By Madeleine Post, Staff Writer
Just before the Church’s Easter Season began in 2013, something radical happened —something that would cause the world to fix its eyes upon the Vatican and remind the young of their purpose. At a youth detention center in Rome a humble priest bent to wash the feet of 10 offenders, while celebrating Mass. That priest was Pope Francis, and he would reach out to the youth of the world on issues we care about: our potential as a generation, our environment, and our economic welfare.
The Casa del Marmo detention center houses 50 inmates, all of whom are between the ages of 14 and 21. During the Holy Thursday Mass, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates, including women and Muslims. Francis believes in millennial potential. He sees the most broken members of our generation and places himself in subjection to them, washing their feet and simply loving them.
From the newest of infant lives to every one of those prisoners at Casa del Marmo, Francis believes in the promise of every young person, even (and perhaps especially) the vulnerable and wounded.
Francis of Assisi was a man who loved nature, and the Pontiff who took this saint’s name imitates him well. In his encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, Francis addresses earth’s environmental crisis. He writes on an “integral ecology” focusing on the coexistence of the natural world and the human world. He examines pollution and global warming, loss of biodiversity, global inequality, and poverty — all of which are issues young people are fighting. Francis is reengaging the world’s youth in establishing a “culture of care” (Laudato Si’, 231).
Pope Francis received quite a few standing ovations during his address to Congress this past week. Perhaps this was because he is neither an economist nor a politician. Rather, he is a global leader who views everything in light of the common good, including economic welfare. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). Wealth is good, but only when used as a means, not an end in itself. During his address to Congress, Francis posed the question: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”
Pope Francis is the Pope of the young. Issues we care about are close to him, and he believes we must take “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (Laudato Si', 139). Like Pope Francis, we must also take action to fight the evil in our world. How can we do this? We have to start with small gestures which, even if they only affect one human being, are filled with love. I recently bought a homeless man an iced coffee and a banana. Many of my friends from school are about to go to Chicago on a mission to help the poor. My parents save grocery bags to cut waste. All of these acts have at the heart of their purpose of remembering, respecting, and restoring the worth of the human person and the world he or she lives in.
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