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In his message for World Youth Day 2017, Pope Francis offers a meditation on the Virgin Mary, using her Magnificat as a model of prayer.
World Youth Day will be observed on Palm Sunday 9 Apr 2017. The Pope’s message, released on March 21, is entitled, “The Mighty One has done great things for me.” (Luke 1:49)
The Holy Father looks back to the last international celebration of World Youth Day, in Krakow 2016, describing it as a “powerful experience of fraternity and joy.” He then looks forward to the next international observance, to be held in Panama in 2019. But he also reminds his young readers that the Synod of Bishops will meet in October 2018 to discuss the topic of youth and vocational discernment.
Turning then to the theme of his message, the Pontiff remarks that the newly pregnant Mary thought first to help her cousin Elizabeth, undeterred by the prospect of a 90-mile trip. “She is no couch potato!” the Pope observes. During that trip, he writes, Mary undoubtedly reflected on her condition:
Surely, those days of journeying helped her to meditate on the marvellous event of which she was a part. So it is with us, whenever we set out on pilgrimage.
The Magnificat, the Pope writes, is “a revolutionary prayer, the song of a faith-filled young woman conscious of her limits, yet confident in God’s mercy.” He urges young people to have the same confidence in the Lord: “Jesus is calling you to leave your mark in life, your mark on history, both your own and that of so many others.” He goes on:
History teaches us that, even when the Church has to sail on stormy seas, the hand of God guides her and helps her to overcome moments of difficulty. The genuine experience of the Church is not like a flash mob, where people agree to meet, do their thing and then go their separate ways. The Church is heir to a long tradition which, passed down from generation to generation, is further enriched by the experience of each individual. Your personal history has a place within the greater history of the Church.
Continuing his reflection, the Pope writes that Mary “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” He encourages young people to develop habits of prayer. In particular, he suggests: “At the end of each day, we can stop for a few minutes to remember the good times and the challenges.”
Finally, the Pope writes that Mary understood the tradition of faith in which she lived. He asked young people to develop that same sense of tradition. “It is true that you are still young and so it can be hard for you to appreciate the importance of tradition. But know that this is not the same as being traditionalists.” He explained:
It is not about the distant past. Being mindful of the past does not mean being nostalgic or remaining attached to a certain period of history, but rather being able to acknowledge where we have come from so that we can keep going back to essentials and throwing ourselves with creative fidelity into building the future.
Pope Francis closed his message by entrusting “our journey toward Panama” to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. – CWN