(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday continued the long-standing papal tradition of celebrating the Vespers for the first Sunday of Advent with the students and educators of Rome’s universities. 

Hundreds filled St. Peter’s Basilica for the service, which includes the handing over of an icon of Mary, Seat of Wisdom – patron of university students – from a Brazilian to a French delegation. The icon, by renowned iconographer Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, has been taken to university chaplaincies across Brazil so that students could gather before it in prayer, and will now travel in the same way around France.

In his homily, the Pope spoke of God’s intervention in our lives as “an expression of His fidelity”. God intervenes because human nature is fragile. But He is, above all, faithful to Himself and “to the work He has begun in each one of us”, always bringing it to completion. “This gives us great confidence and security: a confidence that rests in God and requires our active collaboration and bravery to face the challenges of the present moment”, he said. “Dear university students, your will and your abilities, combined with the power of the Holy Spirit who came to dwell within each one of you on the day of your Baptism, allow you to be not spectators, but protagonists of contemporary events.”

Pope Francis told the university students that they are called to confront their great challenges “with inner strength and the courage of the Gospel”. “The socio-cultural context in which you are placed is sometimes weighed down by mediocrity and boredom”, he said. “We must not resign ourselves to the monotony of everyday life, but cultivate big projects, to go beyond the ordinary: do not steal the enthusiasm of youth! It would be a mistake to be imprisoned by the uniform of weak thought.”

The Pope urged students not to be affected by prevailing opinions nor to lower ethical standards, but to be faithful to Christian ethical and religious principles. In doing the latter, he said, “you will find the courage to go even against the tide”. “The commitment to walk in faith and to behave in a manner consistent with the Gospel accompanies you in this time of Advent, to live out authentically the feast of the Nativity of the Lord.”