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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Encounter with families: combat uncertainty and isolation

Vatican City, 16 February 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, after visiting the Cathedral of San Cristobal de Las Casas, the Pope departed by helicopter to Tuxtla Gutierrez where he met with families in the Victor Manuel Reyna stadium. Upon arrival at the stadium, by popemobile, he was greeted by thousands of people and received the keys to the city from the hands of the governor of the state of Chiapas.

The meeting began with testimonies from a young couple; a family made up of divorced parents in a new relationship; Manuel, a disabled adolescent; Beatriz, a single mother, and various other couples from the diocese of Tapachula who had been married for many years.

The Pope then addressed those present, starting by giving thanks to God "for being here, on Chiapaneca soil". He continued, "It feels good to be here on this soil, on this land; it is good to be here in this place which, with you here, has a family flavour, a home flavour. … I also thank you, families and friends, for giving us your witness, for opening to us the doors of your homes, the doors of your lives; you have allowed us to sit with you sharing both in the bread that nourishes you and in the sweat of your brow as you face the difficulties of every day. It is the bread representing the joys, the hopes and the hard sweat with which you confront sadness, disillusion and failings".

"Manuel, before thanking you for your testimony", he continued. "I thank you for your witness and especially for your example. I liked the expression you used, 'to put your heart into it' [echarle ganas] describing the attitude you took after speaking with your parents. You began to put your heart into your life, your family, your friends; you put your heart into us gathered here. Thank you. I believe that this is what the Holy Spirit always wants to do in our midst: to put a new heart into us, giving us reasons to keep on taking risks for the good of the family, dreaming and building a life that has this sense of home, of family".

"This is something which God the Father has always dreamt of and for which God the Father has fought for a very long time. When everything seemed lost that afternoon in the Garden of Eden, God the Father put a new heart into that young couple and told them that everything was not lost. And when the people of Israel felt that they could not go on journeying through the desert, God the Father put His heart into it by giving them manna from heaven. And when the fullness of time came, God the Father put His heart into it, into humanity, by sending us His Son".

"Similarly, all of us here have had this experience, in different moments and different ways; God the Father has put His heart into it for us. We can ask ourselves: why? Because He cannot do otherwise. God our Father does not know how do to anything else but love us and put His best into us, encouraging us, helping us move forward… because His name is love, His name is self-giving, His name is mercy. This He has shown us with complete power and clarity in Jesus, His Son, Who risked everything to the end so as to once again make possible the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom that invites us to share in a new mindset, that puts into motion a dynamic power capable of opening the heavens, capable of opening our hearts, our minds, our hands and capable of challenging us with new possibilities. This is a Kingdom which has the feeling of family, the flavour of a life shared. In Jesus and with Jesus this Kingdom is possible".

"Manuel, you asked me to pray for the many adolescents who are disillusioned and on a wrong path. How well we know this. Many adolescents who are deflated, tired and without aspirations. And as you yourself rightly said, this attitude often comes from a feeling of loneliness, from not having someone to talk to. Think of fathers and mothers: do they speak to their sons or daughters or are they always busy or in a rush?"

"This reminds me of the witness which Beatriz gave us", he continued. "Beatriz, you said: 'the struggle has always been difficult because of uncertainty and loneliness'. How many times did you feel singled out, judged: 'that one'? Let us think of all those people, of all those women who go through what Beatriz went through. Uncertainty, insufficiency, and often not having the bare essentials, can lead to despair, can make us deeply anxious because we cannot see a way to go on, especially when we have children in our care. Uncertainty is not only a threat to our stomach (which is already serious), but it can also threaten our soul, demoralising us and taking away our energy so that we seek apparent solutions that in the end solve nothing. And you were brave Beatriz, thank you. There is a kind of uncertainty which can be very dangerous, which can creep in surreptitiously; it is the uncertainty born of solitude and isolation. And isolation is always a bad counsellor".

"The way to overcome the uncertainty and isolation which makes us vulnerable to so many apparent solutions – as Beatriz mentioned – can be found on different levels. One is through legislation which protects and guarantees the bare necessities of life so that every home and every person can develop through education and dignified employment. There is, on the other hand, what the witness of Humberto and Claudia made evident when they explained how they tried to convey to others the love of God that they experienced through service and generous giving. Laws and personal commitment make good duo that can break the spiral of uncertainty. And you have the inspiration, you pray, and you are united to Jesus, and you are involved in the life of the Church. You used a beautiful expression: 'Let us take communion with the brother who is weak, ill, needy, in prison'. Thank you. Thank you".

"Today we see how on different fronts the family is weakened and questioned. It is regarded as a model which has done its time, but which has no place in our societies; these, claiming to be modern, increasingly favour a model based on isolation. … It is true that family life is not always easy, and can often be painful and stressful but, as I have often said referring to the Church, I prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play, to a family and society that is sick from isolationism or a habitual fear of love. I prefer a family that makes repeated efforts to begin again, to a family and society that is narcissistic and obsessed with luxury and comfort. … I prefer a family with tired faces from generous giving, to a family with 'made up' faces that know nothing of tenderness and compassion. I prefer a man and a woman, don Aniceto and his wife, with faces that are wrinkled due to the daily struggles over the fifty years of strong married love; and here we have them".

"And speaking of wrinkles, to change the subject a little, I remember the testimony of a great actress – an actress of Latin American films – almost in her sixties, and showing some wrinkles on her face. She was advised to have some work done on her face so as to carry on working successfully. Her response was quite clear: 'These wrinkles cost me a lot of work, much effort, much pain and a full life, so I would never even dream of touching them; they are the signs of my life history. And I am still a great actress'. The same thing happens in marriage. Married life has to be renewed every day. And, as I said before, I prefer families with wrinkles, with wounds, and scars, but who carry on moving forwards; for these wounds, scars and wrinkles are the fruit of a faithful love which has had its share of difficulties. Love is not easy, it not easy, but the most beautiful thing is when a man and a woman can offer each other true love and offer it for life".

"I have been asked to pray for you and I want to do so now. You, dear Mexicans, have something extra; you run ahead with an advantage. You have a Mother, la Guadalupana. La Guadalupana wanted to visit this land and this gives us the certainty of her intercession so that our dream, which we call the family, may not be lost through uncertainty or solitude. She is a Mother and is always ready to defend our families, our future; she is always ready to put her heart into it by giving us her Son. For this reason, I invite you, as you are, without moving around too much, to hold hands and address her together: 'Hail Mary…'".

After all those present in the stadium prayed a Hail Mary together, the Pope added, "And let us not forget St. Joseph, quiet, a worker, but always at the forefront looking after his family. Thank you, and may God bless you. And pray for me. And now I would like to invite married couples here present, in the context of this celebration of the family, to renew in silence their marriage vows. And those who are preparing for marriage, ask for the grace of a faithful family, full of love. In silence, renew your marriage vows, and newly-weds, pray for the grace of fidelity and love in the family".

Later in the afternoon Francis returned by air to Mexico City, from where he travelled to Morelia to celebrate Mass with the priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and seminarians of the city, and to meet the rectors of various Mexican universities and leaders of other Christian confessions in the cathedral. The Pope's day will conclude with a meeting with young people in the Morelos y Pavon Stadium, after which he will return to Mexico City.

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