Loreto: Prayer Vigil, 1 September 2007
Pope Benedict XVI
Dream with eyes wide open: nothing is impossible for those who trust in God
On Saturday afternoon, 1 September , the Holy Father travelled by helicopter from the Papal Summer Residence at Castel Gandolfo to Loreto, to preside at the Italian National Meeting which ends the first year of the Agora (gathering) of Italian youth organized by the Italian Bishops' Conference. It was the Holy Father's first Visit to the Shrine as Pope, but he had previously visited it several times.
The Pope was welcomed on his arrival at the John Paul II Centre in the Montorso neighbourhood by Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, President of Italian Bishops' Conference; Archbishop Gianni Danzi, head of the Shrine; Mr. Francesco Rutelli, Vice-President of the Council of Ministers and Minister for Cultural Heritage and Tourism who represented the Italian Government; as well as other dignitaries. After being greeted by the Authorities, the Pope arrived at the Plain of Montorso in the Popemobile.
About 300,000 young people, mainly from Italy but also from places such as Turkey and Australia, converged in Loreto to meet the Pope and for a spiritual experience. The city of the Holy House has a population of 11,000 and five parishes. The Agora for Italian Youth began on Wednesday, 29 August, with three days of initiatives, Masses, prayers and festivities organized by the local Churches and religious movements.
"Loreto07" took place mainly on the Plain of Montorso, 4 kilometres from Loreto. Five giant screens were set up to enable all the young people to see what was happening on the platform. The event was broadcast live on television and radio. Eight "Fountains of Light", were set up to meet the young people's various needs: "Mary, Fount of Salvation", the "Fountain of the Eucharist" for adoration, the "Fountain of Reconciliation" for those wishing to receive the Sacrament of Penance, the "Fountain of Listening", the "Fountain of True Love" for couples, the "Fountain of the Vocation" dedicated to the themes of special consecration, the "Fountain of Creation" and "The Fountain of Dialogue". The young people had access to these workshops for listening and spirituality, even after the Prayer Vigil.
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On Saturday evening, 1 September, on the Plain of Montorso, Loreto, the Holy Father encouraged the young people during the Prayer Vigil and offered them recommendations. The following is a translation of the Pope's Address, given in Italian.
Dear young people who are the hope of the Church in Italy! I am happy to meet you in this remarkable place, on this special evening, rich in prayer, song, periods of silence, full of hope and profound emotion. This valley, where in the past also my beloved Predecessor John Paul II met many of you, has henceforth become your agora, your square without walls and barriers, where a thousands streets converge and from which they branch out.
I listened with attention to those who have spoken on behalf of you all. You have come to this peaceful, authentic and joyful place of encounter for thousands of different reasons: some of you because you belong to a group or were invited by some friend, some by deep conviction, some with several doubts in your heart and some merely out of curiosity.... Whatever the reason that drew you here, I can tell you, although it requires courage to say it, that it was the Holy Spirit who has brought us together. Yes, that is exactly the case; the Spirit has led you here; you have come here with your doubts and certainties, with your joys and your anxieties. It is now up to all of us, to all of you, to open your hearts and offer everything to Jesus.
Say to him: here I am; of course, I am not yet as you would like me to be, I cannot even manage to understand myself fully but with your help I am ready to follow you. Lord Jesus, this evening I would like to speak to you, making my own the inner attitude and trusting abandonment of that young woman who, 2,000 years ago, said her "yes" to the Father who chose her to be your Mother. The Father chose her because she was docile and obedient to his will. Like her, like little Mary, each one of you, dear young friends, should say to God with faith: "Here I am; let it be done to me according to your word".
What an amazing spectacle of young and stirring faith we are experiencing this evening! And this evening, thanks to you, Loreto has become the spiritual capital of youth; the centre towards which multitudes of the young people who populate the five Continents converge in spirit.
A happy life filled with meaning
At this moment, we feel as though we were surrounded by the expectations and hopes of millions of young people across the world: at this very minute there are some who are watching, others who are asleep, yet others who are studying or working; some are hoping and some despairing, some believe and others are not able to believe, some love life and others, instead, are throwing it away.
I would like my words to reach them all: the Pope is close to you, he shares your joys and your pain, and he especially shares in the most intimate hopes that are in your soul. For each one of you he asks the Lord for the gift of a full and happy life, a life filled with meaning, a true life.
Today, unfortunately, all too often a full and happy existence is seen by many young people as a difficult dream — we heard so many testimonies — sometimes almost impossible to accomplish. So many of your peers are looking to the future with apprehension and ask many questions. Worried, they ask: How is it possible to be integrated in a society marked by a multitude of grave injustices and suffering? How should I react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can I give life full meaning?
