YOUFRA is an inverted acronym for FRANCISCAN YOUTH. It refers to a group of young people who feel called to follow Christ in the example of St. Francis of Assisi. They are “Franciscans” to the extent that they are attracted to St. Francis and have chosen him as a model, guide, and patron. Its meaning is not the same as YOUNG FRANCISCAN which implies profession in the Franciscan Order. Our region is currently looking to grow YouFra and have more groups that are supported by our fraternities.
MAIN OBJECTIVE OF THE YOUFRA
Although the Franciscan Youth fulfills several objectives related to the needs of the youth, one main objective serves as a guide in carrying out its varied activities: to help young people discover, develop, and deepen their vocation in life in the light of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the message of St. Francis of Assisi.
YouFra is an international organization and sponsored by the International Secular Franciscans.
If you would like to know more about YouFra in our region, please contact our Youth and Young Adult Coordinator, Harry Ford, OFS at: firstname.lastname@example.org
April 8th, 2017
Pope Francis to the Youth and Young Adults
Dear Young Friends,
Thank you for coming! This evening marks a double beginning. It is the beginning of the journey towards the Synod, which has a very long name – “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”, but we can just call it the Synod of Young People. That way it is easier to understand! It is also a second beginning, the beginning of our journey to Panama. The Archbishop of Panama is with us, and I greet him warmly.
We have listened to the Gospel, prayed, sung and brought flowers to the Madonna, our Mother. We also brought the World Youth Day cross, which has come from Kraków and will be handed over tomorrow to the young people from Panama. From Kraków to Panama, with the Synod in between. A Synod from which no young person should feel excluded!
Some people say: “Let’s hold the Synod for young Catholics, for those belonging to Catholic groups; that way it will be better”. No! The Synod is meant to be the Synod for and of all young people. Young people are its protagonists. “But even young people who consider themselves agnostics?” Yes! “Even young people whose faith is lukewarm?” Yes! “Even young people who no longer go to Church?” Yes! “Even young people who – I don’t know if there are any here, maybe one or two – consider themselves atheists?” Yes! This is the Synod of young people and we want to listen to one another. Every young person has something to say to others. He or she has something to say to adults, something to say to priests, sisters, bishops and even the Pope. All of us need to listen to you!
Let’s think back to Kraków; the cross is a reminder. There I said two things, perhaps some of you will remember. First, it is not good to see a young person already retired at twenty! Second, it is also not good to see a young person spending his or her life on a couch. Isn’t this the truth? We need young people who are neither retired nor couch potatoes! We need young people who are on the road and moving forward, at each other’s side but looking ahead to the future!
In the Gospel (cf. Lk 1:39-45) we heard how Mary receives that grace, that immense vocation of bringing God’s gift to us. The Gospel tells us that after hearing that her elderly cousin was expecting a child and needed help, Mary sets out in haste to help her. She hurries! The world today needs young people who “hurry”, who don’t get tired of hurrying. We need young people who feel a call, who feel that life offers them a mission. Young people who, as Maria Lisa (a young religious Sister) said so often in her testimony, are on the go. Maria Lisa shared her experience with us: it was an experience of being on the go. We need young people on the go. The world can change only if young people are on the go.
But this is the tragedy of the world today, and of young people today, that young people are often discarded. They don’t have work, they don’t have an ideal to pursue, they lack education and they lack integration. So many young people have to flee, to migrate to other lands. Young people today, it is painful to say, are often discarded. We cannot tolerate this! We have to hold this Synod to say: “We young people are here!” And we are going to Panama to say: “We young people are here, on the march, and we don’t want to be discarded! We have something of value to give!
While Pompeo was talking (in the second testimony), I was thinking that twice he was almost at the point of being discarded – when he was eight and again when he was eighteen. But he made it: he was able to pick himself up. Life, when we look up always surprises us. Maria Lisa said this too. They both said this.
We are on the march, towards the Synod and towards Panama. And this march has its risks, but when young people don’t take risks, they are already old. We have to take risks.
Maria Lisa said that after receiving the sacrament of Confirmation she fell away from the Church. You all know that here in Italy the sacrament of Confirmation is called the “sacrament of farewell”! After Confirmation, people stop going to church. Why? Because so many young people don’t know what to do. But Maria Lisa never stopped, she kept walking: at times along dark ways, poorly-lit ways, without ideals or with ideals that she didn’t quite understand; but in the end she too made it. As young people, you have to take a risk in life. You have to prepare for tomorrow today. The future is in your hands.
In the Synod, the entire Church wants to listen to young people: to what they are thinking, to what they want, to what they criticize and to what they are sorry for. Everything. The Church needs lots more springtime, and springtime is the season of the young.
