(Vatican Radio) On Monday evening Pope Francis flew to the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of the Mexican southeast state of Chiapas, where he met with families in the city’s stadium (Tuxtla Gutiérrez Stadium).
Before addressing the gathering, he listened to testimonies by people from different family situations who included a civilly-married couple of divorced parents who are actively involved with charitable work, a disabled adolescent who found joy in being accepted by the church and is now active in the evangelization of other youth, a single mother who was rejected by society but welcomed with love in the Church, and a catholic family of the diocese of Tapachula.
In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis noted that the testimonies he had heard represented the joys, hopes, and determination by which many families confront sadness, disillusion and failings. He observed that “living in a family is not always easy, and can often be painful and stressful”. He added that he would prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play to a society that is afraid of love.
Before travelling to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the Pope visited the cathedral of San Cristóbal where he offered flowers to the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a gift of a chalice and a Chasuble to the cathedral. Inside the Church, he was welcomed by groups of the elderly and the sick. Before reciting the Marian prayer with them he told them that they help Jesus to carry his cross, by taking a piece of it. He prayed to God through the intercession of Our Lady to give them strength and peace of heart and to comfort them.
Here below is the Pope’s full speech in English to the Families in the stadium of Tuxtla Gutierrez:
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am grateful to be here, on Chiapaneca soil. 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 give thanks to God for your faces and your presence; I give thanks to God because of the heart-beat of his presence in your families. I also thank you, families and friends, for giving us your witness, for opening to us the doors of your homes and 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. I thank you for allowing me to enter into your families, your homes, and to sit at your tables.
Manuel, 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. 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, 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 he 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. 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. When the fullness of time came, God the Father put his heart into it by giving humanity the eternal gift of 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. He knows how to put his best into us; why? Because his name is love, his name is gift, 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. He is capable of changing our perspectives, attitudes, and feelings, which are often watery and dull, into the wine of joy and celebration. He can heal our hearts and invite us again and again, seventy times seven, to begin anew. He can make all things new.
Manuel, you asked me to pray for the many adolescents who are disillusioned and on a wrong path, many 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. And this reminds me of the witness which Beatrice gave us. If I am not mistaken Beatrice, you said: “the struggle has always been difficult because of uncertainty and loneliness”. Uncertainty, insufficiency, and often not having the bare essentials, can lead to despair, can make us deeply anxious because we cannot see a way forward, 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, demoralizing us and taking away our energy so that we seek apparent solutions that in the end solve nothing. 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.
Both, unknowingly, used the same expression; both showed us that very often the greatest temptation we face is to cut ourselves off, and far from putting our heart into things, this attitude of isolation ends up, like a moth, drying up our souls.
The way to overcome the uncertainty and isolation which makes us vulnerable to so many apparent solutions, 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.
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 living in family 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 society that is sick from isolationism and habitual afraid of love. I prefer a family that makes repeated efforts to begin again, to a society that is narcissistic and obsessed with luxury and comfort. I prefer a family with tired faces from generous giving, to faces with makeup that know nothing of tenderness and compassion.
I have been asked to pray for you and I want to do so now, with you. You Mexicans have something extra; you run ahead with an advantage. You have a Mother, la Guadalupana. She 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 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 to join our hands and say together: “Hail Mary…”.