The Pope’s Invitation to Young People

Crocifisso-e-NicolinoTaken from La civiltà cattolica, ‘Nicola d’Onofrio. Un religioso studente di oggi’, 17 March 2001, 152, 3618

Some years ago, Divo Barsotti observed that in every social condition – priests and religious, the married and the celibate, nuns and housewives – the primary task of a Christian is his or her sanctification, that is to say the theological virtues, contemplation, prayer. Works – every work – come afterwards. This is because ‘holiness is the specific ‘taste’ of Christian life’ and ‘in this sense the holy are the salt of the earth’. For a long time, the historical situation in which we are living has brought out a tacit invocation to holiness from the most diverse quarters, from the ordinary and the disorientated to Von Balthasar and on to Benedetto Croce. Recently, in a document addressed to the whole of the Church, the Holy Father spoke about subject this once again.

Referring to a text of the Second Vatican Council on the fullness of Christian life and the perfection of charity, the Pope writes: ‘At first glance, it might seem almost impractical to recall this elementary truth as the foundation of the pastoral planning in which we are involved at the start of the new millennium. Can holiness ever be “planned”? What might the word “holiness” mean in the context of a pastoral plan? In fact, to place pastoral planning under the heading of holiness is a choice filled with consequences. It implies the conviction that, since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity…The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction. It is also clear however that the paths to holiness are personal and call for a genuine “training in holiness”, adapted to people’s needs…This training in holiness calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer’.

In this document the Holy Father renews his trust in young people and he knows about ‘the problems and weaknesses that characterise them in contemporary society’ since there is no lack of people who ‘tend to be pessimistic’ about them. The Pope is not one of these. He is not only convinced that young people will willingly respond to the message of Jesus, albeit with its demands, if it is suitably proposed to them as the secret of true freedom and profound of joy the heart. Emphasising the importance of the theology and the spirituality of communion, and thus the need for the juridical institutes based on it to apply themselves, he exhorts us to engage in an increasingly vast exercise of dialogue extended to every member of the Church. And he graciously quotes a passage from the Rules of St. Benedict in which the abbot of a monastery is invited to consult the youngest members because ‘it is often a younger person who knows what is best’.

     To me it seems that the entire existence of Nicola d’Onofrio, in all its stages, should be for everyone a sound encouragement on the way of holiness and, especially for the young, he should be a fraternal travelling companion because the Lord granted to him to know quod melius est.