We have to conquer it at each step of life ... We take care of it, and we make it bloom.
“Life … is a gift. But a gift that must be conquered every day. It is given to us, but we have to conquer it every day. We have to conquer it at each step of life. It is a gift that isn’t easy to safeguard. Take heart, every day. Difficulties — there’s a ton of them. We all have them. But we take care of this gift and we make it progress. We take care of it, and we make it bloom.”
That nugget of wisdom comes from Pope Francis today.
It was part of his reflection in an endearing video message that he sent to inmates at a prison in Argentina, who are beneficiaries of an innovative partnership formed in 1994 with the University of Buenos Aires.
The inmates have access to a higher education initiative, with classes focused mainly on sociology and applied sciences, including computer science and information technology, and now — a new program is opening — music.
Pope Francis speaks of various of the prison staff by name in the video because, as he mentions, he knows them from his “Sunday phone calls.”
He concludes the video with, “till our next phone call.”
The video also reiterates one of the pope’s common messages regarding prisons and prisoners: While the criminals must serve the penalty for the “errors they’ve committed,” there needs to be hope, he insists.
“The inmates are serving a penal sentence – a sentence for errors they have committed. Let us not forget, however, that, for punishment to be fruitful, it must have a horizon of hope, otherwise it remains locked in itself and is only an instrument of torture, it is not fruitful.”
The Holy Father goes on to say that what is needed is specifically the hope for social reintegration, for which social formation is a necessary ingredient.
“That,” he says, addressing himself directly to the student-inmates, “is what you are doing,” i.e. looking to the future with hope.
“With this new music course you are looking toward social reintegration, [and] you are already reintegrating yourselves through your studies with the University of Buenos Aires.”
This need for hope is one of the principles that Francis has mentioned in regard to the Church’s opposition to use of the death penalty today, as he spelled out last year:
Today I would encourage all to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated. “Rendering justice” does not mean seeking punishment for its own sake, but ensuring that the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender. The question must be dealt with within the larger framework of a system of penal justice open to the possibility of the guilty party’s reinsertion in society. There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment.
Here is today’s full video, in Spanish: