"Reality Is Superior to Ideas"

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Full text of the message of Pope Francis to the youth

University of Santo Tomas

January 18, 2015

When I speak spontaneously, I do it in Spanish because I don’t know English language. May I do it? Thank you very much. Here’s Father Mark, a good translator.

[As delivered by translator. Text in bold letters are spoken by the Pope himself.]

The sad news today: Yesterday, as mass was about to start, a piece of the scaffolding fell. And upon falling, it hit a young woman who was working in the area, and she died. Her name is Crystal. She worked for the organization and preparation for that very mass. She was 27 years old, young like yourselves. She worked for those Catholic relief services, a volunteer worker.

I would like all of you, young like her, to pray for a moment in silence with me and then we pray to Mama, our lady, in heaven. [silence] “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”

Let us also pray for her parents. She was the only daughter. Her mom is coming from Hong Kong and father come to Manila to wait. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

This is special for me to greet you this morning. I greet each of you from the heart and I thank all those who made this meeting possible. During my visit to the Philippines, I want in a particular way to meet young people; to listen to you and to talk with you. I want to express the love and the hopes of the Church for you, and I want to encourage you as Christian citizens of this country to offer yourselves passionately and honestly to the great work of renewing your society and helping to build a better world. In a special way, I thank the young people who have helped the worlds that they’re going to meet.

To Jun and Leandro and to Rikki, thank you very much. And only a very small representation of females among you, too little. [laughter] Women have much to tell us in today’s society. [laughter, applause] Sometimes we’re too ‘machistas’ and we don’t allow room for the woman. But women are capable of seeing things from a different angle to us, from a different eye. Women are able to pose questions that we, men, are not able to understand. Look out for this fact today: She, Glyzelle, is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. And she wasn’t able to express it in words but, rather, in tears. So, when the next Pope comes, please more girls, women, among the number. [cheers, applause]

I thank you, Jun, that you have expressed yourself so bravely. The nucleus of your question, as I said, also almost doesn’t have a reply. Only when we, too, can cry about the things we just said are we able to come close to replying to that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask yourself and cry, then we can understand something. There is a worldly compassion, which is useless. You spoke something of this. It’s a compassion, which, moreover, leads us to put our hand into the pocket and give something to someone, to the poor. If Christ had had that kind of compassion, He would have walked by, just two or three people, giving them something and moved on. But it’s only when Christ cried and was capable to cry that He understood our lives, what’s going on in our lives.

Dear girls, boys, young people, today’s world has a great lack of capacity of knowing how to cry. [-unclear-] Those that are left to one side are crying. Those who are discarded, those are crying, but we don’t understand much about these people without these necessities. Certain realities in life we only see through eyes that are cleansed through our tears. I invite each one of you here to ask yourself: Have I learned how to weep, how to cry? Have I learned how to weep for somebody who’s left to one side? Have I learned to weep for someone who has a drug problem? Have I learned to weep for someone who suffered abuse? Unfortunately, those that cry [was] because they want something else.

This is the first thing I’d like to say: Let us learn how to weep as she has shown us today. Let us not forget this lesson. The great question of why so many children suffer? She did this crying and the response that we can make today is – let us learn, really learn how to weep, how to cry. Jesus in the gospel, He cried. He cried for his dead friend. He cried in his heart, for the family that had list its child. He cried when he saw the poor widow having to bury her son. He was moved to tears, to compassion when he saw the multitude of crowds without a pastor.

If you don’t learn how to cry, you can’t be good Christians. This is a challenge. Jun and Glyzelle have posed this challenge to us today, and when they posed this question to us—why children suffer, why this and that tragedy occurs in life—our response must either be silence or a word that is borne of our tears. Be courageous; please don’t be frightened of crying.

Then came Leandro Santos II and his question. He also posed the questions, the world of information. Today, with so many means of communications, we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? Not necessarily. It is good and it can help. But there is a real danger of living in a way of accumulating information. We have so much information, but maybe we don’t know what to do with that information. We’re on the risk of becoming museums of young people that have everything but without knowing what to do with them. We don’t need youth museums, but we do need holy young people.

You might ask me: ‘Father, how do we become saints?’ This is another challenge. It’s the challenge of love. Which is the most important subject that you have to learn in university? What is the most important subject you have to learn in life? To learn how to love and this is the challenge that life offers you: To learn how to love and not just accumulating information without knowing what to do with it. But through that love, that information bear fruit.

After this, the gospel offers us a serene path and way forward. Use the three languages: of the mind, of the heart, and of your hands. And the three, to use them in harmony: What you think, you must feel and put into effect. Your information comes down to your heart and you realize it in real works. And this, harmoniously. Think what you feel and what you do. Feel what you think and feel what you do. You do what you think and what you feel—the three languages. Can you repeat this? To think, to feel, and to do. To think, to feel, and to do. To think, to feel, and to do. And all that, harmoniously.

