MEETING OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
WITH STUDENTS OF THE BARBARIGO COLLEGE OF PADUA
IN THE 100TH YEAR OF FOUNDATION
Paul VI Hall
Saturday, March 23, 2019
SOFIA, III Media
Dear Pope Francis, I am Sofia and I am in middle school, in these months I have had to make an important choice, that is to decide which high school I want to enroll for. It was a complex choice, perhaps the first of my life. I admit I was a bit scared, even though I was accompanied by my parents and my teachers, who urged me to look for what was really important to me, what was my dream of good. Sometimes for us kids it's not easy to find adults who are reference points, yet we need them so much! Could you help us understand how to do it and who can we really trust? Thank you.
Thanks for the question. I would like to tell you that I knew the questions. When you talk I take note of something. But I had also prepared a draft of how to respond, but I will not always follow these drafts.
The most important reference point for choices, you will find it in yourself. It is the reference to one's conscience; and then how your personality is expressed, your conscience, especially in youthful enthusiasm. Is very important! Never will you be able to make a good choice without this spirit of enthusiasm, to look to the future with joy! Because if you made this decision by saying: "Well, yes, I have to choose ... I don't know what to do ... It's so boring ...", it's better to go to sleep and then think about it. Enthusiasm: having hope, even risk, knowing how to risk in life. "What if I'm wrong?" But it's a risk! And this is the beauty of life. Proportionate risk, I would say, isn't it? But it's a risk. Who does not know how to risk well in life will hardly arrive. One step after another, but always looking at the horizon in yourself.
Youth is not passivity for you. Many times I have spoken - I always repeat myself, because young people are always the same - "young people from the couch", those who are passive, sitting, who are watching how the story goes. But it is the story that must look like you go! It is bad to find a young man "in retirement". It's ugly. And there are! And this is the end of youth, it's growing old. At 22, 23, 24, you're retired. Youth, I said, is not passive, but it is a tenacious effort to reach important goals. The young man must look at the goal, ahead, an important goal, even if it costs. In youth one learns that in life nothing is free. You must earn goals, reach goals. Only the love of God, the grace of God, is free. That is free, because He will always love us. Always. But to move forward we need the effort, the effort of every day. And we must not close our eyes to the difficulties, but reject the compromises that lead you to mediocrity. Put this word in your heart: mediocrity. I said before: a passive young man is a young man who will end in failure. A mediocre young man will end up being lukewarm, neither hot nor cold: lukewarm, without taste, nothing, without having fought.
So first, you will find security in yourself, not in passivity, but in the desire to move forward, in the joy of moving forward, with the effort to move forward.
Then, there is one thing in youth: young people are those capable of bigger leaps, are they not? And we expect this. In order not to isolate and help you, dialogue with your chaplains, your priests, your parents, your brothers, your friends is important. To dialogue. Don't talk only to myself, no, no. This, of course, must be done a little to reflect, but we must dialogue with others, because life is a continuous dialogue. And this is done in society, because in life you are not alone: you are in a community, a community of people who move forward, in the community of a city, of a family, even of a nation. The community sense of moving forward, of following a path; the community sense of risks. And this is so important. There is an African proverb, I am not sure, that says: "If you go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk with others ". It is very important in the choices, in difficult moments, when you have to make decisions, have friends, a community, to talk to them and not go alone.
And finally, what you asked in the question: "Could you help us understand how to do it and who can we really trust?". They are the parents, because parents, when there is dialogue in the family, will also give you a life experience. But I allow myself one more thing: more than parents, grandparents. You must talk to the grandparents. It's important! Why? Because grandparents are the roots. If you don't go to your roots, you will be an uprooted young man. And when there are no roots, there is no growth, there are no flowers, there is no fruit. Grow, but rooted. And the grandparents will be those who will help you, the elderly. Ask them. "But, father, the elders are boring! ...". Maybe at the beginning, but start talking to them and they won't be boring, because they will touch you with things that will give you hope, pleasure and even safety. It's not to go back to the past, no! It is to be sure of having roots, of not being uprooted, of not being too "gaseous", liquid ... The young gaseous, liquid, have no roots, but they have no future either. So, talk with friends, talk to the trainers - professors, chaplains of the college -, talk with parents and above all - this I emphasize - talk to the old people who have the wisdom of life. I don't know if you need this ... Yes? Thank you.
