in his hands and slowly begins to shape and transform it with concentration and effort, and especially with a great desire to see how that stone, which no one thought was worth anything, can become a work of art.
“Our best dreams are only attained through hope, patience and commitment, and not in haste, like these artisans. At the same time, we should not be hesitant, afraid to take chances or make mistakes.
Make something beautiful of your life
“Certainly, as members of the Church, we should not stand apart from others. All should regard us as friends and neighbours, like the apostles, who, as the Bible says, ‘enjoyed the good will of all the people’ (Acts 2:47; cf. 4:21.33; 5:13). Yet at the same time we must dare to be different, to point to ideals other than those of this world, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, fidelity to our personal vocation, the beauty of prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, the beauty of love for the poor, and social friendship”
Think of Mother Teresa: when she lived here, she could not have imagined where her life would have ended up. Yet she kept dreaming and tried to see the face of her great love, Jesus, and to discover it in all those people on the sides of the road. She dreamed in a big way, and this is why she also loved in a big way.
Each of you is called, like Mother Teresa, to work with your hands, to take life seriously and make something beautiful of it. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of our dreams (cf. Christus Vivit, 17); be on your guard. Let us not deprive ourselves of the newness that the Lord wants to give us. You will encounter many, many unexpected twists and turns in life, but it is important to face them and find creative ways of turning them into opportunities. But never alone! No one can fight alone. As Dragan and Marija told us: “our communion gives us strength to face the challenges of today’s society”.
Taking up what Dragan and Marija said: “Our communion gives us the strength to face the changes of contemporary society”. Here is a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation; no one can live the life of faith or realize his or her dreams alone, without leaving home, without being part of a community, alone at heart or at home, enclosed and isolated behind four walls. We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead.
A few minutes ago we saw two children playing here. They wanted to play, to play together. They didn’t go to play on their computers, they wanted to play for real! We observed them: they were happy, content. Because they dreamed of playing together, with one another. Did you see this?
Yet, at a certain point, one of them realized that the other was stronger, and instead of dreaming with the other, began to dream against the other, and tried to overcome the other. And that joy changed as we saw the weaker one in tears, on the floor. You saw how we can pass from dreaming with others to dreaming against others. Never dominate others! Build up community with others: this is the joy of moving ahead.
And now, let me tell you something I feel very strongly about: give yourselves a chance to share and enjoy a good “face-to-face” with everyone, but especially with your grandparents, with the elderly of your community. Perhaps some of you have heard me say this, but for me that is an antidote to those who would lock you up in the present, overwhelming you with pressures and demands, all in the name of an alleged happiness, as if the world is about to end and you have to experience everything right away. In the long run, this creates anxiety, dissatisfaction and a sense of hopelessness. For a heart tempted by hopelessness, there is no better remedy than listening to the experiences of older people.
Don’t forget the old saying that a little person can see further by standing on the shoulders of a giant. In this way, you will gain a new and broader vision. Enter into the wisdom of your people, your community, enter without shame or hesitations, and you will discover an unexpected source of creativity which will prove most fulfilling. It will let you perceive paths where others see barriers, possibilities where others see threats, resurrection where so many proclaim only death.
For this reason, dear young people, I tell you to speak with your grandparents and with your elders. They are your roots, the roots of your history, the roots of your people, the roots of your families.
You, young people, please be on your guard, because today also there are those who want to conquer, those who want to colonize, offering you coloured glass: this is ideological colonization. They will come to you and say: “No, you must be a more modern people, more advanced, take these things and take a new path, forget older things: progress ahead!” And what should you do? Discern. What this person is bringing to me, is it a good thing, something in harmony with the history of my people? Or is it “coloured glass”? In order for you not to be tricked, it’s important to speak to the elderly, speak to those who will pass onto you the history of your people, the roots of your people. Speak to the elderly, in order to grow. Speak to our history in order to make it develop. Speak to our roots in order to produce flowers and fruits.
And let us conclude together applauding all the young people, all the courageous women who bring forth history. And thankyou to the interpreter who is been really good!
DO YOU NEED MY HANDS, LORD? (Prayer of Mother Teresa)
Do your need my hands, Lord,
to help the sick and the poor
who are in need today?
Lord, this day I offer you my hands.
Do you need my feet. Lord,
to lead me today
to those who need a friend?
Lord, this day I offer you my feet.
Do you need my voice, Lord,
so that I can speak to all those
who need a word of love?
Lord, this day I offer you my voice.
Do you need my heart, Lord,
so that I can love everyone,
Lord, this day I offer you my heart.