Patrick Ward writes…
The smile on Pope Benedict’s face grew and grew as he walked towards the great doors at the front of Westminster Cathedral.
It was the end of a solemn and dignified celebration of Mass. As he started to leave the sanctuary, the doors opened and a wave of energy enveloped the whole Cathedral. For outside in the Piazza, two-and-a-half-thousand young people were waiting for him.
Taking their lead from the young people, the congregation burst into a spontaneous round of applause. This applause, however, was a mere precursor for the cheering, chanting and love that enveloped him as reached the door. Many commentators say that this pontiff is conservative and staid. Not on this evidence. His love for the young people was in just as much evidence as was their love for him. Memories of John Paul II with the youth in 1982 certainly came flooding back.
Underpinning this embrace, however, was a seriously spiritual message for the young. This Pope wanted to speak heart to heart with the young people of the nation:
I ask each of you, first and foremost, to look into your own heart. Think of all the love that your heart was made to receive, and all the love it is meant to give. After all, we were made for love. This is what the Bible means when it says that we are made in the image and likeliness of God: we were made to know the God of love, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to find our supreme fulfilment in that divine love that knows no beginning or end.
We were made to receive love, and we have. Every day we should thank God for the love we have already known, for the love that has made us who we are, the love that has shown us what is truly important in life. We need to thank the Lord for the love we have received from our families, our friends, our teachers, and all those people in our lives who have helped us to realise how precious we are, in their eyes and in the eyes of God.
The Pope continued. The young were respectfully attentive, for these were precious words. He continued, offering guidance as to how we can experience the Great Love of Christ in our lives using, what he termed “real prayer.”
This is the message I want to share with you today. I ask you to look into your hearts each day to find the source of all true love. Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with him and to hear his voice. Deep within your heart, he is calling you to spend time with him in prayer. But this kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline; it requires making time for moments of silence every day. Often it means waiting for the Lord to speak. Even amid the “busy-ness” and the stress of our daily lives, we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God, and in silence that we discover our true self. And in discovering our true self, we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of his Church and the redemption of our world.
As he concluded, the Piazza exploded into a burst of cheering and singing. And Pope Benedict rose to it, buzzing around amongst the young people with him on the steps, chatting, and sharing great mutual affection.
On Thursday, in an attempt to put a negative slant on the visit, one leading newspaper described Pope Benedict as “tired and weak”. How wrong he has proven those critics.