April 25, 2008

Christ our Hope: Apostolic Journey to the United States 2008

Teenagers embrace pope’s message of hope at youth rally

Pope Benedict XVI at the youth and seminarian rally on April 19 at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. (Photo by Katie Ciresi)

Pope Benedict XVI at the youth and seminarian rally on April 19 at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. (Photo by Katie Ciresi)

By Bryce Bennett

New York—Pope Benedict XVI shared a message of faith and hope in Jesus, the Church and young people when he spoke to the youth and seminarian rally on April 19 at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.

A crowd of 25,000—including 44 youths and six chaperones from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis—listened attentively to the special message.

The pope began his speech by thanking God for the good that society does in the lives of young people. (Read his whole address)

“As young Americans, you are offered many oppor­tunities for personal development, and you are brought up with a sense of generosity, service and fairness,” Pope Benedict said. “Let us thank God that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights.”

Yet he also acknowledged dangers in society. He tried to connect with the thousands of young people in attendance by reflecting on his life growing up in Nazi Germany.

“My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers,” Pope Benedict said.

He expanded on the darkness of society and split the areas of darkness into two groups.

The first group is society’s “culture of death.” He called for people to work for the dignity of every human being, born or unborn.

Pope Benedict also warned that this darkness lives in the mind through temptations and distorted thoughts.

The pope said we can avoid these areas of darkness through four related elements: prayer, the liturgy, charity and religious vocations.

“Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules,” Pope Benedict explained. “It is a discovery of the one who never fails; the one whom we can always trust.”

A key point to the focus on prayer covered by Pope Benedict is the element of silent prayer. Believers must first develop a strong personal relationship with God, Pope Benedict said. Then, and only then, God will hear the call, and people have to be ready to listen.

“What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer,” Pope Benedict noted. “God by his very nature speaks, hears and replies.”

Adding to that message, the Holy Father said that prayer and hope are directly related and interchangeable.

“Prayer is hope in action,” Pope Benedict proclaimed. “Leave space to hear God’s whisper… Listen to God. … Adore him in his Eucharist.”

On the issue of charity, Pope Benedict told the audience, “We must listen deeply to God and respond with proper social action. I urge you to shake off any temptations and devote yourself to charity.”

Kaleb Bramer, 16, of St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville, thought Pope Benedict did a good job of reaching the various groups of people present at the rally.

“I thought the rally was awesome,” Kaleb said excitedly. “I thought it was impressive in the way he was able to reach the entire audience.”

Kaleb felt a connection to the pope’s call for sacrifice and service as a way of bringing about God’s kingdom.

“I do mission trips in the summer and I find it enjoyable,” Kaleb explained. “I also like that I am able to help others.”

Pope Benedict concluded his message to the youths and seminarians of America with a discussion of vocations in the Church.

He called for all men and women to look to God for guidance in discerning their true vocation, whether that means holy orders, religious life or married life. The best way to discern a vocation, according to Pope Benedict, is a combination of prayer, service and participation in the liturgy.

He offered this advice to any person who felt lost or unsure in their discernment.

“Have courage!” Pope Benedict proclaimed. “You, too, can make your life a gift of sacrifice.” †

(Click here to see a blog and photos from the youth’s pilgrimage to New York)

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