April 4, 2019 — There’s one line in Pope Francis’ new document on young people and the church (titled “Christus vivit,” or “Christ is Alive”) I keep chuckling about:
“Make a ruckus!” he writes, speaking directly to youth and young adults.
We have a pope who literally wrote “ruckus” in an official papal document. I can’t get over it. (Well, whoever translated the document from Spanish into English used “ruckus.”)
Plus, there’s that context. Pope Francis is giving advice here — the exact opposite advice I usually give my kids when I ask them not to make a ruckus, please, because McDonald’s is a public place and you need to quiet down a little.
Here’s more of the paragraph (no. 143) where this mischievous advice is offered:
“Whatever you do, do not become the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle! Don’t be parked cars, but dream freely and make good decisions. Take risks, even if it means making mistakes. Don’t go through life anesthetized or approach the world like tourists. Make a ruckus! Cast out the fears that paralyze you, so that you don’t become young mummies. Live! Give yourselves over to the best of life! Open the door of the cage, go out and fly! Please, don’t take an early retirement.”
A few observations here: There are about eight metaphors crammed into that paragraph, and I can imagine most of them being printed on inspirational dorm-room posters they sell at Target (#LiveLaughLove). There are also five exclamation points, among the 41 that appear throughout the letter. This paragraph is pretty corny. I can’t read it without rolling my eyes a bit.
However: I love it so much. The pope, the Vicar of Christ, the Supreme Pontiff, is talking to me like a kind, twinkly-eyed grandfather. He is so filled with the joy of Christ that he can’t! help! shouting! about! it!
This is a great example of what draws me to Pope Francis. He is genuine and energetic. If my own faith is lethargic and uninspired on a particular day, I can tell myself to keep going because I want to be about what Pope Francis is about. (This is what saints — living and dead, canonized and unofficial — are for.)
Here are nine other quotes that strike me:
1. Pope Francis understands it’s easy to fall into complacency or cynicism.
If you have lost your inner vitality, your dreams, your enthusiasm, your optimism and your generosity, Jesus stands before you as once he stood before the dead son of the widow, and with all the power of his resurrection he urges you: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Lk 7:14). (Paragraph 20)
2. We Christians can’t be a holier-than-thou exclusive club, but we can share our life of beauty and meaning with the world.
Certainly, as members of the Church, we should not stand apart from others. … Yet at the same time we must dare to be different, to point to ideals other than those of this world, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, fidelity to our personal vocation, prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship. (Paragraph 36)
3. It’s OK to question our faith!
A Church always on the defensive, which loses her humility and stops listening to others, which leaves no room for questions, loses her youth and turns into a museum. (Paragraph 41)
4. At the heart of our faith is one truth: God loves you.
The very first truth I would tell each of you is this: “God loves you”. It makes no difference whether you have already heard it or not. I want to remind you of it. God loves you. Never doubt this, whatever may happen to you in life. At every moment, you are infinitely loved. (Paragraph 112)
5. The evil so present in the world does not have the final word.
See Jesus as happy, overflowing with joy. Rejoice with him as with a friend who has triumphed. They killed him, the holy one, the just one, the innocent one, but he triumphed in the end. Evil does not have the last word. Nor will it have the last word in your life, for you have a friend who loves you and wants to triumph in you. Your Savior lives. (Paragraph 126)
6. Want to experience the love of God? Spend time with your friends.
Friendship is one of life’s gifts and a grace from God. Through our friends, the Lord refines us and leads us to maturity. Faithful friends, who stand at our side in times of difficulty, are also a reflection of the Lord’s love, his gentle and consoling presence in our lives. The experience of friendship teaches us to be open, understanding and caring towards others, to come out of our own comfortable isolation and to share our lives with others. (Paragraph 151)
7. There are as many different ways to be holy as there are people on the planet.
You have to discover who you are and develop your own way of being holy, whatever others may say or think. Becoming a saint means becoming more fully yourself, becoming what the Lord wished to dream and create, and not a photocopy. Your life ought to be a prophetic stimulus to others and leave a mark on this world, the unique mark that only you can leave. Whereas if you simply copy someone else, you will deprive this earth, and heaven too, of something that no one else can offer. (Paragraph 162)
8. Beauty is not about appearance. It is about companionship, sacrifice and concrete acts of love.
Dear young friends, do not let them exploit your youth to promote a shallow life that confuses beauty with appearances. Realize that there is beauty in the laborer who returns home grimy and unkempt, but with the joy of having earned food for his family. There is extraordinary beauty in the fellowship of a family at table, generously sharing what food it has. There is beauty in the wife, slightly disheveled and no longer young, who continues to care for her sick husband despite her own failing health. …To find, to disclose and to highlight this beauty, which is like that of Christ on the cross, is to lay the foundations of genuine social solidarity and the culture of encounter. (Paragraph 183)
9. Everyone has a vocation — a path toward serving others.
Your own personal vocation does not consist only in the work you do, though that is an expression of it. Your vocation is something more: it is a path guiding your many efforts and actions towards service to others. So in discerning your vocation, it is important to determine if you see in yourself the abilities needed to perform that specific service to society. (Paragraph 255)
There’s so much richness in this document. It is worth reading slowly, praying with and discussing with others. Don’t take my word for it, though. Check it out for yourself!