Pope Francis will meet, from today on, with hundreds of thousands of young people, coming from all over the world to celebrate their faith in community. He’s going to offer a word of encouragement and support, also the closeness of the entire Church in these complex and difficult times many of them are living. But, above all, he shall practice the “apostolate of the ear,” as he has already mentioned in so many occasions.
Francis knows what is in the hearts and minds of young people today, but not because he has read it on a survey or poll, but because he is actively listening to what the young people have to say.
“It takes patience and grace,” he told a group of university students in Rome in June, “to really listen what others have to say.” He repeated the same words during a recent Angelus, warning that the busy lives of the people were threatening the ability to listen.
Francis does not want to live isolated in his position as pope. He has endeavored to approach the realities of people, often even breaking the protocol to have a closer look at what today’s youth think and feel. He discards pre-written speeches and ask the people meeting him to ask freely, even those who are not Catholic or even religious.
In our Vincentian Family there are many young people who want to be heard… who are to be heard. This weekend in Poland over a thousand young vincentians gathered, coming from all over the globe, in a meeting prior to WYD. Many of them passionately follow Jesus Christ in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul, and provide a fresh and updated view to the charism of our Family. When many Vincentian branches in some countries of our world, especially in Europe and North America, are undergoing a gradual process of aging, young people are the ones who have the ability to renew our branches, in order to better serve the poor.
We must listen to young people; we must accompany them in their struggles and difficulties, but also we must let them animate us with their passion and strength, and we must give them space in our ministries. They are not only the future of the Church and the Vincentian Family: they are the present.