LISBON – Pope Francis told a crowd of young people Saturday estimated by organizers at 1.5 million not to spend life at a standstill, but to imitate the Virgin Mary in “making haste” to share their joy with others.
“Mary does not hesitate; she takes the initiative and sets out to help her cousin. Above all, she hastens to give her the most precious gift of all, which is joy. Mary is a missionary of joy. That is why she set out in haste,” the pope said, speaking to youth gathered in Lisbon’s Tejo Park.
He spoke during an official prayer vigil for World Youth Day (WYD), a global gathering of young people celebrating their faith often referred to as “Catholic Woodstock” due to the large and raucous crowds it draws.
Pope Francis arrived in Portugal Wednesday for the event, and will close the gathering Sunday morning with a large public Mass.
Despite concerns over his eyesight after tossing aside three prepared texts in a row during the trip, beginning with an address to representatives of charitable organizations Friday morning which the pope said he skipped due to problems with lighting, the 86-year-old pontiff has seemed in relatively good form, appearing tired, but energetic and engaged.
In his speech at Saturday’s vigil, Francis again ignored his prepared remarks to reflect on the theme of this year’s WYD gathering, “Mary went in haste,” saying she went quickly “because she loves,” and immediately wanted to help when she found out her cousin was pregnant.
Asking youth why Mary went in such haste after hearing the announcement from the Angel Gabriel, he said Mary went “Because joy is missionary, it’s not for myself, but to give to others.”
“You who are here, who came to hear the word of Christ, did you come for yourselves or for others?” he asked, telling them to shout back their responses.
When they crowd shouted back “others,” Francis nodded, saying this is because “joy is missionary. I have to give this joy to others.”
“Now let’s look back and think of everything we have received, that has prepared our hearts for joy. All of us. Let us think about the people that have been rays of light,” whether they are parents, grandparents, teachers, catechists or others, he said.
He urged the youths present to pause for a moment of silence and think about the people in their lives who have brought joy and have provided those roots.
“All of us have people behind us who are roots for our light,” he said, saying, “We have roots of joy, and we can also be roots of joys to others…a joy that brings roots.”
“This joy that came from the roots is what we must give, because we have roots of joy and we must also be roots of joy for others,” he said, saying the joy of God is “not a passive joy, but a joy that creates roots.”
“Joy is not hidden, it’s not hidden under key, we have to look for it, we have to,” and this “is sometimes tiring,” he said, asking, “do you get tired sometimes?”
When the crowd shouted back “yes,” he asked what happens when one gets tired, saying oftentimes, “you don’t want to do anything,” and that when this happens, a person quits walking and falls down.
“You need to rise up,” he said, saying a fall is never permanent, and asking the youths what they would do if they fell down in life, to which they responded that they would get back up.
Referencing a song he heard, the pope spoke of the “art of ascending,” saying that if one falls when climbing a mountain, “what is important is not my fall, but not staying fallen down.”
“When we see one of our [friends] fallen down, what must we do? Go to them,” he said, saying, “the only reason to look at someone is to lift them up.”
He challenged the youth, asking, “How many times do we not look because…we turn the other way?” saying they should always help others to raise back up and walk.
Pope Francis said that in pursuing one’s goal, “sometimes we don’t feel like it,” and don’t have the desire to do anything. In this case, he pointed to soccer as an example, saying “behind each success there is a lot of training.”
“There is no course for learning how to walk in life, it’s learned by parents, by friends, walking is learned and that is from training,” he said, saying a commitment to keep going must be made “every day of life, because nothing in life is free,” apart from the love of God.
“With the love of Jesus, we can walk in hope,” he said, again urging them to remember their roots, because in remembering them “we can walk forward without fear, do not be afraid!”
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