Pope Francis has released his message ahead of the international World Youth Day next year, imploring young people across the globe to join him in Lisbon, Portugal, and “arise,” as Mary did, to the call of service to others.
The theme of Lisbon’s World Youth Day, which will take place Aug. 1–6, 2023, is “Mary arose and went with haste.”
Lisbon’s World Youth Day was originally planned to take place in August but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reflecting on the word “arise,” the Holy Father noted that “It is a word that … speaks to us of getting up from our slumber, waking up to the life all around us.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary arises
Pope Francis pointed out that the Blessed Virgin Mary was selfless in her service to her cousin Elizabeth when both women were pregnant.
“Even though the astonishing message of the angel had caused a seismic shift in her plans, the young Mary did not remain paralyzed, for within her was Jesus, the power of resurrection and new life,” he reflected.
“Within herself,” he continued, “Mary already bore the Lamb that was slain and yet lives. She arises and sets out, for she is certain that God’s plan is the best plan for her life.”
Mary is a model for young people “on the move, who refuse to stand in front of a mirror to contemplate themselves or to get caught up in the ‘net,’” he expressed. Pope Francis added that Mary always has an outward focus, toward God, her brothers and sisters, and those most in need.
Pope Francis reflected on the words of St. Ambrose of Milan, who noted that Mary went in “haste” toward the hill country to serve Elizabeth “because she rejoiced in the promise and sought to serve others with the enthusiasm born of her joy.”
“Mary’s haste is thus a sign of her desire to serve, to proclaim her joy, to respond without hesitation to the grace of the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis noted.
Mary was motivated to help the elderly Elizabeth, he added. She wasn’t thinking of herself and this selflessness brought “enthusiasm and direction to her life,” Francis continued.
He then implored young people to consider: “How do I react to the needs that I see all around me? Do I think immediately of some reason not to get involved? Or do I show interest and willingness to help?”
Pope Francis noted that when others are in need, “we need to act quickly.”
“What kinds of ‘haste’ do you have, dear young people? What leads you to feel a need to get up and go, lest you end up standing still?” he questioned.
“But the real question in life is instead,” he continued, “for whom am I living?”
Mary is an example of a young person who doesn’t seek attention or others’ approval, Pope Francis remarked, mentioning a certain dependence on “likes” on social media platforms.
“She sets out to find the most genuine of all ‘connections’: the one that comes from encounter, sharing, love, and service,” he added.
Pope Francis noted that there are many records of Marian apparitions and testimonies of encountering Mary throughout history.
“There is practically no place on earth that she has not visited,” he pointed out. Pope Francis added that the many devotions to Mary — that are often seen in pilgrimages, festivities, prayers, the enthronement of images in houses — are an example of Mary’s relationship with “her people, who visit one another in turn!”
“A healthy haste,” Pope Francis remarked, “drives us always upwards and towards others.” An unhealthy haste “can drive us to live superficially and to take everything lightly,” he added.
An unhealthy haste lacks commitment, concern, and investment, Pope Francis noted. Unhealthy haste can occur in close relationships like between friends and family members, he added. But it can even happen between couples, he reminded young people.
“We can have the same attitude in school, at work, and in other areas of our daily lives,” he explained. “When things are done in haste, they tend not to be fruitful. They risk remaining barren and lifeless. As we read in the Book of Proverbs: ‘the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want.’”
Pope Francis reflected on the humility of Elizabeth, who did not brag to Mary about God’s miraculous intervention of bringing her a child in her old age.
“She would have had every reason to begin by talking about herself, yet she was not ‘full of herself,’ but anxious to welcome her young cousin and the fruit of her womb,” Pope Francis noted.
“As soon as she heard Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,” he said in his message. “Such surprises and outpourings of the Spirit come about when we show true hospitality, when we put others, not ourselves, at the center.”
Pope Francis remarked that many people have met Christ unexpectedly, which has brought respect for other people. Many people have realized that Christ wants to be close and share his life with all, he added.
“The joy of this experience made us hasten to welcome him, to feel the need to be with him and to get to know him better,” he noted. “Elizabeth and Zechariah welcomed Mary and Jesus into their home. Let us learn from these two elderly persons the meaning of hospitality!”
Pope Francis called on young people to ask their parents, grandparents, and elderly in their communities about their relationship with God. “You will benefit from hearing the experiences of those who have gone before you,” he added.
“Dear young people, now is the time to set out in haste towards concrete encounters, towards genuine acceptance of those different from ourselves,” he implored.
“Only thus will we bridge distances — between generations, social classes, ethnic and other groups — and even put an end to wars,” he added. “Young people always represent the hope for new unity within our fragmented and divided human family. But only if they can preserve memory, only if they can hear the dramas and dreams of the elderly.”
The Holy Father remarked that his message to young people is “Jesus himself,” while adding Mary is the model who shows how to bring Christ to the world.
Referencing the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, Pope Francis noted that from Fatima, Mary “addressed to people of all ages the powerful and magnificent message of God’s love, which summons us to conversion and to true freedom.”
He then invited young people to travel to Lisbon next August, while noting that local celebrations of World Youth Day will take place Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King.
“Now is the time to arise! Like Mary, let us ‘arise and go in haste.’ Let us carry Jesus within our hearts and bring him to all those whom we meet,” Pope Francis concluded. “In this beautiful season of your lives, press ahead and do not postpone all the good that the Holy Spirit can accomplish in you! With affection, I bless your dreams and every step of your journey.”