Pope Francis presides over a prayer vigil with thousands of teenage pilgrims from Italy, and urges young people to cast aside all fears and seek Jesus with all their hearts.
A large group of young Italian pilgrims held a prayer vigil with Pope Francis on Easter Monday evening under the banner: “Follow Me.”
The event marked the first time a large event that was not a Mass was held in St. Peter’s Square since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, over 2 years ago. The prayer vigil was organized by the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), and saw several teenagers share their experience of trials and faith and receive the Pope’s encouragement and blessing.
Some 100,000 Italian teenagers heard a girl named Alice tell about her suffering at the death of her grandmother and how she eventually understood how to turn her pain into a gift for others.
Another girl named Sofia spoke about her loneliness during the Covid-19 lockdowns, and how a new friend taught her to view life through different eyes full of hope and joy.
Young people pay price for war
Pope Francis spoke to the young Italian pilgrims about his joy at finally being able to host such a large group in St. Peter’s Square after so much time had passed.
He recalled his Statio Orbis in the Square on 27 March 2020 to pray for an end to the pandemic as a heavy rain fell and people huddled inside their homes out of fear of a tiny pathogen.
Now, two years later, the Pope expressed his joy that the joy of Easter has finally filled the Square once again.
At the same time, he noted, dense clouds still cover our world, as the pandemic is still with us and a terrible war has broken out in Eastern Europe.
“Often it is your own agemates who pay the highest price. Not only are their lives compromised and made insecure, but their dreams for the future are trampled underfoot. Many brothers and sisters still await the light of Easter.”
Never lose hope
The Pope then reflected on the Gospel account of Jesus appearing to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee after His Resurrection (Jn 21:1-19).
He pointed out that the disciples were disheartened after the Jesus’ death on Good Friday, and felt that their dreams had been shattered.
Yet, as the sun arose while they sat on their fishing boat, the disciples saw a man appear on the shore. John—the “disciple whom Jesus loved”—recognized the Risen Lord.
Pope Francis urged the young people to never lose hope, even when all their dreams are shattered and everything seems lost.
“There are moments in which life puts us to the test and makes us feel the weight of our frailty…We should not be afraid to say: ‘I’m afraid of the dark!’”
Sharing our fears
Everyone is afraid sometimes, said Pope Francis, adding that we must share our fears with those we trust.
“When our fears—which dwell in darkness—come to the light, truth breaks forth,” he said. “Don’t be discouraged: if you are afraid, bring it to the light, and it will do you good.”
Courage in seeking Jesus
The Pope wrapped up his remarks to the Italian teenagers by reminding them that they have the ability to find the Lord and the Truth.
“Are you afraid? Bring your fears to the light; tell them to someone. Are you discouraged? Overcome it with courage, with someone who takes me by the hand.”
And in moments of difficulty, concluded Pope Francis, we turn to our mother Mary. “May she help you to respond in faith with your own ‘Here I am!’ to the Lord.”
With thanks to Devin Watkins and Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.