The Holy Father's First Speech at Kiel Center
Young People of St. Louis,
Dear Young People of the United States,
Praised be Jesus Christ!
1. Your warm and enthusiastic welcome makes me very happy. It tells
me that tonight the Pope belongs to you. I have just been in
Mexico City, to celebrate the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops for
America. There I had the joy of being with many thousands of young
people. And now, my joy continues here with you, so, yesterday the
young people of Mexico, today the young people of St. Louis and
Missouri, and of the whole United States.
2. We are gathered here this evening to listen to Jesus as he speaks
to us through his word and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We have just heard the Apostle Paul say to Timothy, his young fellow
evangelizer: "Train yourself for devotion" (1 Tim 4:7).
These are important words for every Christian, for everyone who truly
seeks to follow the Lord and to put his words into practice. They
are especially important for you, the young people of the Church.
And so you need to ask yourselves: what training am I doing in
order to live a truly Christian life?
You all know what "training" is, and what it signifies.
In fact, we are here in the Kiel Center where many people train long
and hard in order to compete in different sports. Today, this impressive
stadium has become another kind of training ground — not for
hockey or soccer or baseball or basketball - I'll say here nothing
about football! - but for that training that will help you to live
your faith in Jesus more decisively. This is the "training in
devotion" that Saint Paul is referring to – the training
that makes it possible for you to give yourselves without reservation
to the Lord and to the work that he calls you to do!
I am told that there was much excitement in St. Louis during the recent
baseball season, when two great players (Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa)
were competing to break the home-run record. You can feel the same
great enthusiasm as you train for a different goal: the goal of
following Christ, the goal of bringing his message to the world.
Each one of you belongs to Christ, and Christ belongs to you.
At Baptism you were claimed for Christ with the Sign of the Cross;
you received the Catholic faith as a treasure to be shared with others.
In Confirmation, you were sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit
and strengthened for your Christian mission and vocation. In the Eucharist,
you receive the food that nourishes you for the spiritual challenges
of each day.
I am especially pleased that so many of you had the opportunity
today to receive the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In this Sacrament you experience the Savior’s tender mercy and
love in a most personal way, when you are freed from sin and from
its ugly companion which is shame. Your burdens are lifted and you
experience the joy of new life in Christ.
Your belonging to the Church can find no greater expression or support
than by sharing in the Eucharist every Sunday in your parishes.
Christ gives us the gift of his body and blood to make us one body,
one spirit in him, to bring us more deeply into communion with him
and with all the members of his Body, the Church. Make the Sunday
celebration in your parishes a real encounter with Jesus in the community
of his followers: this is an essential part of your "training
in devotion" to the Lord!
4. Dear young friends, in the Reading we have just heard, the Apostle
Paul tells Timothy: "Let no one have contempt for your youth"
(1 Tim 4:12). He says this because youth is a marvelous gift of
God. It is a time of special energies, special opportunities and
special responsibilities. Christ and the Church need your special
talents. Use well the gifts the Lord has given you!
This is the time of your "training", of your physical,
intellectual, emotional and spiritual development. But this does not
mean that you can put off until later your meeting with Christ and
your sharing in the Church’s mission. Even though you are young,
the time for action is now! Jesus does not have "contempt
for your youth". He does not set you aside for a later time when
you will be older and your training will be complete. Your training
will never be finished. Christians are always in training.
You are ready for what Christ wants of you now. He wants you –
all of you – to be light to the world, as only young people
can be light. It is time to let your light shine!
In all my travels I tell the world about your youthful energies,
your gifts and your readiness to love and serve. And wherever I go
I challenge young people – as a friend – to live
in the light and truth of Jesus Christ.
I urge you to let his word enter your hearts, and then from the
bottom of your hearts to tell him: "Here I am Lord, I come
to do your will!" (cf. Heb 10:7).