Youth Gathering at the Kiel CenterSt. Louis
January 26, 1999
Dear Young People of St. Louis,
Dear Young People of the United States,
Praised be Jesus Christ!
- Your warm and enthusiastic welcome makes me very happy. It tells me that tonight the Pope belongs to you. I have just been in Mexico City, to celebrate the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops for America. There I had the joy of being with many thousands of young people. And now, my joy continues here with you, the young people of St. Louis and Missouri, and of the whole United States.
- We are gathered here this evening to listen to Jesus as he speaks to us through his word and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We have just heard the Apostle Paul say to Timothy, his young fellow evangelizer: "Train yourself for devotion" (1 Tim 4:7). These are important words for every Christian, for everyone who truly seeks to follow the Lord and to put his words into practice. They are especially important for you, the young people of the Church. And so you need to ask yourselves: what training am I doing in order to live a truly Christian life?
You all know what "training" is, and what it signifies. In fact, we are here in the Kiel Center where many people train long and hard in order to compete in different sports. Today, this impressive stadium has become another kind of training ground not for hockey or soccer or basketball, but for that training that will help you to live your faith in Jesus more decisively. This is the "training in devotion" that Saint Paul is referring to the training that makes it possible for you to give yourselves without reservation to the Lord and to the work that he calls you to do!
- I am told that there was much excitement in St. Louis during the recent baseball season, when two great players (Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa) were competing to break the home-run record. You can feel the same great enthusiasm as you train for a different goal: the goal of following Christ, the goal of bringing his message to the world.
Each one of you belongs to Christ, and Christ belongs to you. At Baptism you were claimed for Christ with the Sign of the Cross; you received the Catholic faith as a treasure to be shared with others. In Confirmation, you were sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and strengthened for your Christian mission and vocation. In the Eucharist, you receive the food that nourishes you for the spiritual challenges of each day.
I am especially pleased that so many of you had the opportunity today to receive the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this Sacrament you experience the Savior's tender mercy and love in a most personal way, when you are freed from sin and from its ugly companion which is shame. Your burdens are lifted and you experience the joy of new life in Christ.
Your belonging to the Church can find no greater expression or support than by sharing in the Eucharist every Sunday in your parishes. Christ gives us the gift of his body and blood to make us one body, one spirit in him, to bring us more deeply into communion with him and with all the members of his Body, the Church. Make the Sunday celebration in your parishes a real encounter with Jesus in the community of his followers: this is an essential part of your "training in devotion" to the Lord!
- Dear young friends, in the Reading we have just heard, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy: "Let no one have contempt for your youth" (1 Tim 4:12). He says this because youth is a marvelous gift of God. It is a time of special energies, special opportunities and special responsibilities. Christ and the Church need your special talents. Use well the gifts the Lord has given you!
This is the time of your "training", of your physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual development. But this does not mean that you can put off until later your meeting with Christ and your sharing in the Church's mission. Even though you are young, the time for action is now! Jesus does not have "contempt for your youth". He does not set you aside for a later time when you will be older and your training will be complete. Your training will never be finished. Christians are always in training. You are ready for what Christ wants of you now. He wants you -- all of you -- to be light to the world, as only young people can be light. It is time to let your light shine!
In all my travels I tell the world about your youthful energies, your gifts and your readiness to love and serve. And wherever I go I challenge young people -- as a friend -- to live in the light and truth of Jesus Christ.
I urge you to let his word enter your hearts, and then from the bottom of your hearts to tell him: "Here I am Lord, I come to do your will!" (cf. Heb 10:7).
NCCB/USCC Home Page Who We Are News & Events Daily Readings
Publications Departments Bishops Dioceses Search