"Love, life and friends" is the antidote to despair
The Pope welcomed the World Youth Day Cross and blessed it. The young people asked the Pope how to understand and experience Jesus’s love and the vocation to proclaim joy in spite of illness, unemployment, war and indifference, and how not to lose confidence in life.
The protagonists of this dialogue with Pope Francis were Chiara Vagnoni, 19, a handicapped high school student; Sara Amodio, 27, who is unemployed; and Luigi Capello, 26, a university student. The Pope put his prepared discourse aside in order to "speak from the heart."
"One cannot speak of life in the Gospel without speaking of love—if we speak of real life—and one cannot speak of love without this transformation from servants to friends. And these three words—love, life and friends—are so important for life but all three have a common root: the will to live."
The Pope then quoted Pier Giorgio Frasatti, who died at age 25: "Live, don’t just get by!"
"It makes me very sad at heart to see young people retire at 20! Yes, they age quickly," he said.
The Pope spoke to Chiara, who had asked him about love. He said that "when a young person loves, lives, grows, he does not retire. He grows, grows, grows and gives… But what is love? ‘Is it a soap opera, Father? What we see on TV programs?’" The Pope explained that love has two dimensions. "First of all, love is more in works than in words: love is concrete."
Then, continuing his spontaneous speech, he brought attention to the example of Salesians who feel young because they love in concrete ways and they live to help young people.
He followed this up with a challenge. "What do you do for love? Love gives itself. Consider that God began to speak of love when He engaged his people, when He chose his people, He made a covenant with his people, He saved his people, He forgave so many times—God has so much patience!"
The Pope’s words were met with applause.
Secondly, he indicated that "love is always communicated, that is, love listens and responds, love is built in dialogue, in communion: it is communicated. Love is neither deaf nor mute, it communicates," he reiterated.
Then, he spoke directly to Chiara. "I don’t want to be a moralist but I would like to say a word that isn’t liked, an unpopular word. Sometimes the Pope must also take risks to speak the truth. Love is in works, in communicating, but love is very respectful of people, it does not use people, that is, love is chaste. And to you young people in this world, in this hedonistic world, in this world where only pleasure, having a good time, and living the good life get publicity, I say to you: be chaste."
The Pope acknowledged that this can be very difficult, but he defended "a love that considers the life of the other person sacred: ‘I respect you. I don’t want to use you.’”
Indeed, Pope Francis invited the young people in his audience to "strive to experience love chastely. And from this we draw a conclusion," he continued: " If love is respectful, if love is in deeds, if love is in communicating, love makes sacrifices for others."
He then mentioned the example of parents who are tired when they get to work in the morning because they stayed up all night caring for their sick children. "This is love! This is respect," he concluded.
The Pope pointed out that Jesus explained love by washing the feet of his apostles; in order to love, we must serve others. "If I say that I love but I don’t serve the other, don’t help the other, don’t enable him to go forward, don’t sacrifice myself for him, this isn’t love," he said in response to Chiara’s question.