Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pope Francis Speaks About Young Life at World Youth Day 2013

When Pope Francis, the first South American pope ever to be elected, comes to Brazil and addresses more than 3 million people at World Youth Day 2013, they listen. You may not have made the trip to Rio this year, but are you listening when the leader of the Catholic Church says this?:

We need saints without cassocks, without veils –
We need saints with jeans and tennis shoes.
We need saints that go to the movies,
that listen to music,
that hang out with their friends.

We need saints that place God in first place
ahead of succeeding in any career.
We need saints that look for time to pray every day
and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things.

We need saints – saints for the 21st century
with a spirituality appropriate to our new time.
We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor
and to make the needed social change.

We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world
and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it.
We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs,
that surf the Internet and listen to their iPods.

We need saints that love the Eucharist,
that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends.
We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater.
We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions.

We need saints who are in this world
and who know how to enjoy the best of this world
without being callous or mundane.
We need saints.

When I read this for the first time, my immediate response was. . .

Catholic Church: Let me introduce you to Young Life.
Young Life: Meet the Catholic Church.

There couldn’t be a more apt description of Young Life and its mission to kids today – normal, sociable, happy companions on the journey who are moved to leave the lucrative trappings of money and power so as to walk side by side with teenagers.  Around the globe, Young Life leaders can be found everywhere kids are, wearing jeans and tennis shoes, surfing the net, listening to their iPods and sanctifying the world of kids by saying, “You matter. You’re worth it. You’re loved.”

Following in the footsteps of Jesus, Young Life leaders enter into the world of kids, showing up at their games, their school events, their homes and their hang-outs.  And the of genius Young Life is not that they are cool. Young Life leaders are those who have placed God at the center of their lives, who couldn’t imagine life without prayer, who model the art of “living in the world without being of the world.” It is their abiding rootedness in Christ that compels them to pursue young people. It is a beautiful picture of the Incarnation, alive and well today.

Ok, I admit, Pope Francis did not explicitly mention Young Life, but his address at World Youth Day sends a clarion message. The time is ripe for a fresh impulse of collaboration between Young Life and the Catholic Church. A world of kids is waiting. The question is, “Are you ready?”


  1. Great word, Michael! Thanks so much for sharing this. I pray for you to have a chance to respond to this with Pope Francis directly, making that much needed introduction between YL and the Catholic Church. Imagine if he were aware of our mission and the direct connection to that which he is asking for!

    Love ya-

  2. so awesome! So encouraged as we watch the spirit move!!

  3. Dear readers,
    It appears that this quote has been mis-applied to Pope Francis. I apologize for the confusion. The quote was being wildly publicized on social media and I was so excited about the obvious application to Young Life I wrote the post before I could confirm the source. Though I was saddened to learn that Pope Francis did not say these words, my personal understanding of His Holiness leads me to believe he would embrace these sentiments wholeheartedly.
    Blessings to all in Christ,

  4. Hi Michael:
    Could you cite the source you found in which they say he never said it? I was explaining to my youth group that he didn't say it, and they replied with "He never wrote it, but he did say it at World Youth Day." Our priest had pointed out to them at adoration that they should verify information. It would help them (or me) to close the debate if I had a good source. The poem is beautiful though.




Thanks so much for your input. I pray that this dialogue may be a blessing to you personally and to the ministry you exercise in Christ.