By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis encouraged young Catholics to take an active role — not be spectators — in the church’s mission.
“You are not museum people, but are instead walking with creative courage, being welcoming and having a missionary drive,” the pope told hundreds of young men and women belonging to the Shalom Catholic Community Sept. 26.
The Shalom Catholic Community, founded in Brazil in 1982, offers members an opportunity to take part in “a community and missionary life in order to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all men and women, especially to those far from Christ and the church,” its website said.
In 2007, it was recognized by the then-Pontifical Council for the Laity as an international association of the faithful.
Noting that the movement began 40 years ago “during a eucharistic celebration,” the pope said it was important that the Shalom community “was not born ‘at the table,’ with a beautiful plan” invented by the movement’s founder, Moysés Louro de Azevedo Filho.
Instead, he said, “it was born in prayer, in the liturgy.”
“The liturgy is not a beautiful ceremony, a ritual in which our gestures or, worse, our garments are at the center, no! The liturgy is God’s action with us, and we need to be attentive to him,” he said.
During the meeting, the pope heard the experiences and questions of several members from Mexico, Congo and Brazil.
Pope Francis began his address by answering a question from Fabiola, a 26-year-old from Mexico who recounted her experience of joining Shalom after moving to Boston and then serving as a missionary in Rome.
“How can we persevere in a friendship with God in the midst of such a frantic world?” she asked. “How can we pass along this experience in today’s world, in universities, in families and in the very church?”
Responding to her question, the pope recalled Jesus’ call to his disciples to “remain in me” and “remain in love” and said that, through prayer, the word of God, adoration and the rosary, Christians can “bring forth much fruit.”
“The fruit is love, and it is the love of Christ that touches people’s hearts, wherever we are, in every environment,” the pope said. “It is up to us to make the commitment to remain in him; the Holy Spirit does the rest. He is the protagonist, not us.”
Answering a question from Bertrand, a 31-year-old Congolese member who asked how young people keep the “youthful spirit” of evangelization alive, the pope said it was important to remain open to the Holy Spirit, “who renews hearts, renews life, renews the church and renews the world.”
The pope recalled the example of the many young saints in the Catholic Church who have and continue to “build up the church with their witness.” He also emphasized the need for the church “to learn to not be paternalistic” and to keep young people engaged and involved.
“Sometimes we involve young people in pastoral initiatives, but not to the full extent. We risk ‘using’ them a little, to make a good impression. But I wonder: Do we really listen to them?” the pope asked.
Pope Francis encouraged the Shalom community’s members to be “docile to the action of the Holy Spirit” and to be open to listening to each other and the church “in order to best discern how to continue on your journey.”
Such actions “will teach you to ensure that the various forms of common life within (your movement) always protect the proper autonomy and needs of different vocations: of priests, of married people and those who have made a choice of celibacy for the mission,” he said.