I want to invite you to make this journey, this march towards the Synod and towards Panama, and to make it with joy, with your aspirations, without fear, without shame, and to make it courageously. Courage is needed. But also the effort to appreciate the beauty of little things, as Pompeo said: the beauty of everyday life. Be grateful for life, don’t ever lose this ability. Be thankful for what you are: “This is how I am, thank you!” So often in life, we waste time asking ourselves: “Who am I?” You can keep asking, “Who am I?” for the rest of your lives. But the real question is: “For whom am I?” Like Our Lady, who could ask: “For whom, for what person, am I”, here and now? She answers, “For my cousin”, and off she goes. “For whom am I?”, not “Who am I?”. The answer to that second question comes later; it is a question that has to be asked, but first you have to ask why: why you do something, something for your entire life, something that makes you think, makes you feel makes you work. There are these three languages: the language of the mind, the language of the heart, and the language of the hands. Never stop moving ahead.
There is something else I want to tell you. The Synod will not be a “chat room”. World Youth Day will not be a chat room, or a form of entertainment, or a nice happy experience from which you can then move on. No! Concreteness! Life demands concreteness of us. In this liquid culture, we need concreteness, and concreteness is your vocation.
Now I would like to conclude… I had a written speech, but after seeing you, after listening to the testimonies, I thought I should say all the things I just told you. There are going to be times when you don’t understand, dark times, painful times, but also wonderful times, times of darkness and times of light… But I want to make one thing clear. We live in the present. At my age, people are getting ready to leave the scene… right? Who can be sure about life? Nobody. At your age, you have the future ahead of you. Life holds out a mission to young people today; the Church holds out a mission, and I would like to entrust you with this mission. It is to go back and talk to your grandparents. Today more than ever we need this bridge, this dialogue, between grandparents and grandchildren, between the young and the elderly. The prophet Joel makes this prophecy:
“Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (2.28). In other words, the young will make things happen because of their vision. So this is the task I am giving you in the name of the Church. Talk to older people. You may say: “But it’s boring… They are always talking about the same things…” No! Listen to older people, talk to them, ask them questions.
Make them dream, and from those dreams take what you need to move forward, so that you can have a vision and make that vision concrete. This is your mission today. This is the mission the Church gives you today. Dear young friends, be courageous! You may say: “But Father, I have sinned, I fall so often!” I think of an Alpine song, a lovely song that mountaineers sing: “In the art of scaling a mountain, the important thing is not that you fall; it is that you get up and keep going!” Have you fallen? Get up and keep moving. But think about the dreams your grandfather or grandmother had, make them talk about them, take those things and build the bridge to the future. This is the task and the mission the Church is giving you today.
Thank you so much for your courage and now… off to Panama! I don’t know whether I will be there, but the Pope will be there! And the Pope in Panama will ask you this question: “Did you talk to older people? Did you take the dreams of the elderly and make them visions? Are you making them happen? This is your task. May the Lord bless you, pray for me, and together let us prepare for the Synod and for Panama. Thank you.
Pope’s Message for World Youth Day: “Have the courage to be happy”
Vatican City, 17 February 2015 (VIS) – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” is the title of the Holy Father’s message for the thirtieth World Youth Day, celebrated every year on Palm Sunday. The Pope continues his reflection on the Beatitudes, and after referring to his previous messages on “revolutionary meaning” and the “powerful summons of Jesus to embark courageously upon the exciting quest for happiness”, he goes on to focus on “the desire for happiness”, starting from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis which “shows to us the splendid beatitude to which we are called” and “consists in perfect communion with God, with others, with nature, and with ourselves”.
Francis divides his message into four parts. After speaking about the desire for happiness, he analyses the sixth beatitude paragraph by paragraph, explaining purity of heart. If the heart is considered in the Bible to be the “centre of the emotions, thoughts and intentions of the human person”, its purity consists fundamentally in the absence of contaminants such as hate, cowardice, and envy. He then turns to the care for creation, so that it does not become contaminated, and invites a “human ecology” that “ will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beauty, from true love, and from holiness”. Francis also urged the young not to allow their ability to love or be loved be instrumentalised or impaired, and not to trivialise love.
In the third part, “… for they shall see God”, he recalls that Jesus “awaits us always with open arms”, and calls to all “in whatever place or situation you find yourself”. “Encountering God in prayer, the reading of the Bible and in fraternal life will help you better to know the Lord and yourselves”, writes the Pope. “Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, the Lord’s voice will make your hearts burn within you. He will open your eyes to recognise his presence and to discover the loving plan he has for your life”.
“Have the courage to be happy”, Francis concludes, recalling that this year’s World Youth Day begins the final stage in preparation for the next great global event to be held in Krakow, Poland in 2016, thirty years after St. John Paul II instituted the World Youth Days in the Church. This “pilgrimage of young people from every continent under the guidance of the Successor of Peter has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative”.