ALDO (II Superiore)
Holy Father, the "Barbarigo" is a school where one not only studies but often also confronts oneself with the big questions of life: there are plenty of occasions in which the teachers invite us to ask ourselves questions about truth, justice and beauty; proposals that allow us to experience the joy of putting ourselves at the service of others, such as the Lunch with the needy people of our City that we offer on the third Sunday of Advent, together with Caritas and the Community of Sant Egidio. We live moments in which together with the spiritual animator or teachers of religion we take the Gospel in hand and let ourselves be provoked by the teaching of Jesus. Yet, especially at our age it is difficult to pass to listening to consider that Jesus is a person with the which I can relate to, even more accept the fact that it was not just a great man, a great teacher but God who made himself present in the history of each of us. When you, Holy Father, had our age, did you also encounter the same difficulties on the level of faith? How did you overcome them? Who helped her in finding answers?
Thanks Aldo, it is important that you say that the "Barbarigo" college is a school where not only are we studying but often we are confronted with the big questions of life. Because we have inherited from the age of Enlightenment a concept of education that was more or less filling the head with ideas and nothing more, and this is not education. Education is dealing with the problems of life; and certainly also having ideas in mind, studying theoretical things, but always confronting - it is an important word - with the real problems of life. And confront not only with the problems, even with the beauties of life, confronting oneself with art, confronting oneself with the good things that happen in life, this is a very important thing. A school is a great opportunity where questions about the meaning of life are faced, trying to confront the culture of life. Because right now, in humanity, where there are so many wars, we are experiencing a culture of death or a culture of silence, which is an ignoring the things that happen. And this is death is not life. Or a culture of indifference: "I don't care what happens there, I am indifferent, I look at my things, my opportunities, my pockets and nothing else". Against this culture of death, of complicit silence and the culture of waste, you must always assume the problems of real life. Even that service you do in Lent is to approach a real problem, not a theoretical one, because these people are hungry, and you are not hungry and this should make you think: what should I do that I am not hungry and I have this opportunity to grow ? What could I do in the future or even now for people who are hungry, for people who suffer, people who are at war? Think of the statistics that tell us how many children a year in the war zones are starving to death, and those far away in war zones. This would be a good task to do at home, I challenge you to do it. Look at the statistics, how many children die a year in the war zones due to hunger, and thirst, because they don't even have water. This makes you think, and makes you study with another attitude, with an opening of the heart different from the purely intellectual interest. The intellect is valid and necessary, but it is one of the languages that you must have. In education there are three languages, I have said this many times and perhaps you have heard it. The language of the head, that is the language of ideas and intellect, of thought; then the language of the heart: learn to feel good, because even if you go to the people who need but have no heart and your heart does not know how to hear well, you will say: "Yes, they are poor people, they are so many percent so, so many per cent so ...", but your heart is still, and instead the language of the heart is needed; and third, the language of the hands: to do. Think, feel and do. This is the comparison with life, and this makes us grow, to the point that you think what you feel and what you do; you feel what you think and what you do; you do what you think and what you feel. A harmony of the three languages. To educate is to grow these dimensions of life in harmony. And so many times, when you face reality with these three languages, you will return home not with an answer but with a question. A young person must have the capacity to question himself, to ask himself the questions that come when he looks at reality, not only when he studies a mathematical theorem. For example: how can this be solved? Okay, but also with reality: if you don't come home with a new question, a new question to yourself, you are missing something. Ability to question oneself, and this is so important. And you, you are lucky because these experiences that you do are also the experiences of the Gospel. And this will help you grow.
You asked me how I lived at your age. When I finished the first part of the school, that is at the end of the 12 years (in Argentina I am 7 years old, called the primary school), I was happy to start studying at the technical school to become a chemist ... In those holidays, Dad gave me said: "Look, there's one thing you'll have to learn: learn to work". And starting the thirteenth year, I started working on vacations, and that made me so good. And what did I do? I cleaned in a factory of a friend of my father's, I cleaned the workshops; the holidays were three months; two and a half months of work and half a month of vacation. Concrete work has done me good, it has opened my eyes. Then I did the first, second and third years of the technical school, double shift: practical morning, theoretical afternoon, or backwards, he was demanding. But from the fourth, fifth and sixth years until the age of 19, the practical part was not done in school, everyone had to go to work in a laboratory, in a factory, in the chemical office of a factory, and so on. I was sent to work in a laboratory, I had to enter at 7 am until one o'clock, and there I hurried to get to the two at the college to do the theoretical school, until six, seven, it depended on the days ... This has helped, the effort to get up early to catch the bus and go to work at 7, this helps, it helped me, so I lived it. Then I had friends in the parish, we went to the hospital, to visit the sick or other things like that ... This is what I want to tell you about how I lived studying with work ... And then the weekend, with friends, friends, the party, go dancing ..., at that time there was no "movida", this came later! At that time there was not, but yes, we went to the bar or had parties ... I don't know if I answered, my experience was like this. I got it? Work is important.
