Friday, April 28, 2006

Pope Benedict's Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

Today, in the Vatican press releases, Pope Benedict's message to the Mary Ann Glendon, President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is printed. This Pontifical Academy is meeting for its Twelfth Plenary Session to discuss the theme: Vanishing Youth? Solidarity with Children and Young People in an Age of Turbulence. You can find the full address here. I want to focus on just a few excerpts, which flow nicely with my previous post on the influence of parents in the discovery of God and particularly the role of love in influencing the lives of young people.

Pope Benedict writes:

"To bring children into the world calls for self-centred eros to be fulfilled in a creative agape rooted in generosity and marked by trust and hope in the future. By its nature, love looks to the eternal (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 6)....

It is children and young people who are often the first to experience the consequences of this eclipse of love and hope. Often, instead of feeling loved and cherished, they appear to be merely tolerated. In 'an age of turbulence' they frequently lack adequate moral guidance from the adult world, to the serious detriment of their intellectual and spiritual development. Many children now grow up in a society which is forgetful of God and of the innate dignity of the human person made in God’s image. In a world shaped by the accelerating processes of globalization, they are often exposed solely to materialistic visions of the universe, of life and human fulfillment.
" (emphasis added)

The Pope articulates several points really well. First he talks about the love necessary to bring forth new life into this world. Second, he talks about the failure of parents to love their children adequately. Children are not receiving the love and attention needed to be capable of living in this turbulent age. Third, he points to the consequences of such failures in that children lack "adequate moral guidance from the adult world" which affects not only their intellectual development but their spiritual development as well. Without the love which forms the lives of the young, the mind and the soul lack what truly is needed to sustain itself. Finally, he ties all this together with what effects this lack of love has own the world. We live in a world that "is forgetful of God" and forgetful of man's origins - being made in God's image. Instead, man is but material to be shaped and forged by his own will. And everything to be pursued in this life, according to materialist, are things to make us happy. We have become makers of our own destinies and happiness, in such a world.

But all is not lost, Pope Benedict argues:

"Yet children and young people are by nature receptive, generous, idealistic and open to transcendence. They need above all else to be exposed to love and to develop in a healthy human ecology, where they can come to realize that they have not been cast into the world by chance, but through a gift that is part of God’s loving plan. Parents, educators and community leaders, if they are to be faithful to their own calling, can never renounce their duty to set before children and young people the task of choosing a life project directed towards authentic happiness, one capable of distinguishing between truth and falsehood, good and evil, justice and injustice, the real world and the world of 'virtual reality.'"

Pope Benedict alludes to the ability of young people to be open to transcedence, and parents need to expose their children to love in which these young ones can come to realize their place in God's plan. All this is necessary for young people to be directed towards "authentic happiness" in which they recognize truth, goodness, justice, and the real world, and in turn the young can reject falsehood, evil, injustice, and virtual reality. It is the responsibility of not only parents, but educators and community leaders to help direct young people towards this "authentic happiness" which lies in God, God alone who is love.

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