The full text of the message is given below:
Dear Young Friends,
We continue our spiritual pilgrimage toward Krakow, where in July 2016 the next international World Youth Day will be held. As our guide for the journey we have chosen the Beatitudes. Last year we reflected on the beatitude of the poor in spirit, within the greater context of the Sermon on the Mount. Together we discovered the revolutionary meaning of the Beatitudes and the powerful summons of Jesus to embark courageously upon the exciting quest for happiness. This year we will reflect on the sixth beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”.
1. The desire for happiness
The word “blessed”, or “happy”, occurs nine times in this, Jesus’ first great sermon. It is like a refrain reminding us of the Lord’s call to advance together with him on a road which, for all its many challenges, leads to true happiness.
Dear young friends, this search for happiness is shared by people of all times and all ages. God has placed in the heart of every man and woman an irrepressible desire for happiness, for fulfilment. Have you not noticed that your hearts are restless, always searching for a treasure which can satisfy their thirst for the infinite?
The first chapters of the Book of Genesis show us the splendid “beatitude” to which we are called. It consists in perfect communion with God, with others, with nature, and with ourselves. To approach God freely, to see him and to be close to him, was part of his plan for us from the beginning; his divine light was meant to illumine every human relationship with truth and transparency. In the state of original purity, there was no need to put on masks, to engage in ploys or to attempt to conceal ourselves from one another. Everything was clear and pure.
When Adam and Eve yielded to temptation and broke off this relationship of trusting communion with God, sin entered into human history. The effects were immediately evident, within themselves, in their relationship with each other and with nature. And how dramatic the effects are! Our original purity as defiled. From that time on, we were no longer capable of closeness to God. Men and women began to conceal themselves, to cover their nakedness. Lacking the light which comes from seeing the Lord, they saw everything around them in a distorted fashion, myopically. The inner compass which had guided them in their quest for happiness lost its point of reference, and the attractions of power, wealth, possessions, and a desire for pleasure at all costs, led them to the abyss of sorrow and anguish.
In the Psalms we hear the heartfelt plea which mankind makes to God: “What can bring us happiness? Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord”. The Father, in his infinite goodness, responded to this plea by sending his Son. In Jesus, God has taken on a human face. Through his Incarnation, life, death and resurrection, Jesus frees us from sin and opens new and hitherto unimaginable horizons.
Dear young men and women, in Christ you find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness. He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises. As Saint John Paul II said: “He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives”.
2. Blessed are the pure in heart
Let us now try to understand more fully how this blessedness comes about through purity of heart. First of all, we need to appreciate the biblical meaning of the word heart. In Hebrew thought, the heart is the centre of the emotions, thoughts and intentions of the human person. Since the Bible teaches us that God does not look to appearances, but to the heart, we can also say that it is from the heart that we see God. This is because the heart is really the human being in his or her totality as a unity of body and soul, in his or her ability to love and to be loved.
As for the definition of the word pure, however, the Greek word used by the evangelist Matthew is katharos, which basically means clean, pure, undefiled. In the Gospel we see Jesus reject a certain conception of ritual purity bound to exterior practices, one which forbade all contact with things and people (including lepers and strangers) considered impure. To the Pharisees who, like so many Jews of their time, ate nothing without first performing ritual ablutions and observing the many traditions associated with cleansing vessels, Jesus responds categorically: “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness”.
In what, then, does the happiness born of a pure heart consist? From Jesus’ list of the evils which make someone impure, we see that the question has to do above all with the area of our relationships. Each one of us must learn to discern what can “defile” his or her heart and to form his or her conscience rightly and sensibly, so as to be capable of “discerning the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. We need to show a healthy concern for creation, for the purity of our air, water and food, but how much more do we need to protect the purity of what is most precious of all: our heart and our relationships. This “human ecology” will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beauty, from true love, and from holiness.
Once I asked you the question: “Where is your treasure? In what does your heart find its rest?”. Our hearts can be attached to true or false treasures, they can find genuine rest or they can simply slumber, becoming lazy and lethargic. The greatest good we can have in life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Do you realise how much you are worth in the eyes of God? Do you know that you are loved and welcomed by him unconditionally, as indeed you are? Once we lose our sense of this, we human beings become an incomprehensible enigma, for it is the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives. Do you remember the conversation that Jesus had with the rich young man? The evangelist Mark observes that the Lord looked upon him and loved him, and invited him to follow him and thus to find true riches. I hope, dear young friends, that this loving gaze of Christ will accompany each of you throughout life.