JOHN (V ^ Superior)
Arriving at the last year of Liceo, I feel that I have to make important choices for my future: my school has helped me understand that it is through the commitment of every day that I build what I am and what I will be, in these years I was educated to open my mind and my heart, not to be afraid to spend myself for others. However, faced with the choice, sometimes I feel alone and lost because in the current context there are no certainties and our tomorrow seems uncertain. Holy Father, what do you feel you can recommend to a young man who would like to be prepared to face tomorrow with responsibility and passion? How can I understand what God dreams for me?
Thanks John. The first thing I advise you to do what God wants from you is to pray. But pray not like the parrots: "bla bla bla bla ...". Pray with the heart, pray before the Lord, talk with the Lord. And say, "Lord, let me know this: what should I do". Prayer that comes from the heart, true prayer is important right now, before making choices. And to you young God entrusts a decisive task in facing the challenges of our time. You are preparing the future. There are certainly material challenges, but first they concern the vision of man. What do you want to do in the future? "I would like to become an aeronautical engineer" - "Ah, and why do you like it?" - "Because I like aeronautics, I like this ..." - "Ah, how nice, beautiful!" - "And then there aren't too many engineers aircraft, and so I will have the opportunity to have a safe place and earn lots of money ... ". This reasoning is sick from the beginning, it doesn't work. I would like to be an aeronautical engineer, but not to fill my pockets with money! To better serve others. Do not forget that your future work must be a service to society, a service that depends not only on the things you do, but also on the example. You will get married: the example in the family. You will have a job: the example in the work. The example in society. It's not just doing a job to emerge, no, it's all about putting it into that. That Italian way of saying that I like so much: "I'll put it all out". In Argentina we say this in another way: "Having meat on the grill": playing it all. Put the meat, all the meat, on the grill. It is a way of saying that I cannot separate myself and in two or three make laboratory choices.
So first: pray. Second: do not make laboratory choices. The choices must be made with the language of the head, of the heart, of the hands, of which I spoke. And this is a very important thing.
Then you said, "Sometimes I feel lonely." Do not be under illusions: before a decision there is always a moment, a space of solitude. One cannot make life decisions on behalf of another: everyone must take them alone. Loneliness at the time of the greatest decision. When you get married: when choosing your future bride, getting married, there is a moment of solitude. Realize that I have to go on like this: I feel it, only you and me. Don't be afraid of these moments of loneliness. Someone gets scared, seeks advice, has lots of tests done to see ... Yes, but you miss the moment of solitude. "But this is bad, it makes me feel bad ...". Feel bad, but you will have the certainty that you have chosen well.
Then: "What do you feel you can recommend to a young man who would like to be prepared to face tomorrow with responsibility and passion?" Lastly I replied: "How can I understand what God dreams for me?" Praying. I would recommend to a young person like this: don't lose the passion. Young people must be restless, not "sofa", but on the move, always looking for something more, with the memory of the roots but looking at the horizon, and fans. It is bad to meet young people withered. The young people withered are those who put their joy in the superficial things of life and do not go in depth, to the big questions. Passionate: life is played with passion. You definitely do sports ... When you watch a football team, what do players do? They play with passion, because they want to win. Passion is also important in the life of a young person. A life without passion is like white pasta without salt. You like it? No! Then go on enthusiasts.
I thank you for these questions, because when I hear them from young people, I too get a bit excited and I want to "pass on fire". You also do me good with this fire that you carry in your heart. Go ahead, always united, never alone. Always together. The old Romans, who inhabited this land, said: "Vae soli!", Woe to the man or woman who goes alone or alone. Always with family, friends, school, community: always in company. With passion, risking, and praying. Prayer in risk helps a lot. Don't retire ahead of time, always keep going.
Thanks, boys and girls, for this visit, and on! Courage!
Now, I invite you all together to pray to Our Lady, so that she may accompany us all on this journey of life: "Hail Mary!"
FULL TEXT Source: Vatican va - Unofficial Translation