ROME – In order to reclaim our Christian legacy, Pope Francis invites faithful not to be discouraged by pain and suffering along the way but to “sharpen your sight” to the signs and witness left to us by our fathers.
“We can’t watch reality from the terrace, nor can we remain comfortably seated on the couch watching the world pass before our eyes on TV,” the pope said in a letter, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Italian Bishop Francesco Lambiasi of Rimini on occasion of the 38th annual meeting of the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation.
“Only by earning back the true, the beautiful and the good that our fathers have left us, will we be able to experience as an opportunity this epochal change that we are immersed in, as a chance to communicate convincingly to men the joy of the Gospel,” the pope continued.
The Communion and Liberation movement was founded by Monsignor Luigi Giussani in 1954 and today is present in 90 countries and counts thousands of members who look to it for spiritual and intellectual formation.
Every year the movement meets in the Italian beach town of Rimini with the participation of high-ranking Church and government officials, as well as scientists and intellectuals, to reflect on a wide-ranging topic.
In the letter, read by the president of the Meeting foundation, Emilia Guarnieri, during the Mass inaugurating the event, Francis praised the practice of reflecting on issues that are normally put in second place in our chaotic and fast-paced lives.
“Everything seems to roll off our back, taken as we are with the angst of turning the page quickly. Life is fragmented and risks withering,” the pope wrote. “For this reason it’s important once in a while to stop and consider the great questions that define us as human beings and that are impossible to altogether forget.”
This year the phrase that will motivate the meeting is from the novel Faust by the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “What you inherit from your father must first be earned before it’s yours.”
This phase encourages us to go back to the origins, Francis said, adding that for too long we kept the legacy of our fathers with us like a treasure “that we only needed to preserve in order to keep the flame alive.”
“This wasn’t the case,” the pope wrote. “That fire that burned in the chest of those who came before us has slowly abated.”
The pope pointed to one of the limitations of society today, which is to have “little memory” and to dismiss as a useless burden all that has come before us. This, the pope continued, has very serious consequences because new generations are left without a memory and by forgetting the past we cannot hope to build a future.
“We live in a time that is favorable for a Church that reaches out,” the pope wrote, but it has to be “rich in memory, entirely pushed by the wind of the Spirit to encounter the man who is looking for a reason to live.”
Such reasons can easily be found in the world, which is full of traces that remind us of the existence of God, starting with creation, the pope pointed out, adding that “God is not a memory, but a presence, to welcome always anew, as the lover does for his beloved.”
As Christians we must not lose our way and become so caught up in the faraway past as to become nostalgic, the letter states, but we must look forward hopefully. The pope calls us to go out zealously and face the challenges that everyday need new answers, all the while staying open to the surprises of the Spirit.
Only this way, the pope says, can we avoid the “Alzheimer of the spirit,” which leads us to forget our millennial love story with God and as a consequence makes us frightened and unable to move.
“If we abandon the safe port of our relationship with the Father, we become pray of whims and desires of the moment, slaves of the ‘false infinites,’ which promise the moon, but leave us disappointed and sad, in the agonizing search for something that fills the void of the heart,” Francis wrote.
The letter concludes with the pope reminding all those who will be attending the Meeting to keep their eyes open to the many signs that God has left in order to “be able to offer people a living answer to the great questions of the human heart.”