Pope Benedict: Educating young people in justice and peace

Pope Benedict regularly reaches out to young people and underscores the importance of education, which he describes as “the most interesting and difficult adventure of life.” Because of his long personal experience as a teacher and pastor who has always been in touch with young people, Benedict XVI knows well that it is not enough to be teachers but that it is necessary above all to be witnesses, as Paul VI used say.

Below are excerpts from his recent message for the World Day of Peace:
“Educating young people in justice and peace.”–Jim



Pope Benedict:

Educating young people in justice and peace


(Excerpts from Benedict XVI’s Message for the World Day of Peace 2012;

l’Osservatore Romano; #51, 12-21-11).


…Attentiveness to young people and their concerns, the ability to listen to them and appreciate them, is not merely something expedient; it represents a primary duty for society as a whole, for the sake of building a future of justice and peace.

It is a matter of communicating to young people an appreciation for the positive value of life and of awakening in them a desire to spend their lives in the service of the Good.  This is a task which engages each of us personally.

The concerns expressed in recent times by many young people around the world demonstrate that they desire to look to the future with solid hope.  At the present time, they are experiencing apprehension about many things: they want to receive an education which prepares them more fully to deal with the real world, they see how difficult it is to form a family and to find stable employment; they wonder if they can really contribute to political, cultural and economic life in order to build a society with a more human and fraternal face. …


            Education is the most interesting and difficult adventure in life

(emphasis added).  Educating—from the Latin educere—means leading young people to move beyond themselves and introducing them to reality, towards a fullness that leads to growth.  This process is fostered by the encounter of two freedoms, that of adults and that of the young.  It calls for responsibility on theh part of the learners, who must be open to being led to the knowledge of reality, and on the part of educators, who must be ready to give of themselves.  For this reason, today more than ever we need authentic witnesses, and not simply people who parcel out rules and facts; we need witnesses capable of seeing farther than other because their life is so much broader.  A witness is someone who first lives the life that he proposes to others (emphasis added)….

            (TO ADMINISTRATORS).  I would also like to address a word to those in charge of educational institutions: with a great sense of responsibility may they ensure that the dignity of each person is always respected and appreciated.  Let them be concerned that every young person be able to discover his or her own vocation and helped to develop his or her God-given gifts.  May they reassure families that their children can receive an education that does not conflict with their consciences and their religious principles.

Every educational setting can be a place of openness to the transcendent and to others; a place of dialogue, cohesiveness and attentive listening, where young people feel appreciated for their personal abilities and inner riches, and can learn to esteem their brothers ad sisters.  May young people be taught to savor the joy which comes from the daily exercise of charity and compassion towards others and from taking an active part in the building of a more humane and fraternal society. …

(TO YOUNG PEOPLE) Raising one’s eyes to God.

            “It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true—an unconditional return to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love.  And what could ever save us apart from love?” (Benedict XVI, Address at Youth Vigil (Cologne, 20 August 2005).  Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13).

Dear young people, you are a precious gift for society (emphasis added).  Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems.  Do not be afraid to make a commitment, to face hard work and sacrifice, to choose the paths that demand fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication.  Be confident in your youth and its profound desires for happiness, truth, beauty, and genuine love!  Live fully this time in your life so rich and so full of enthusiasm.

Realize that you yourselves are an example and an inspiration to adults (emphasis added), even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future.  Be aware of your potential; never become self-centered but work for a brighter future for all.  You are never alone.  The Church has confidence in you, follows you, encourages you and wishes to offer you the most precious gift she has: the opportunity to raise your eyes to god, to encounter Jesus Christ, who is himself justice and peace. …



What Are You Looking For?

What Are You Looking For?

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B); Jan. 15, 2012

1 Sam 3:3:3-10,19: Ps 42; 1 Cor 6:13-15,17-20; Jn 1:35-42

Deacon Jim McFadden; Divine Savior Catholic Church


        Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John does not depict Jesus calling the first disciples while walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Instead John emphasizes a different point: Jesus does not call them, but asks them “What are you looking for?”

I invite you to close your eyes.  Imagine that you are with John the Baptist and two of his disciples.  Jesus walks by and the Baptist says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  Cautiously, the two and you, follow the Lord.  Jesus stops, gazes into your eyes, and says, “What are you looking for?”

At this moment, what do you feel?  What do you say?

Like the disciples, each of us in some way have made tentative steps to follow the One who beckons us.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be at Mass this morning.  We know where we’ve been and we have a general sense of where we’re going.  But, perhaps we hesitate to surrender our whole being—heart, soul, and mind—to the Lord Jesus without some kind of assurance that he has a roadmap for this journey.  Even though he is the Way, he gives us no such assurances.  Like Abraham, he is inviting us to trust him, to go forth into an unknown land, into that “Cloud of Unknowing,” as the anonymous, medieval mystic once said. Jesus gazes deep into our souls, and asks “What are you looking for?”

The question is really one of Desire.  What is it that we really want?  People’s reactions will vary enormously.  But, our desires usually begin with the basics: of acquiring pleasure and avoiding pain, such as enjoying a good meal and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.   But, those desires, while natural and good, only satisfy our physical needs and there’s so much more to us than that.  So, we look for something more enduring, such as financial security, esteem from others based upon our accomplishments, and control over our lives.  These desires, while good if placed in perspective, are worthwhile, but we still yearn for more.  Once we’ve satisfied our desires for quantity, we seek a life of significance: we want our life to be meaningful; we want to leave a positive imprint on our sojourn here on earth.  But, even that is not enough.  Even a Mozart or Einstein had to ask, “Is that all?”  St. Augustine’s response to that question is  famously contained in the opening chapter of his Confessions:  “Our hearts were made for you and will be forever restless until they rest in you.”

Jesus, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” is asking the disciples, is asking us, “Are you in tune with your heart’s desire?”  Examine your life: “What are you looking for?”  We will keep looking until our desire is in complete harmony with God’s grand desire for us to be at-one with the triune God.  As Jesus petitioned his Father in his Priestly Prayer, “…that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also maybe in us” (Jn 17:21).

Sisters and brothers, our desires begin with many ‘whats’: pleasure, success, and ethical meaning.  But, these are preliminary; they dovetail towards a greater desire.  As we go deeper and deeper into the root of our Desire, as we follow Jesus’ invitation to “come and see,” we will find who we really are.  At the end of our searching, we come to a place where we are no longer looking for a “what,” but the “whom.”  When we look into the heart of our desires, we find that we truly and fully want to be ourselves and to be one with God and with each other.

How do we do that?  The disciples  had an intuition that Jesus was the ultimate object of their Desire.  So, they asked him, “Where are you staying?”  The disciples are moving towards commitment and surrender.    Here the Evangelist introduces one of the key theological emphases of his Gospel:  abiding, or staying with Jesus. The Greek verb  meaning (menein,) “to abide,” is repeated twice more, as the two went “and saw where Jesus was staying (menei), and they stayed (emeinan) with him.  Later in John 15,  the Evangelist uses the image of the Vine and the Branches to envisioned what it means to be intimately connected to and abide in Jesus and the One who sent him.

People of God, I encourage you to notice your immediate desires and to start each day reflecting  on what you are hoping for in the next 24 hours.  Bring these hopes to Jesus; be specific.  And, while you’re at it, try delving down a little to the roots of these desires.

Once you feel more comfortable with this habit of focusing on what you want for the day, try applying this technique to prayer.  What hopes and wishes are you bringing to prayer?  Imagine that Jesus is sitting with you in your sacred space, asking you very lovingly, “What are looking for today?  What would you hope for today?      May we strive to abide in Jesus.  Now and forever!