Yesterday evening in St. Peter's Square more than 70,000 young people, most of them from dioceses in Rome and Lazio but also from other areas of Italy, met with the Pope for an encounter of prayer, meditation and dialogue, in an event organized to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of World Youth Days, established by John Paul II in 1985. A number of people bore witness to their faith, in a program of events that also included songs and dances. Silence descended as the World Youth Day Cross was carried into the square in a torchlight procession, accompanied by an image of the Blessed Virgin "Salus Populi Romani".
On his arrival in the square, Benedict XVI thanked the young people for their participation, their "magnificent witness of faith" and their "eagerness to follow Jesus". He then responded to questions put to him by three of the youthful participants.
"What can I do with my life to make it great and beautiful?" was the first question put to the Holy Father who, referring to the parable of the rich young man, replied by saying "in the first place, do not waste life, but live it profoundly, not living only for oneself.”
"God wanted my life since all eternity", the Holy Father went on. "I am loved, I am necessary. God has a plan for me in the totality of history. ... For this reason, the first step is to know, to seek to know, God. ... Then it is essential to love. ... These are, so to say, rules of love, ... with the following essential points: the family as the foundation of society; life, to be respected as a gift of God; order in sexuality, in relations between man and woman; order in society and, finally, truth. ... Perfection (that is, being good, living in faith and truth) is substantially one thing, but has many different forms. ... Finding my vocation and living it everywhere is important and fundamental, whether I am a great scientist or a labourer".
The second question was "what does it mean to say that Jesus looks at us with love, and how can we have this experience today?" to which the Pope replied: "Of course I would say that we can, because the Lord is always present and looks at each one of us with love. But it is up to us to discover His gaze". The first step, he explained, "is to know the figure of Jesus as He appears in the Gospels", but we must know Him, "not just academically and theoretically, but with the heart; that is, we must talk to Jesus in prayer. ... Reason is also necessary but, at the same time, so is the heart". The key elements are "to listen, to respond, to enter into the community of believers and into communion with Christ in the Sacraments where He gives Himself to us (the Eucharist, Confession etc), and finally, to put the words of faith into practice that they may become a power in my life".
"Where can I find the strength to make courageous choices, and who can help me?" was the third and last question put to Benedict XVI. Let us begin, he replied "with what is a difficult word for us: sacrifice. ... Even a good professional life cannot be accomplished without sacrifices, without adequate preparation, which always requires discipline". In the same way, "the art of being human also requires sacrifices" which "are explained in the Word of God and help us not to fall into the abyss of drugs, alcohol, slavery to sexuality, slavery to money, laziness. ... Being able to renounce the temptation of the moment, to move towards goodness creates true freedom and makes life valuable. In this context, I feel, we must realize that without a 'no' towards certain things, the great 'yes' to true life cannot develop".