In new book ‘God is Young,’ pope reflects on young people as protagonists of Church and world
Oct. 4, 2018
Pope Francis’s new book, God is Young, features a collection of questions and answers between journalist Thomas Leoncini and the pope about wide-ranging topics including consumerism, climate change, drugs, social media and nuclear weapons, in addition to reflections on what it means to be a young person. In contrast to the often-negative portrayals of young people today, the pope affirms the importance of the hope that they offer the world.
In the introduction to the book, which is published in the United States by Random House, Leoncini explains the inspiration for the title, noting that during his fifth meeting with the pope for the book, Pope Francis told him, “God is young; he is always new.”
Leoncini said those words hit him with a particular force, because the pope was “affirming that young people, or rather the great castoffs of our troubled times, are actually made ‘in the same mold’ as God. Their best attributes are His… Francis was claiming a central place for these castoffs. He was delivering them from the margins and characterizing them as the protagonists of the present and of the future. Of a common history.”
The book contains several reflections that demonstrate the pope’s understanding of what it means to be a young person today and hint at what motivated him to call this month’s Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, which is focused on listening directly to the experiences of young people around the world. When asked what he sees when he looks at young people, the pope said, “I see someone who is searching for his own path, who wants to fly on his two feet, who faces the world and looks out at the horizon with eyes full of the future, full of hope as well as illusions.”
“A young person stands on two feet as adults do, but unlike the adults whose feet are parallel, he always has one foot forward, ready to set out, to spring ahead,” Pope Francis continued. “…Young people have so much strength; they are able to look ahead with hope. A young person is a promise of life that implies a certain degree of tenacity; he is foolish enough to delude himself and resilient enough to recover from that delusion.”
Where some may see young people as overly idealistic or naïve, the pope sees dreamers who are able to look beyond the status quo and envision a better future – even if it means taking a few wrong steps along the path to get there.
Speaking specifically of adolescence, Pope Francis says something equally as affirmative: “Adolescents seek confrontation, they ask questions, they challenge everything, they look for answers. I can’t stress enough how important it is to question everything.”
Pope Francis encourages adults to, “be more understanding than ever” to young people asking these questions, and to, “try to demonstrate the proper way through their actions, rather than insisting on teaching with words alone.” He explains, “Adolescence is not a pathology that we must combat. It’s part of normal, natural growth in our children’s lives.”
Where some people might see teenagers as self-centered or even obnoxious at times, Pope Francis sees what is really going on in the lives of these young people. It is a time of life where suddenly everything they took for granted as a kid is no longer black and white, and they need to readjust their worldview to accommodate for the discrepancies. What results is what Pope Francis calls “a state of inevitable tension” in between childhood and adulthood.
Pope Francis also addresses the fears of young people, including admitting to his own fear as a young person: the fear of being unloved. He related that fear to the fear of being invisible that many young people face today, and said he overcame his fear by “seeking authenticity.”
“I saw that I would never do anything that wasn’t authentic, not even to buy the love and esteem of others,” said Pope Francis. “…Being loved is one of the consequences of authenticity.”
Pope Francis’s willingness to engage in the questions that young people have, and to affirm them as an important part of the Church rather than a nuisance or a threat, reflects why so many people are excited about the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, which began on Oct. 3. In this book, Pope Francis said he expects young people to be the “protagonists” of the synod, and with the listening sessions that led up to the synod and in the gathering of about 300 young people in Rome in March, the bishops have been listening to young people in an unprecedented way.
This book provides an important insight into why the pope values young people enough to spend nearly a month focusing on how the Church can best accompany them. For any young person looking to be reminded of how to live in a Christ-like way, Pope Francis provides guidelines and reflections on a multitude of questions they may be asking.
At the conclusion of the book, Pope Francis identified a few characteristics that he said a young person should never lack: passion, joy, and a sense of humor.
“Do not be afraid of the differences of others or your weaknesses; life is one of a kind and unique for what it is; God awaits us every morning when we wake up to once again give us this gift,” he said. “Let us cherish it with love, kindness, and spontaneity.”
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