Pope Francis, center, dances with Filipino children during his meeting with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. Francis opened his meeting with the Filipino youth on a somber note, reporting to thousands gathered at the centuries-old university the sad news that a female church volunteer had died during his visit to central Tacloban city the previous day, and led prayers for the woman. At top left with a red sash is Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Real love is about loving and letting yourselves be loved. Let yourselves to be loved. That is why it’s so difficult to come to perfect love of God because we can love him, but it is so important to let yourselves be loved by him. Real love is opening yourselves to the love that wants to come to you, which cause a surprise in us. If you only have information, then the element of surprise is gone. Love opens you to surprise and is a surprise because it presupposes dialogue between the two: of loving and being loved.

And we say that God is a God of surprises because He always loved us first and he awaits us with a surprise. God surprises us. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God. Let us not have the psychology of the computer: to think that we know it all. All the responses on the computer screen have no real surprise. The challenge of love: God reveals himself through surprises.

Let’s think of St. Matthew. He was a good financier and he let people down because he imposed taxes against his own citizens, the Jews, to give to the Romans. He was full of money and charged these taxes. But then Jesus goes by, He looks at him, and He says ‘follow me.’ He couldn’t believe it. If you have time, go and see the picture that Caravaggio painted about the story. Jesus calls him and those around him said ‘this one? He has betrayed. He’s no good and he holds money to himself.’ But the surprise of being love overcomes him.

It is this way. The day when Matthew left his home, said goodbye to his wife, he never thought he was going to come back without money, and worried and concerned about how to have such a big feast—to prepare that feast for Him who have loved him first, who surprised Matthew. It’s something very special, more important than the money that Matthew had. Allow yourselves to be surprised by God and don’t be frightened of surprises. They shake the ground from underneath your feet and they make us unsure, but they move us forward in the right direction.

Real life, real love leads you to spend yourselves in life, to leave your pockets open and empty. St. Francis died with empty hands, with empty pockets, but with a very full heart. So, no young museums, wise young people. To be wise, use the three languages: to think well, to feel well, and to do well. And to be wise, allow yourselves to be surprised by the love of God, and that’s a good life. Thank you.

He who came with a good plan was Rikki, to see how he can go in life. With all the activities, the multiple facets that accompany young people, thank you, Rikki. Thank you for what you do and your friends. I’d like to ask you, Rikki, a question: You and your friends are going to give help, but do you allow yourselves to receive? Rikki, answer in your heart.

In the gospel we just heard, the beautiful, which, for me, is the most important of all… He looked at the young man, Jesus Christ, and He loved him. When you see young group of friends, Rikki and his friends, who love so much because they do things that are really good. But the most important phrase that Jesus says, “You lack one thing.” Let us listen to these words in silence: “You lack only one thing. You lack only one thing… [Repeat] with us: “You lack only one thing. You lack only one thing.”

What is it that I lack? To all who Jesus loved so much, I ask you, do you allow others to give you from their riches to you that don’t have those riches? Sad to see that doctors of the law, in the time of Jesus, gave much to the people. They taught them but they never allowed the people to give them something. Jesus had to come to allow Himself to feel compassion, to be loved. How many young people among you are there like this? You know how to give and yet you haven’t yet learned how to receive. You lack only one thing: Become a beggar—to become a beggar. This is what you lack, to learn how to beg and to those to whom we give. This isn’t easy to understand: To learn how to beg. To learn how to receive with humility. To learn to be evangelized by the poor.

Those that we help, the poor, the infirm, orphans, they have so much to offer us. Have I learned how to beg also for that or do I feel self-sufficient and I’m only going to offer something and think that you have no need of anything? Do you know that you, too, are poor? Do you know your poverty and the need that you receive? Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve, let them give to you?

And this is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to the others, to give to others: to learn how to offer up your hand from your very own poverty. There are some points that I prepared: to learn how to love and to learn how to be loved. It is a challenge, which is a challenge of integrity. This is not only because your country, more than many others, is likely to be seriously affected by climate change. It is a challenge to [have] concern for the environment. And finally, the challenge for the poor—to love the poor.

With the bishops, to ask in a very special way, for the poor. Do you think with the poor? Do you feel with the poor? Do you do something for the poor? Do you ask the poor that they might give you the wisdom that they have? This is what I wish to tell you all today. Sorry, I haven’t read what I prepared for you, but I’m consoled. Reality is superior to ideas. And the reality that you all have is superior to the paper in front of me. Thank you very much. Thank you.