Pope Francis tells Youth "...dedicate time to your family...and also to God... And if praying is difficult for you, don't give up." Full Text

(19 - 26 November 2019)



St. Mary's Cathedral (Tokyo)
Monday, 25 November 2019

Dear young people,

thanks for coming, thanks for being here! Seeing and listening to your energy and your enthusiasm gives me joy and gives me hope. I am grateful for this. I also thank Leonardo, Miki and Masako for their words of testimony. It takes great courage to share what you carry in your heart as you did. I'm sure your voices echoed many of your companions here. Thanks! I know that among you there are young people of other nationalities, some of them seek refuge. We learn to build together the society we want for tomorrow.

When I look at you, I can see the cultural and religious diversity of the young people living in Japan today, and also something of the beauty that your generation offers to the future. The friendship between you and your presence here reminds everyone that the future is not "monochromatic", but that, if we have the courage, it is possible to look at it in the variety and diversity of the contributions that each one can give. How much our human family needs to learn to live together in harmony and peace without having to all be the same! They didn't do it to us, all in series. Everyone comes from the love of his parents and his family, that's why we are all different, everyone has a story to share. We need to grow in fraternity, in attention to others and in respect of different experiences and points of view. This meeting is a celebration because we are saying that the culture of encounter is possible, that it is not a utopia, and that you young people have the special sensitivity to carry it forward.

I was struck by the questions you asked, because they reflect your concrete experiences, and also your hopes and dreams for the future.

Thank you, Leonardo, for sharing the experience of bullying and discrimination you suffered. More and more young people find the courage to talk about experiences like yours. In my day, when I was young, we never talked about things like those Leonardo told us. The most cruel thing about school bullying is that it hurts our spirit and our self-esteem when we need more strength to accept ourselves and face new challenges in life. Sometimes, bullying victims even accuse themselves of being "easy" targets. They might feel bankrupt, weak and worthless, and arrive at very dramatic situations: "If only I were different ...". Paradoxically, however, it is the molesters, those who bully us who are really weak, because they think they can affirm their identity by harming others. Sometimes they attack anyone they consider different and they see it as a threat. After all, the molesters, those who bully, are afraid, are fearful who cover themselves with force. And in this - be careful - when you hear, you see that someone feels the need to hurt another, to bully another, to harass him, that is the weak. The harassed is not the weak; he is the one who harasses the weak, because he needs to make himself big, strong, to feel like someone. I told Leonardo a little while ago: when they tell you that you are obese, tell him: "It is worse to be thin like you". We must all unite against this culture of bullying, all together against this culture of bullying, and learn to say: enough! It is an epidemic for which the best medicine can be found yourself. It is not enough that educational institutions or adults use all the resources at their disposal to prevent this tragedy, but it is necessary that among you, among friends, between companions, you get together to say: No! No to bullying, no to aggression towards others. This is bad! There is no bigger weapon to defend oneself from these actions than to "get up" between companions and friends and say: "What you are doing, bullying, is serious".
Who is bullying is a scary person, and fear is always the enemy of good, which is why it is the enemy of love and peace. The great religions - all the religions that each of us practices - teach tolerance, teach harmony, teach mercy; religions do not teach fear, division and conflict. For us Christians: let us listen to Jesus who always told his followers not to be afraid. Because? Because if we stay with God and love our brothers with God, love dispels fear (see 1 Jn 4:18). For many of us - as you reminded us, Leonardo - looking at the life of Jesus allows us to find comfort, because Jesus himself knew what it means to be despised and rejected, even to the point of being crucified. He also knew what it means to be a foreigner, a migrant, a "different". In a sense - and here I address Christians, and those who are not Christians see it as a religious model - Jesus was the most "marginalized", an outcast full of Life to give. Leonardo, we can always look at everything we lack, but we can also discover the life that we are able to give and to give. The world needs you, never forget it; the Lord needs you so that you can give courage to many who are asking for help today, to help them get up again.

I would like to tell everyone something that can be useful in life. To look at a person with contempt, to look down on him, is to say: "I am superior and you are inferior". But there is only one right and right way to look at a person from the top down: to help her stand up. If one of us - including myself - looks down on a person with contempt, it is worth little. But if one of us looks at a person from the top down to extend his hand and help her stand up, this man or this woman is big. So when you look at a person from the top down, ask yourself, "Where is my hand? Is it hidden or is it helping it to stand up? " And you will be happy. Agree?

And this involves learning to develop a very important but undervalued quality: the ability to give time for others, to listen to them, to share with them, understand them. And only in this way will we open our stories and our wounds to a love that can transform us and begin to change the world around us. If we do not donate, if we do not waste time and "save time" with people, we will lose it in many things that, at the end of the day, will leave us empty and dazed. In my native land they would say: they fill us with things as long as we do indigestion. So, please, dedicate time to your family, dedicate time to your friends, and also to God, praying and meditating, each according to his own belief. And if praying is difficult for you, don't give up. A wise spiritual guide once said: prayer consists mainly of staying there. Stand still, make room to let God in, let yourself be looked at by Him and He will fill you with his peace.

