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Pope to US college: Kids need help not getting overwhelmed


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 05/11/24

Kids today need to learn to see crises as an opportunity for growth, so they are not overwhelmed by challenges, says Pope Francis.

Addressing representatives of a college outside Boston, Pope Francis said that today’s students, like the young soldiers coming home from World War II, have to be taught “to face challenges together, not letting themselves be overwhelmed, but rather responding in such a way that every crisis, even when it proves painful, can be transformed into an opportunity for growth.”

The Pope said this May 10 in a speech to the president and sponsors of Merrimack College.

He noted the foundation of the college in 1947, when the Augustinian Fathers sought out to support the soldiers returning from the Second World War. “Clearly, for those young men who had experienced the trauma and the brutality of war, more was needed than academic instruction alone,” the Pope said.

The mission of the college draws from the Augustinian principle of “cultivating knowledge in order to attain wisdom,” with a motto from Augustine: “per scientiam ad sapientiam.”

The Pope urged them in two regards: educating young people to face challenges in order to grow in solidarity.

Considering the situation of the first students in the late 1940s, the Pope reflected that “it was necessary to restore in them a sense of meaning, hope, and confidence for the future, to enrich their minds, but also to warm their hearts and restore hope for a brighter future.”

Young people today, “like those first students,” face “multiple crises of different kinds.”

Now, as in the past, it is important that they be taught to face challenges together, not letting themselves be overwhelmed, but rather responding in such a way that every crisis, even when it proves painful, can be transformed into an opportunity for growth.


Pope Francis continued on the challenge to educate for a growth in solidarity:

Pope Benedict XVI observed that “it is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love” (Spe Salvi, 26).

Here too, there is a need to train new generations to view difficulties as opportunities, and to aim for a future, not so much of wealth and success, as of love, building a humanism grounded in a spirit of solidarity (cf. Message for the Launch of the Global Compact on Education, 12 September 2019). This means teaching them to identify and direct the resources at hand, by creative planning, toward models of personal and social life marked by justice and mercy, in order to “give everyone an acceptable and dignified existence” (Congregation for Catholic Education, Educating To Fraternal Humanism, 2017, 6).

In this regard, it is true that today’s process of globalization has its negative aspects, such as isolation, marginalization, and the “throwaway culture.” At the same time, however, it also has its positive aspects, such as the potential to expand solidarity and to promote equality thanks to hitherto unknown means and possibilities; we have seen this happen in recent times in cases of climate disasters and wars.

It is important, in every aspect of education, to guide students toward this kind of capacity for discernment and decision, extending the walls of classrooms, in theory and practice, to reach all those places where “education can generate solidarity, sharing, communion” (ibid, 10).

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