By Carol Glatz
Pope Francis has told young people that it is time to move away from viewing the world through a digital screen display.
During his annual message for local celebrations of World Youth Day, the Pope told youths to avoid being “extinguished in the darkness of a closed room in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smartphone”.
In the message, published on 22 February at the Vatican, encouraged the young people to open wide the doors of their life.
“May your time and space be filled with meaningful relationships, real people with whom to share your authentic and concrete experiences of daily life,” he said.
In preparation for the next international celebration of World Youth Day – which will be held in Panama from 22 to 27 January, 2019 – many dioceses will have their own celebrations of Palm Sunday on 25 March.
The Panama gathering will focus on Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement that God had chosen her to bear the child Jesus: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”.
“Many young people today are afraid. Afraid of never being accepted, of finding a good job and even of their real selves,” the Holy Father said in his message.
“Today, there are many young people who feel the need to be different from who they really are, in an attempt to adapt to an often artificial and unattainable standard,” he wrote.
“They continuously ‘photoshop’ their images, hiding behind masks and false identities, almost becoming fake selves.
He said this sense of inadequacy was the root of many uncertainties and obsessions, such as “receiving as many ‘likes’ as possible” on social media.
“The biggest obstacle to faith in God is often fear, not skepticism.
“The only way forward is to face one’s fears head on, identify them clearly and come to terms with them,” he added.
“People have to act, which requires faith in God and his grace, otherwise fear and doubt will make people become inward-looking and closed off to defend ourselves from everything and everyone, and we will remain paralysed.”
The Pope told young people to look for God in prayerful silence and the sacraments so they could draw on the needed courage, wisdom and grace, and to turn to members of the church for encouragement and support.
“God is always there to help everybody. He does not ask people to present a stellar resume of their lives full of merits and successes.
“Receiving God’s grace will not mean life’s problems will disappear, but it does have the power to transform our life deeply.
“The unknown that tomorrow holds for us is not a dark threat we need to overcome, but a favourable time given to us for living out the uniqueness of our personal vocation, and for sharing it with our brothers and sisters in the church and in the world,” he said.
“That is why it is so important young people break out of the ‘darkness of closed room’ and the virtual world so as to experience meaningful relationships with real people.”
Pope Francis called on adults in the Catholic Church to have courage too, by giving young people “important responsibilities”.