And this is exactly what Miki told us: he asked how young people can make room for God in a frenetic society focused on being only competitive and productive. It is usual to see that a person, a community or even an entire society can be highly developed externally, but with a poor and reduced inner life, with the soul and vitality turned off; they look like already made dolls that have nothing inside. Everything is boring to them. There are young people who no longer dream. It is terrible a young man who does not dream, a young man who does not make room for the dream, to let God in, to make desires enter and be fruitful in life. There are men and women who can no longer laugh, who do not play, who do not know the sense of wonder and surprise. Men and women who live like zombies, their hearts have stopped beating. Because? Because of the inability to celebrate life with others. Listen to this: you will be happy, you will be fruitful if you preserve the ability to celebrate life with others. How many people in the world are materially rich, but live as a slave of an unparalleled solitude! I think of the loneliness that many people, young and adults, experience in our prosperous, but often so anonymous, societies. Mother Teresa, who worked among the poorest of the poor, once said something that is prophetic, a precious thing: "Loneliness and the feeling of not being loved is the most terrible poverty".

Perhaps it is good for us to ask ourselves: For me, what is the most terrible poverty? What would be the greatest degree of poverty for me? And if we are honest we realize that the greatest poverty we can have is loneliness and the feeling of not being loved. Do you understand? Is the speech too boring or can I go on? ... Is it boring? [Young people: "No!"]
Fighting this spiritual poverty is a task to which we are all called, and you young people have a special role to play, because it requires a great change in our priorities, in our choices. It implies recognizing that the most important thing is not everything I own or can buy, but with whom I can share it. It is not so important to concentrate and wonder why I live, but for whom I live. Learn to ask yourself this question: not for what I live, but for whom I live, with whom I share my life. Things are important, but people are indispensable; without them we dehumanize ourselves, we lose the face, we lose the name and we become one more object, perhaps the best of all, but always an object; and we are not objects, we are people. The book of Sirach says: "A faithful friend is a safe refuge: whoever finds it has found a treasure" (6.14). This is why it is always important to ask oneself: "Who am I for?" You are for God, no doubt. But he wanted you to be also for others, and he placed in you many qualities, inclinations, gifts and charisms that are not for you, but for others "(Exh. Ap. Postsin. Christus vivit, 286), from share with others. Not just living life, but sharing life. Share life.

And this is something beautiful that you can offer to the world. Young people can give something to the world. Testify that social friendship, friendship between you is possible! Hope in a future based on a culture of encounter, acceptance, fraternity and respect for the dignity of each person, especially towards those most in need of love and understanding. Without having to attack or despise, but learning to recognize the wealth of others.

A reflection that can help us: to keep ourselves physically alive, we must breathe, it is an action that we perform without realizing it, we all breathe automatically. To remain alive in the full and broad sense of the word, we must also learn to breathe spiritually, through prayer, meditation, in an internal movement, through which we can listen to God, who speaks to us deep in our hearts. And we also need an external movement, with which we approach others with acts of love, with acts of service. This double movement allows us to grow and to recognize not only that God loved us, but that he entrusted to each of us a mission, a unique vocation and that we will discover to the extent that we give ourselves to others, to concrete persons.
Masako told us about these things starting from his experience as a student and as a teacher. He asked how young people can be helped to realize their goodness and value. Once again, I would like to say that, in order to grow, to discover our identity, our goodness and our inner beauty, we cannot look in the mirror. They invented so many things, but thanks to God there are no soul selfies yet. To be happy, we need to ask others for help, let another take the picture, that is, go out of ourselves and go to others, especially the most needy (see ibid., 171). I want to tell you one thing: don't look too much at yourself, don't look too much in the mirror of yourself, because you run the risk that by looking at you the mirror will break!

And here I finish: it was time! In particular, I ask you to extend the arms of friendship and to welcome those who come, often after great suffering, to seek refuge in your country. With us here is a small group of refugees; your welcome will testify that for many they may be strangers, but for you they can be considered brothers and sisters.

A wise teacher once said that the key to growing in wisdom lies not so much in finding the right answers, but in discovering the right questions. Do you all think: do I know how to respond to things? Can I respond well to things? Do I have the correct answers? If someone says yes, I'm happy for you. But ask another question: Can I ask the right questions? Do I have a restless heart that leads me to continually question myself about life, about myself, about others, about God? With the correct answers, pass the exam, but without the right questions, don't spend your life! Not all of you are teachers like Masako, but I hope you can ask good questions, question yourself and help others ask good and provocative questions about the meaning of life and how we can build a better future for those who come after us .

Dear young people, thank you for your friendly attention, and thank you for your patience, for all this time you have given me and for sharing some of your life. Don't cover dreams! Do not stun your dreams, give space to dreams and dare to look at great horizons, dare to look at what awaits you if you have the courage to build them together. Japan needs you, the world needs you, awake, not asleep. He needs you, generous, joyful and enthusiastic, able to build a home for everyone. I promise you that I will pray for you, so that you grow in spiritual wisdom, so that you may know how to ask the right questions, so that you forget about the mirror and know how to look at the eyes of others.

To all of you, to your families and friends, I send my best wishes and my blessing. And I ask you also to remember to send me good wishes and blessings. Thanks!
Full Text + Image Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation