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Pope tells students: learn to be magnanimous

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with hundreds of students from Italian and Albanian Jesuit grade schools and high schools in an audience in the Paul VI Hall on Friday. Below, is Vatican Radio’s translation of the Pope’s official text for the meeting. At the sight of the enthusiastic young people, the Pope spontaneously decided to enter into a question-and-answer session with the students. A report will follow.

Dear children, dear young people!

I am happy to receive you with your families, the educators and friends of the big family of the Jesuit schools of Italy and Albania. To all of you, my affectionate greeting: welcome! With all of you, I feel truly that I am “with family”. And it brings special joy that our meeting coincides with the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I would like you tell you first of all one thing in reference to St. Ignatius of Loyola, our founder. In the autumn of 1537, going to Rome with a group of his first companions, he asked himself: if they ask us who we are, what will we respond? Spontaneously, the response came: “We’ll say that we are the ‘Society of Jesus’!” (Fontes Narrativi Societatis Iesu, vol. 1, pp. 320-322). A challenging name, which indicated a relationship of very close friendship, of total affection for Jesus, whose footsteps they wanted to follow. Why did I recount this fact to you? Because St. Ignatius and his companions had understood that Jesus taught them how to live well, how to create a life that would have profound meaning, joy and hope; they understood that Jesus is a great master of life and a model for life, and that he not only taught them, but was also inviting them to follow him on this path.

Dear children, if I were to ask you the question now: why do you go to school, what would you answer me? Probably there would be many responses according to each of your feelings. But I think it could all be summarized saying that school is one of the educational environments in which we grow to learn to live, to become adult and mature men and women, capable of walking, of going along the road of life. How does school help you to grow? It helps you not only in the development of your intelligence, but with an integral formation of all of the components of your personality.

Following that which St. Ignatius teaches us, the principle element of school is to learn to be magnanimous. Magnanimity: this virtue of the great and of the small (Non coerceri maximo contineri minimo, divinum est), that makes us always look to the horizon. What does it mean to be magnanimous? It means to have a big heart, to have a great spirit; it means to have great ideals, the desire to do great things to respond to that which God asks of us, and exactly this doing of daily things well, all of the daily acts, obligations, encounters with people; doing everyday small things with a big heart open to God and to others. It is important, therefore, to tend to human formation aimed at magnanimity. School not only expands your intellectual dimension, but also the human (dimension). And I think in a particular way, Jesuit schools are attentive to developing human virtues: loyalty, respect, faithfulness, commitment. I would like to pause on two fundamental values: freedom and service.

Firstly, be people who are free! What do I mean? Perhaps we think freedom is doing everything we want; or venturing into high-risk activities to experience a thrill or to overcome boredom. This is not freedom. Freedom means knowing how to reflect on that which we do, to know how to evaluate that which is good and that which is bad, those behaviours that make us grow, it means always choosing good. We have freedom for the good. And, in this, do not be afraid to go against the current, even if it is not easy! To be free to always choose the good is challenging, but it will make you people who have backbone, who know how to face life, (and) people with courage and patience (parresia e ypomoné). The second word is service. In your schools, you participate in various activities that habituate you to not be closed in on yourselves and in your little world, but to open yourselves to others, especially the poorest and neediest, to work to better the world in which we live. Be men and women with others and for others, true champions in the service of others.

To be magnanimous with interior freedom and in a spirit of service is necessary for spiritual formation. Dear children, dear young people, always love Jesus Christ more! Our lives are a response to his call and you will be happy and you will build your lives well if you will know how to respond to this call. Feel the presence of the Lord in your lives. He is close to each of you as your companion, as a friend, who knows how to help you and to understand you, who encourages you in difficult moments and never abandons you. In prayer, in dialogue with him, in the reading of the Bible, you will discover that he is truly close to you. And learn, as well, to read the signs of God in your lives. He always speaks to us, even through the facts of our age and of our daily existence; it is up to us to listen to him.

I do not want to be too long, but I would like to address a specific word also to the educators: the Jesuits, teachers, school staff and parents. Do not be discouraged before the difficulties that the educational challenge presents! Educating is not a job but an attitude, a way of being; to educate we need to step out of ourselves and stay among young people, to accompany them in the stages of their growth, placing ourselves at their side. Give them hope, optimism for their journey in the world. Teach them to see the beauty and the goodness of creation and of humanity, which always retain the imprint of the Creator. But most of all, be witnesses with your lives of that which you communicate. An educator – a Jesuit, teacher, school staff, parent – transmits knowledge and values with his words, but he will be incisive on the children if he accompanies his words with his witness, with the coherence of his life. Without coherence, it is not possible to educate! You are all educators, there are no proxies in this field. Therefore, collaboration in a spirit of unity and community among the different educational components is essential and must be encouraged and nourished. The school can and must be a catalyst, the place of encounter and convergence for the entire educating community, with the sole objective of forming (youth), helping (them) to grow as mature persons, simple, competent and honest, and who know how to love with fidelity, who know how to live life as a response to the vocation of God and their future profession as a service to society. To Jesuits, then, I would like to say that it is important to nourish their commitment in the field of education. Schools are a precious instrument that make a contribution to the journey of the Church and of all of society. The educational field, then, is not limited to conventional schools. Encourage each other to seek new non-conventional forms of education, according to “the need of the places, times and people”.

Finally, a greeting to all of the alumni present, to the representatives of the Italian schools in the Fe y Alegria network, which I know well for the great work it does in South America, especially among the poorest classes. And a special greeting to the delegation of the Albanian College of Scutari which, after the long years of repression of religious institutions, in 1994 took up its activities once again, welcoming and educating Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim children and also some students born in agnostic families. In this way, school becomes a place of dialogue and serene encounter that promotes attitudes of respect, listening, friendship and a spirit of collaboration.

Dear friends, I thank you all for this meeting. I entrust you to the maternal intercession of Mary and I accompany you with my blessing: the Lord be always near you, pick you up from your falls and urge you to grow and to make always greater choices “with great courage and generosity”, with magnanimity. Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam.


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