Pope tells Jesuits how to engage with young people

young people

Questions about young people and how to engage with them were the focus of Pope Francis’s conversation with Hungarian Jesuits last month.

“How do we best engage with young people?” he was asked.

“For me the key word is testimony,” Francis responded.

“Without testimony, without witnessing, nothing can be done.

“You end up like that beautiful song by Mina: ‘parole, parole, parole…’ (words, words, words). Without testimony nothing happens. And testimony means consistency of life.”

It isn’t relevant whether a young person is in formation to become a Jesuit or if they’re looking for other vocations, Francis said. He offered the following advice.

“Speak clearly!”

Francis commented that it used to be said a good Jesuit had to think clearly and speak obscurely.

“But with young people that does not work: you have to speak clearly, show them consistency. Young people have a nose for when there is no consistency.

“With young people in formation you have to speak as to adults, as you speak to grown ups, not children. And introduce them to spiritual experience; prepare them for the great spiritual experience that is the Exercises.

“Young people do not tolerate double-speak, that is clear to me. But being clear does not mean being aggressive. Clarity must always be combined with amiability, fraternity, fatherhood.”

Francis went on to say: “The key word is ‘authenticity’. Let young people say what they feel.

“For me, dialogue between a young person and an older person is important: talking, discussing.

“I expect authenticity, that people speak of things as they are: difficulties, sins.

“As a formation facilitator you have to teach young people consistency.

“And it is important for the young to dialogue with the old. The old people cannot be in the infirmary alone; they have to be in community, so that exchanges between them and young people are possible.”

Francis then turned to the Old Testament, reminding his audience of the prophet Joel.

Joel said “…the old will have dreams and the young will be prophets. The prophecy of a young person is one that comes from a tender relationship with the old.’

Francis continued: “Tenderness is one of God’s key words: closeness, compassion and tenderness. On this path we will never go wrong. This is God’s style.”


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