Pope Francis in his visit to Macedonia participated in an ecumenical meeting with young people. One of the things he discussed was the increasing media-related mental health issues facing young people.
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The pope offered some advice:
Now at my age (and I am not young!), do you want to know what I think was the best lesson I ever learned? It was how to talk to people “face-to-face.”
Francis noted how we are in the digital age, but “actually, we know very little about communication.”
We are all “connected,” but not really “involved” with one another. Getting involved requires life; it calls for being there and sharing the good times but also the not so good times.
For a heart tempted by hopelessness, there is no better remedy than listening to the experiences of older people.
The pope spoke about how last year’s bishops’ meeting on the theme of young people and vocation enabled the experience of meeting face-to-face, with young and old alike.
We were able to listen to one another, to dream together and to look to the future with hope and gratitude.
And, the pope said, this togetherness, and listening, brought about big results.
That was the best antidote to discouragement and manipulation, to the culture of the ephemeral and to all those false prophets who proclaim only misfortune and destruction. Listening, listening to one another.
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Francis then suggested a specific element of this listening.
Let me tell you something I feel very strongly about: Give yourselves a chance to share and enjoy a good “face-to-face” with everyone, but especially with your grandparents, with the elderly of your community.
The pope said that speaking with the elderly can bring something deep.
[These encounters are] an antidote to those who would lock you up in the present, overwhelming you with pressures and demands, all in the name of an alleged happiness, as if the world is about to end and you have to experience everything right away. In the long run, this creates anxiety, dissatisfaction and a sense of hopelessness. For a heart tempted by hopelessness, there is no better remedy than listening to the experiences of older people.
The pope went on to urge the young people to spend time with the elderly and listen to their stories — “which may sometimes seem a bit unreal but in fact are full of rich experiences, eloquent symbols and hidden wisdom waiting to be discovered and appreciated.”
“Those stories take time to tell,” he admitted. But, he reminded, you can see more “standing on the shoulders of a giant.”
Enter into the wisdom of your people, your community, without shame or hesitations, and you will discover an unexpected source of creativity which will prove most fulfilling. It will let you perceive paths where others see barriers, possibilities where others see threats, resurrection where so many proclaim only death.
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And here’s an amusing side point from this encounter. During his address, the pope had to pause a moment to look for the next page of his speech. He chuckled about it — he’s never one to take himself too seriously — and the young people did as well. A translator took advantage of the pause, and one of the pope’s aides got his papers in order.
“My friends made a mistake with the page number,” he laughed. “All is well.”
See the video below: