ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO THE PILGRIMAGE OF ITALIAN ADOLESCENTS
Saint Peter's Square Angel Monday, 18 April 2022
Dear boys and girls, welcome!
Thank you for being here! This square has long been waiting to be filled with your presence, your faces, and your enthusiasm. Two years ago, on 27 March, I came here alone to present to the Lord the plea of the world stricken by the pandemic. Perhaps that evening you were also in your homes in front of the television set praying together with your families.
Today, all of you are together in the embrace of this square and in the joy of Easter we have just celebrated.
Young people pay price for war
Jesus has conquered the darkness of death. Unfortunately, the clouds that obscure our time are still thick. In addition to the pandemic, Europe is experiencing a terrible war, while injustices and violence that destroy man and the planet continue in so many regions of the Earth. Often it is your own agemates who pay the highest price. Not only are their lives compromised and made insecure, but their dreams for the future are trampled underfoot. Many brothers and sisters still await the light of Easter.
The Gospel story we heard begins in the darkness of the night. Peter and the disciples take their boats and go fishing - and they catch nothing. What a disappointment! When we put so much of our energy to make our dreams come true, when we invest so much, like the apostles, and nothing comes of it... But something surprising happens: at daybreak, a man appears on the shore, Jesus. He was waiting for them. And Jesus says to them, "There, on the right-hand side, there are fish." And the miracle of many fish happens: the nets are filled with fish.
Sharing our fears
This can help us reflect on some moments in our lives. Life sometimes puts us to the test, it makes us touch our frailties, it makes us feel naked, helpless, alone. How many times in this period have you felt alone, far from your friends? How many times have you been afraid? One should not be ashamed to say, "I'm afraid of the dark!" All of us are afraid of the dark. Fears need to be expressed so that they can be chased away. Remember this: fears must be spoken. To whom? To dad, to mom, to a friend, to the person who can help you. Fears need to be brought to light. And when fears, which are in the darkness, come into the light, the truth breaks forth. Don't be discouraged: if you are afraid, bring it in to the light. Il will do you good!
A nose for reality
Dear boys and girls, you don't have the experience of adults, but you have something that we adults have sometimes lost. For example: over the years, we adults need glasses because we have lost our sight or sometimes, we become a little deaf, we have lost our hearing... Or, many times, the habits of life make us lose "our sense of smell"; you have "your sense of smell". And don't lose this, please! You have a nose for reality, and that is a great thing. The nose that John had: as soon as he saw that gentleman there who said, "Cast your nets to the right," his nose told him, "It is the Lord!" He was the youngest of the apostles. You have the flair: don't lose it! It makes you say "this is true - this is not true - this is not good"; the nose to find the Lord, the nose for truth. I wish you to have the flair of John, but also the courage of Peter. Peter was a bit "special": he denied Jesus three times, but as soon as John, the youngest, says, "It's the Lord!" he jumps into the water to go to Jesus.
Do not be ashamed of your outbursts of generosity: let it leads you to generosity. Throw yourself into life. "Eh, Father, but I don't know how to swim, I'm afraid of life!": you have someone to accompany you, look for someone to accompany you. But do not be afraid of life, please! Be afraid of death, of the death of the soul, of the death of the future, of the closing of the heart: be afraid of this. But not of life: life is believing in it and for sharing it with others.
The extraordinary vocation of Mary
I don't want to go on for too long, I would just like to say that it is important that you go on. Fears? Enlighten them, speak about them. Discouragement? Overcome it with courage, with someone who can guide you. And the nose for life: don't lose it, because it's a beautiful thing.
And, in times of difficulty, children call their mom. We also call our mom, Mary. She was almost of your age when she accepted her extraordinary vocation to be Jesus' mother. Nice: she had your age, more or less... May she help you to confidently answer your "Here I am!" to the Lord: "I am here, Lord: what am I to do? I am here to do good, to grow well, to help others with my flair." May Our Lady, the mother who was almost your age when she received the angel's announcement and became pregnant, may she teach you to say, "Here I am!" And to not be afraid. Courage, and onward!
May the risen Jesus be the strength of your lives: go in peace and be happy, all of you.