‘Finally, I would like to say a word to you, my dear young Catholics of Scotland. I urge you to lead lives worthy of our Lord (cf. Eph 4:1) and of yourselves. There are many temptations placed before you every day - drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol - which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive. There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to pray for vocations: I pray that many of you will know and love Jesus Christ and, through that encounter, will dedicate yourselves completely to God, especially those of you who are called to the priesthood and religious life. This is the challenge the Lord gives to you today: the Church now belongs to you!’
Pope Benedict XVI’s homily at Bellahouston, 16.9.10
I have some fond memories of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Scotland in 1982. I was only eight years old at the time, but remember the excitement of his visit, seeing him pass by on his tour around the park with Archbishop Winning, the beautiful summer’s day and taking part in the Mass celebrated with so many people. I recall people cheering, shouting, waving flags and a real sense of a celebration. The visit of Pope Benedict had a similar sense of festival, and yet it was different. As an eight year old, I have no recollection of what Pope John Paul said. Some twenty eight years on, the experience was different.
As chaplain to young people in Glasgow, I had participated at World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 and had some experience of Benedict’s words to young people. His messages, particularly for World Youth Day on Palm Sunday each year, offer a unique insight into the vocation of a Christian. His words at Bellahouston on that day in September 2010 were no different and as I listened to what he had to say, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of joy and enthusiasm for living the Gospel: a real sense of excitement for passing on the powerful message of the Gospel.
Pope Benedict is clearly very aware of the temptations that exist for young people in their pursuit of happiness, and yet he calls them to be seekers: to search for, know and love God. In fact, the following day addressing young people specifically, he said “Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God.” (Address to young people at St. Mary’s College, Twickenham, 17th September 2010). The vocation of Christian life is to find happiness in God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is indeed good news to be shared and to be explored for many years to come with young people in their search for happiness.
A particular expression of this happiness for the Holy Father is clearly found in the vocation to priesthood and religious life. Having found a personal relationship with Christ, the Pope urges young people to ‘completely dedicate themselves to God’. In fact, he mentioned this again specifically when he said that Jesus “needs the powerful love of contemplative religious, who sustain the Church’s witness and activity through their constant prayer. And he needs priests, good and holy priests, men who are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep.” (Vigil at Hyde Park, 18th September 2010)
Benedict’s message is consistent. In fact, in his message for WYD 2011, he writes: “Enter into a personal dialogue with Jesus Christ and cultivate it in faith. Get to know him better by reading the Gospels and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Converse with him in prayer, and place your trust in him.” This certainly rings a bell with the words he delivered at Bellahouston and continues to say in subsequent addresses. Even as recently as his letter to young people on the occasion of this year’s World Youth Day where expresses joy as the focus for the search, it is clear that the Holy Father wants young people to find happiness and joy in their lives, to avoid those things which may seem tempting, but bring only momentary gratification and to find true meaning in a real and personal relationship with Christ.
The challenge of the Pope’s message might be found in the closing words of his homily at Bellahouston when he said to the young people gathered: “The Church now belongs to you!” Perhaps this invitation is even clearer in his letter for World Youth Day 2011, when he says: “the Church depends on you! She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church.”
For those who answer the call to priesthood or religious life, this is the challenge: to direct our energy with lively faith, creative charity and the energy of hope, giving new life into the Church and supporting its continued growth in the years to come. Using your gifts, talents, strengths and energy at the service of God and his people brings life to others and allows other to enter into the personal relationship with Christ. This is good news and must be shared.
For those considering a vocation to Priesthood or the Religious Life, Pope Benedict urges: “Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say “yes!” Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfil your vocation."
Rev. David Wallace