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Pope Francis arrived for a special audience with more than 60,000 altar servers July 31 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
Pope Francis arrived for a special audience with more than 60,000 altar servers July 31 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
Photo Credit: Claudio Peri | EPA

POPE’S MESSAGE | The path to holiness isn’t for the lazy, pope tells altar servers

The pope said that even in their youth, altar servers can be apostles and draw others to Christ

VATICAN CITY — Christ’s commandment to love God and neighbor is a path trodden by those who have the desire to become saints, Pope Francis told thousands of altar servers from around the world.

“Yes, it does take effort to keep doing good and to become saints,” the pope told the young people July 31. “You know that the path to holiness isn’t for the lazy, it requires effort.”

The pope presided over an evening meeting and prayer service with about 60,000 altar servers making an international pilgrimage to Rome. The majority of young men and women came from Germany, but pilgrims also hailed from Italy, France, Austria, the United States and other countries.

After circling St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile, Pope Francis smiled brightly as Bishop Ladislav Nemet of Zrenjanin, Serbia, waved his arms and urged the young men and women to welcome the pope. Bishop Nemet is president of Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium, the association of altar servers.

“You are very courageous to be here since 12 p.m. in this heat!” the pope told the young people before responding to questions posed by servers from Luxembourg, Portugal, Antigua and Barbuda, Germany and Serbia.

One server told Pope Francis that like many of his fellow altar servers, he was saddened “to see how few of our own age group come to Mass” or participate in parish life. “How can we — and our communities — reach out to these people and bring them back to Christ and to the family of the Church?” he asked.

The pope said that even in their youth, altar servers can be apostles and draw others to Christ “if you are full of enthusiasm for Him, if you have encountered Him, if you have come to know Him personally and been ‘won over’ by Him.”

“There is no need for lots of words,” the pope said. “More important are your actions, your closeness, your desire to serve. Young people — and everyone else for that matter — need friends who can give a good example, who are ready to act without expecting anything in return.”

When asked how altar servers can contribute to peace “in our families, in our countries and in the world,” the pope said that “making peace begins with little things” such as trying to reconcile after a quarrel or asking in every situation, “What would Jesus do in my place?”

“If we can do this, if we really put it into practice, we will bring Christ’s peace to our everyday lives. Then we will be peacemakers and channels of God’s peace,” he said.

A Serbian altar server asked, “How can we translate our service, in daily life, into concrete works of charity and in a path toward holiness?”

Pope Francis encouraged them to practice the works of mercy, which “are demanding yet within the reach of all.”

Help those in need, never waste food

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked people to generously serve those most in need and to never waste food.

“Never throw away leftovers,” he said July 29 before reciting the Angelus prayer with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Leftovers should be eaten later or given to someone in need who will eat them, he said, advising people to talk to their relatives who lived through the aftermath of the Second World War and ask what they did with any uneaten food.

The pope made his comments during his reflection on the day’s Gospel reading about the multiplication of the loaves.

He praised how the young boy in the account came forward with the little he had — five loaves and two fish.

“Young people are like this, they are courageous. We have to help them continue” being brave, he said.

The Gospel account, the pope said, shows how Jesus is aware of the people being hungry and how He gets His disciples involved to offer “His word, His consolation, His salvation and, in the end, His life.”

“We, His disciples, cannot look the other way,” he said. “Only by listening to the people’s simplest requests” and accompanying them with their real problems “can one be listened to when one speaks of higher values.”

Humanity is hungry for “bread, freedom, justice, peace and, above all, divine grace,” the pope said. And God’s love can satisfy them all through His disciples and through those, like the young boy, are moved by compassion and contribute what little they have.

Proclaiming Christ demands a generous commitment of solidarity toward the poor, the weak, the least and the defenseless, he said.

He also encouraged global policies that encourage development, nutrition and solidarity, and not hatred, weapons and war.

— Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

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