With love and conviction, I repeat to you young people present here, and through you to your peers throughout the world: Do not be afraid, Christ can fill your heart's deepest aspirations! Are there dreams that cannot come true when it is God's Spirit who inspires and nourishes them in your heart? Can anything block our enthusiasm when we are united with Christ? Nothing and no one, the Apostle Paul would say, will ever separate us from God's love, in Christ Jesus Our Lord (cf. Rom 8:35-39).
Let me tell you again this evening: if you stay united with Christ, each one of you will be able to do great things. This is why, dear friends, you must not be afraid to dream with your eyes open of important projects of good and you must not let yourselves be discouraged by difficulties. Christ has confidence in you and wants you to be able to realize all your most noble and lofty dreams of genuine happiness. Nothing is impossible for those who trust in God and entrust themselves to him.
Look at the young Mary; the Angel proposed something truly inconceivable to her: participation, in the most involving way possible, in the greatest of God's plans, the salvation of humanity. Facing this proposal, Mary, as we heard in the Gospel, was distressed for she realized the smallness of her being before the omnipotence of God; and she asked herself: "How is it possible? Why should it be me?". Yet, ready to do the divine will, she promptly said her "yes" which changed her life and the history of all humanity. It is also thanks to her "yes" that we are meeting here this evening.
I ask myself and I ask you: can God's requests to us, however demanding they may seem, ever compare with what God asked the young Mary? Dear young men and women, since Mary truly knows what it means to respond generously to the Lord's requests, let us learn from her to say our own "yes".
Mary, dear young people, knows your noblest and deepest aspirations. Above all, she well knows your great desire for love, with your need to love and to be loved. By looking at her, by following her docilely, you will discover the beauty of love; not a "disposable" love that is transient and deceptive, imprisoned in a selfish and materialistic mindset, but true, deep love.
In the very depths of their hearts, every young man, every young woman who are looking out on life, cherish the dream of a love that will give full meaning to their futures. For many, this is fulfilled in the choice of marriage and in the formation of a family in which the love between a man and a woman is lived as a definitive gift, sealed by the "yes" spoken before God on their wedding day, a "yes" for their whole life.
I know well that today this dream is always less easy to realize. How many failures of love surround us! How many couples bow their heads, give up and separate! How many families fall to pieces! How many young people, even among you, have witnessed the separation and divorce of their parents!
I would like to say to those in such sensitive and complex situations: the Mother of God, the Community of believers and the Pope are beside you and are praying that the crisis that marks today's families may not become an irreversible failure. May Christian families, with the support of divine Grace, stay faithful to that solemn commitment of love joyfully assumed before the priest and the Christian community on the solemn day of their marriage.
Do not be frightened!
In the face of so many failures these questions are often asked: Am I any better than my friends and my parents who have tried and failed? Why should I myself succeed where so many have given up? This human fear can be daunting to even the more courageous spirits but in this night that awaits us, in front of her Holy House, Mary will repeat to each one of you, dear young friends, the words that she herself heard the Angel say to her: Do not be afraid, do not fear!
The Holy Spirit is with you and will never leave you. Nothing is impossible to those who trust in God. This applies for those who are destined to married life and still more for those to whom God proposes a life of total detachment from earthly goods, to be dedicated full time to his Kingdom. Some of you have set out towards the priesthood, towards the consecrated life; some of you aspire to be missionaries, knowing how many and what risks this entails.
I am thinking of the missionaries, priests, women religious and lay people, who have fallen in the trenches of love at the service of the Gospel. Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, for whom we prayed when he was kidnapped in the Philippines, will have much to tell us about this and today we rejoice to have him with us. Through him, I would like to greet and thank all those who spend their lives for Christ on the frontiers of evangelization.
Dear young people, if the Lord calls you to live more intimately at his service, respond generously. You may be certain: life dedicated to God is never spent in vain.
Dear young people, I shall end my talk here, not without first having embraced you with a father's heart. I embrace you one by one and greet you warmly. I greet the Bishops present, starting with Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, and Archbishop Gianni Danzi who has welcomed us into his Ecclesial Community. I greet the priests, the Religious and the animators who have accompanied you. I greet the Civil Authorities and all who organized this Meeting. We will be "virtually" united later and we will see one another again tomorrow morning, at the end of this night of Vigil, for the crowning point of our Meeting when Jesus makes himself truly present in his Word and in the mystery of the Eucharist.
From this moment, I would like to make an appointment with you young people in Sydney where, in a year's time, the next World Youth Day will be held. I know Australia is far away and for young Italians it is literally at the other end of the world.... Let us pray that the Lord who works every miracle will grant that many of you may be there. May he grant it to me, may he grant it to you. This is one of our many dreams which tonight, as we pray together, we entrust to Mary. Amen.
Weekly Edition in English
5 September 2007, page 3
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