Bring the children unto me

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 19, 2008
Saturday afternoon in New York in the springtime. The streets in downtown Manhattan are teeming with people of all ages, races and fashions. But Pope Benedict XVI isn't there. He's in Yonkers hugging and kissing disabled children and soaking in the joyful exuberance of youth.

At St. Joseph's Seminary, the Pope has come to meet some disabled children and their parents. The kids have been there for hours and are getting a little restless, waiting for this old man in a white dress. A few little ones are crying. But finally, he arrives and all is forgiven.

He has a few words of greeting. But more important than the words are his touch. He walks up and down the central aisle of the chapel twice, spending long moments hugging and blessing the children. The kids beam and mothers burst into tears.

In the choir loft, the St. Patrick's Youth Choir is note perfect. Down below, a deaf choir does sign language of the lyrics for the hymns. It is a blessed moment.

But the action isn't over. Out in the sprawling backyard for this seminary await more than 20,000 youth from the U.S. Eastern seaboard. They are in full World Youth Day mode, armed with towels in the papal colours of yellow and white. They let out full-throated cheers for this shy Pope and he smiles and waves back.

For them, the Pope is the main event. Even former American Idol champion Kelly Clarkson singing Ave Maria (she sang like an angel) can't overshadow Pope Benedict

The Pope has some words for the youth. In the backdrop on the stage are pictures of American saints and near saints: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; St. Frances Xavier Cabrini; St. John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha; Venerable Pierre Toussaint and Padre Felix Varela. As Pope Benedict observers, they are all different, “poor and rich, lay men and women — one a wealthy wife and mother — priests and sisters, immigrants from afar, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior father and Algonquin mother, another a Haitian slave and a Cuban intellectual.”

Yet they all have some things in common. They are “inflamed with the love of Jesus” and serve Him in countless ways.

Pope Benedict also observes that it isn't easy being young today. All kinds of things get in the way of God and the moral life: the allure of celebrity and wealth, substance abuse, homelessness, racism, violence and degradation. Not to mention relativism and other modern evils.

But Pope Benedict urges the youth to take courage from the example of the saints mentioned above. “Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship. . . . Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder. We stand before the God we know and love as a friend, the vastness of His creation, and the beauty of our Christian faith.

He calls the young to develop four things from the treasure of the Catholic faith: prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, charity in action and religious vocations.

“Friends, again I ask you, what about today? What are you seeking? What is God whispering to you? The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ. . . . Tell others about the truth that sets you free.”

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