The Pope: “Don’t let the world make you think that you are better off on your own”

International Meeting of the “Nossa Senhora Youth Teams”

© Vatican Media

This morning, the Holy Father Francis received in Audience in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace Apostolic Palace, the participants in the International Meeting of the “Teams of Youth of Nossa Senhora”. Senhora Youth Teams”.

We publish below the Pope’s address to those present at the Audience:

Pope’s speech

Dear young people, married couples and chaplains,
Good morning and welcome!

I greet all of you and I thank Maria Teresa, the international leader, for her words of greeting and for her explanation of the reasons that brought you to Rome. You wanted to hear from the Pope himself that Holy Mother Church loves you and is counting on you. It is true! The Church loves what Jesus loves. We read in the Gospel that one day Jesus looked closely at a young person, “loved him” (Mk 10:21) and called him to follow him on his mission. Sadly, that young person did not accept the invitation. Yet others did accept it; they let themselves be won over, and “remained with him” (Jn 1:39). The same loving look of Jesus traverses the centuries, from generation to generation, and rests upon us, upon each one of us.

We can say that, for Jesus, every young person is a source of hope: the hope of friendship, the hope of journeying together, the hope of setting out on mission together. Each one of you is also a source of hope for the Church. In a particular way, you are a source of hope for the ecclesial experience known as Équipes Notre-Dame, an excellent initiative for couples and families. You are its young members and, according to your Statutes, you are committed to living in accordance with the principles of Catholic doctrine, coming to know it ever better so as to grow in relationship with Christ and the Virgin Mary, and to sense your call to be missionaries in daily life (cf. Art. 11). I would like to reflect briefly with you on the three words that make up your name: équipe, NotreDame and youth.

Your experience is that of an équipe, a team. This is a gift, not something to be taken for granted! To be part of a community, a family of families, one that exudes a lived faith: this is a great gift! No one can say, “I am saved alone, by myself”. We are all in relationship, so that we can learn how to work together as a team. God wanted to be a part of this network of relationships; he draws us to himself as a community and grants fulfilment to our lives through our sense of identity and of belonging (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Our Lord saves us by making us a people, his people. Don’t let the world make you think that you are better off on your own. By yourself, you may perhaps attain some success. But you will be missing out on love, companionship, being part of a people and having the priceless experience of dreaming together, taking risks together, suffering together and celebrating together.

Don’t be afraid to be open and to take risks; and don’t be afraid of others. True, we will always encounter cases of bullying, abuse, dishonesty and betrayal, but trust me, the problem is not defending ourselves from others; we ought to be more concerned about defending the victims. On the site of the attack in Barcelona – in 2017 – someone left a note with a drawing of a very small child and a very big monster, and wrote on it: “Here we are: me and fear”. And then added: “But the fear is not so great, and I am not so small, so I am not afraid”. Why? Why was that person unafraid? Because he was not alone, he was together with people who loved him: his family, his friends, and perhaps God, that Father and Friend who never abandons us. In this age of virtual reality and the resulting isolation that many of your contemporaries are feeling, you have chosen to grow en équipe.  Keep going forward, build bridges, and work as a team!

The second word is Notre-Dame. You are young people – so we read in the Preamble of the Statutes – “marked by a solid devotion to Our Lady and desirous, following her example and under her maternal protection, of understanding her privileged place in the mystery of Christ and of salvation”. So it is: whenever we accept Mary, our Mother, into our lives, the centre, which is the Lord, is never lost. For Our Lady never points to herself, but to Jesus and to our brothers and sisters.  You would do well to ponder often the words that Jesus spoke from the cross to Saint John: “Here is your Mother!” (Jn 19:27). To hear these words resounding in our hearts, and to feel that they are spoken to you, to each one of you. Truly, Jesus gave us his Mother, to be the Mother of every disciple.  Mary said “yes” to this, even as she did at the Annunciation. Once more she said “Fiat”, “Amen”, and became the Mother of the Church. To her we can entrust ourselves with the confidence of a small child, of those who are poor and humble, those who know that the Mother is close by, and full of tender, loving concern.

I encourage you to entrust yourselves daily to the Virgin Mary. She will also help you to grow as an équipe, sharing the gifts you received in a spirit of dialogue and of mutual acceptance. Our Lady will help you to have a generous heart, to discover the joy of freely serving others, as she herself did when she went to visit Saint Elizabeth. That episode of the Gospel provided the theme for the next World Youth Day, to be held in Lisbon in August next year: “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39). I know that there are several Portuguese young people here! To arise and to serve, to go forth and to care for others and for creation: these are distinctive values of the young. I urge you to practise them as you prepare for the World Youth Day in Lisbon.

The third word is: young people. The future belongs to the young. Be careful, though! The future belongs to young people who possess two qualities: wings and roots. Wings to fly, to dream and to create; and roots to soak up from the elderly the wisdom that they can offer you. So ask yourselves: what kind of wings do I have? Are eyes downcast? Am I turned in on myself? Or am I prepared to lift my gaze and look to the horizon? Is my heart full of dreams, great plans and desires? Or is it weighed down by complaints, negative thoughts, judgments and prejudices? Then you can ask: what kind of roots do I have? Do I think that the world began with me, or do I feel part of a great river that has already flowed a great distance? If I am lucky enough still to have my grandparents, what kind of relationship do I have with them? Do I talk to them? Am I able to listen to them? Do I ever ask them to tell me something significant about their lives? Do I treasure their wisdom?

Finally, I would also like to say a word to you, the adults, married couples and chaplains. I know that you find great joy in accompanying these young people on their journey. May they always see you as witnesses, quiet and straightforward, witnesses of love for Christ and the Church, witnesses willing to listen and enter into dialogue, witnesses of generous service freely given, witnesses of prayer. Thank you for being present alongside these young people, and for the time and care you devote to them.

I thank all of you for coming here and for introducing me to the experience of the young people of Équipes Notre-Dame. May the Lord bless you, and Our Lady watch over you. Keep pressing forward on your journey! And please, do not forget to keep me in your prayers.