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“‘What would Christ do in my place?’ That is the password for a life truly lived and joyful.”
This is what Pope Francis told young people in a letter to introduce the new Italian edition of YOUCAT: The Catholic Catechism for Young People published on January 24, 2023. In the letter, which was first released by Italian newspaper La Stampa on Janaury 22, the Pontiff encourages young people to read the Catechism as a way to stay connected with Christ and his love for us.
“Reading the Gospel, praying assiduously, and enthusiastically studying this catechism help us to ‘download’ into our hearts and minds the eyes of Jesus, the feelings of Jesus, the attitudes of Jesus,” the Pope wrote.
This allows us “not only to answer the question ‘What would Christ do in my place?’ but to decide and act according to that answer.”
YOUCAT is a version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that is edited to appeal and attract young people between 15 and 30 years old. Since the first edition in German was published in 2011, accompanied by a letter written by Pope Benedict XVI, it has been translated in 60 languages, according to the YOUCAT website.
The YOUCAT Foundation has also published other similar texts, such as the Catechism for children, or the social doctrine of the Catholic Church for young people.
The Catechism: A way to have a real encounter with Christ
The Pope began his letter by citing his predecessor, Benedict XVI, on how being a Christian means knowing Jesus Christ as a real person who relates to our lives and is at “the center of our heart.”
“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,” Pope Francis quotes from Benedict XVI’s 2005 encyclical, Deus caritas est.
Francis then explained that the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and this version for young people, is exactly that: a tool that “will make you taste the experience of Christian life exactly as an extraordinary and fascinating adventure of encountering and knowing Jesus.” It will let readers experience the “greatness of [Jesus’] love for us human beings that led him all the way to his death on the cross and the glorious event of his resurrection.”
“You will discover that [this book] has no other intention than to awaken or reawaken in you a great love for Jesus. This is its only objective,” the Pope writes. “Let us give [the catechism] the chance to bring us closer to Jesus, to his life project, to his message of love, to his revelation of the face of God and the face of man.”
The secret to staying “connected” with Christ’s love
The Pope emphasized that it is important that we never “lose the connection with Jesus” so as to not lose touch with our lives and the lives of those around us. He then gives young people a tip on how to keep this relationship alive. Citing his speech to young Chileans during his trip to the country in 2018, the Pope writes that St. Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean Jesuit, used to always ask himself “What would Christ do in my place?”
“When you go dancing, when you are playing or watching sports: ‘What would Christ do in my place?’ This is the password, the power source that charges our hearts, ignites our faith and makes the sparkle in our eyes never fade,” the Pontiff wrote in the letter, quoting his 2018 speech.
“‘What would Christ do in my place?’ Here is the password for a life truly lived and joyful: to look at and judge what happens to us and the decisions we are called to make with the same eyes, with the same feelings, with the same posture that Jesus embodied.”
He encouraged young people to read the gospel, pray intensely, and study the Catechism to deepen this relationship. The Catechism “is an effective tool to reach, at the end of the day, the heart of our faith experience and to be enlightened by it. I am talking about the constantly surprising news of the risen Christ, who reaches us, beyond time and space, and always immerses us in the love of the Father and the Spirit.”
“This youthfulness of life, this newness of life, this fullness of life is what I wish for you, dear young friends,” the Pope concludes.