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Pontiff warns young of false ideas of love

Pope Benedict waves as he is driven through a crowd in St Peter’s Square during the rally for Catholic youths (AP Photo/ Pier Paolo Cito)

The idea of love widely presented by the internet and the media is not love but egotism, Pope Benedict XVI told young people last week.

Young people, he said, should not adapt themselves “to a love reduced to a commodity to be consumed without respect for oneself or for others, incapable of chastity and purity”, because love as a commodity did not offer freedom.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke to 50,000 children, 30,000 young people and 10,000 educators, answering three questions posed to him by a child, a young person and a teacher respectively. They belonged to Catholic Action, an Italian movement for children, teachers and young people. The ages in St Peter’s Square ranged between four and 18.

The Pope said: “Much of the ‘love’ that is proposed by the media, on the internet, is not love but egoism, closure; it gives you the illusion of a moment, but it does not make you happy, it does not make you grow up, it binds you like a chain that suffocates more beautiful thoughts and sentiments, the true desires of the heart, that irrepressible power that is love and that has its maximum expression in Jesus and strength and fire in the Holy Spirit, who enflames your lives, your thoughts, your affections.”

To live love in a true way demands sacrifice, the Pope told the children. “Without renunciation,” he said, “one does not find this road – but I am certain that you are not afraid of the toil of a challenging and authentic love”.

He said: “It is the only kind that, in the final analysis, gives true joy. There is a test that tells you whether your love is growing in a healthy way: if you do not exclude others from your life, above all your friends who are suffering and alone, people in difficulty, and if you open your heart to the great friend Jesus.”

Benedict XVI was answering a young woman who had asked: “But what does it mean to love totally? How can we learn to love truly?”

He said: “You will grow up if you are able to make your life a gift to others, not to seek yourselves, but to give yourselves to others: this is the school of love. This love, however, must bring you into that ‘more’ that today shouts to everyone: ‘There is more!’”

Striking a personal note by referring back to his own adolescence, the Pope said: “As I have already said, I too in my youth wanted something more than what the society and the mentality of the time presented to me. I wanted to breathe pure air.

“Above all I desired a beautiful and good world, like our God, the Father of Jesus, wanted for everyone. And I understood more and more that the world becomes beautiful and good if one knows this will of God and if the world corresponds to this will of God, which is the true light, beauty, love that gives the world meaning.” Increasingly, the Holy Father has been harking back to his childhood and youth in his public speeches. Last month he described feeling constricted in Nazi Germany during his time as a conscript in German military service. He also spoke of his boyhood when he answered a boy who asked: “Your Holiness, what does it mean to grow up? What must I do to grow following Jesus? Who can help me?”

Pope Benedict took up the motto of the Catholic Action:,“There is more”, in his answer to the boy.

He said: “I, when I was a boy of your age, was one of the smallest in my class, and much more did I have the wish to one day be very big; and not only big in terms of the measuring stick, but I wanted to do something big, something more in my life, even if I did not know this saying ‘There is more.’’

“Growing taller implies this ‘There is more’. You are told this by your heart, which wants to have a lot of friends, which is happy when you behave well, when you know how to bring joy to Dad and Mum, but above all when it meets a friend who is incomparable, very good and unique, Jesus.” The Pope addressed himself to teachers last. “I would say that being educators means having a joy in your heart and communicating it to all to make life beautiful and good,” he said.