Youth is a time of life when your desire for a love which is genuine, beautiful and expansive begins to blossom in your hearts. How powerful is this ability to love and to be loved! Do not let this precious treasure be debased, destroyed or spoiled. That is what happens when we start to use our neighbours for our own selfish ends, even as objects of pleasure. Hearts are broken and sadness follows upon these negative experiences. I urge you: Do not be afraid of true love, the love that Jesus teaches us and which St. Paul describes as “patient and kind”. Paul says: “Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.
In encouraging you to rediscover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone, deprived of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility. Dear young friends, “in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage to ‘swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy”.
You young people are brave adventurers! If you allow yourselves to discover the rich teachings of the Church on love, you will discover that Christianity does not consist of a series of prohibitions which stifle our desire for happiness, but rather a project for life capable of captivating our hearts.
3. … for they shall see God
In the heart of each man and woman, the Lord’s invitation constantly resounds: “Seek my face!”. At the same time, we must always realise that we are poor sinners. For example, we read in the Book of Psalms: “Who can climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart”. But we must never be afraid or discouraged: throughout the Bible and in the history of each one of us we see that it is always God who takes the first step. He purifies us so that we can come into his presence.
When the prophet Isaiah heard the Lord’s call to speak in his name, he was terrified and said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips”. And yet the Lord purified him, sending to him an angel who touched his lips, saying: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven”. In the New Testament, when on the shores of lake Genessaret Jesus called his first disciples and performed the sign of the miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter fell at his feet, exclaiming: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”. Jesus’ reply was immediate: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be fishers of men”. And when one of the disciples of Jesus asked him: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”, the Master replied: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.
The Lord’s invitation to encounter him is made to each of you, in whatever place or situation you find yourself. It suffices to have the desire for “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter you; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day”. We are all sinners, needing to be purified by the Lord. But it is enough to take a small step towards Jesus to realise that he awaits us always with open arms, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation, a privileged opportunity to encounter that divine mercy which purifies us and renews our hearts.
Dear young people, the Lord wants to meet us, to let himself “be seen” by us. “And how?”, you might ask me. St. Teresa of Avila, born in Spain five hundred years ago, even as a young girl, said to her parents, “I want to see God”. She subsequently discovered the way of prayer as “an intimate friendship with the One who makes us feel loved”. So my question to you is this: “Are you praying?” Do you know that you can speak with Jesus, with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, as you speak to a friend? And not just any friend, but the greatest and most trusted of your friends! You will discover what one of his parishioners told the Curé of Ars: “When I pray before the tabernacle, ‘I look at him, and he looks at me’”.
Once again I invite you to encounter the Lord by frequently reading sacred Scripture. If you are not already in the habit of doing so, begin with the Gospels. Read a line or two each day. Let God’s word speak to your heart and enlighten your path. You will discover that God can be “seen” also in the face of your brothers and sisters, especially those who are most forgotten: the poor, the hungry, those who thirst, strangers, the sick, those imprisoned. Have you ever had this experience? Dear young people, in order to enter into the logic of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must recognise that we are poor with the poor. A pure heart is necessarily one which has been stripped bare, a heart that knows how to bend down and share its life with those most in need.
Encountering God in prayer, the reading of the Bible and in the fraternal life will help you better to know the Lord and yourselves. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, the Lord’s voice will make your hearts burn within you. He will open your eyes to recognise his presence and to discover the loving plan he has for your life.
Some of you feel, or will soon feel, the Lord’s call to married life, to forming a family. Many people today think that this vocation is “outdated”, but that is not true! For this very reason, the ecclesial community has been engaged in a special period of reflection on the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world. I also ask you to consider whether you are being called to the consecrated life or the priesthood. How beautiful it is to see young people who embrace the call to dedicate themselves fully to Christ and to the service of his Church! Challenge yourselves, and with a pure heart do not be afraid of what God is asking of you! From your “yes” to the Lord’s call, you will become new seeds of hope in the Church and in society. Never forget: God’s will is our happiness!
4. On the way to Krakow
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. Dear young men and women, as you see, this beatitude speaks directly to your lives and is a guarantee of your happiness. So once more I urge you: Have the courage to be happy! This year’s World Youth Day begins the final stage of preparations for the great gathering of young people from around the world in Krakow in 2016. Thirty years ago St. John Paul II instituted World Youth Days in the Church. This pilgrimage of young people from every continent under the guidance of the Successor of Peter has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative. Together let us thank the Lord for the precious fruits which these World Youth Days have produced in the lives of countless young people in every part of the globe! How many amazing discoveries have been made, especially the discovery that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life! How many people have realised that the Church is a big and welcoming family! How many conversions, how many vocations have these gatherings produced! May the saintly Pope, the Patron of World Youth Day, intercede on behalf of our pilgrimage toward his beloved Krakow. And may the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, all-beautiful and all-pure, accompany us at every step along the way.