Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of September 6, 2008
Third pilgrimage to Fonte San Lorenzo (MC), the second place declared thaumaturgical by God
1st reading: 1Cor 4,6-15, Psalm 144, Gospel: Lk 6,1-5
"At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her"" (Lk 1:39-45).
I have chosen the Gospel we just read because the introduction of this passage recalls today's experience you have had by making the trip to the mountain (Pilgrimage to the thaumaturgic place Fonte San Lorenzo, editor's note). Some have come from places nearby, others from far away, but all were enlivened by the same feelings: to meet the Mother of the Eucharist we call Mother and the One we call Dad, that is to say God.
This pilgrimage has a special value, not only in our life or in our community's history, but for the whole Church. The reason is the one I pointed out this morning: the intention for which from now on, each of you, present and absent, must pray in a generous and helpful way is to bring forward the conversion of young people.
God's request covers the universality of the youth world, youth from all over the world, not just the ones you know. Some of you may say: "How do we do it, how is that possible?" In the same manner the archangel Gabriel replied to Mary, he will also reply to you: "To God nothing is impossible".
God can do without me and without each of you, but He has called us to this task that is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, of all those currently pushing the ecclesiastic reality: the young people; they represent Jesus' heart. Some of the Popes have called them "the apples of my eyes" but, honestly, we must say that this heart is giving signs of failure and these apples of my eyes are beginning not to see so well. Some people, whose sole interest is to show the positive side of what is actually negative, are depicting the young people as mature, responsible and wonderful, and some of them really are, but we would like all of them to be like that. We cannot settle for a part because we are Catholics, and all this explains the term 'universal'. We need to attract young people from around the world, even those in more remote areas, for they all are God's children and hence our brothers. We must rejoice to meet them in Heaven one day, but now we have to suffer at the thought that many of them, unfortunately, will not make it, and these statements are not mine. When Our Lady, on July 20, asked Marisa on God's behalf, to carry out this last mission, I shivered, for I know the situation of many young people.
Since I am a priest and later a Bishop as well, I was always interested in youth and the knowledge of youth issues is coming to me from two sources: from the world and from God. Some of you may have read recently in newspapers and magazines specializing in youth issues the catastrophic and terrible statistics. Drugs, alcohol and sex are rampant among young people in a ruthless manner. The Mother of the Eucharist also said who is to blame, who is responsible for this situation pointing to two subjects: we priests and you parents. What do we give to young people today? We try to give them material wealth, but nobody cares about their souls, or to help them foster virtues and root out imperfections. Who cares to get involved if one sees a morally illegal and problematic situation in a young person? We priests do not act because we are afraid of losing young people, this is the problem. We were told that if we are rightly severe, young people will move away from parishes. You have known Christ's severity, then why don't we follow Him?
Our responsibility, however, lies not so much in doing nothing when they are wrong, but rather in implementing the so-called preventive upbringing: you have to start their upbringing early in life when they are small, first by imitation, then with words and, later, with authoritative signs. The uninformed person is exposed to more mistakes than the one who knows the reality and the situation, both in the lay and religious field. We should start a campaign to raise awareness by asking firstly the priests to be knowledgeable and well-formed educators, so they may train others. It is absolutely not possible to give any teaching if first we do not put them into practice. For parents it is just the same.
We have tried to form our couples to a sense of responsibility, of enlightened consciousness and intervention capacity. I believe, because God has acknowledged it, that the efforts have achieved their goal, and today He said it again, both referring to the youth and to the "pearls" (the elderly). Do you realize? He has called you pearls and this means that if on our side there was a commitment in training, there was, on your side, the willingness to accept and receive advices, suggestions and even reproaches, which were not spared.
The conversion of young people is a difficult mission and has been accompanied, since it started, by so many prayers from us, by so much suffering, especially from Marisa and me as well; all kinds of suffering: physical, moral and supernatural. Unfortunately all these sufferings, accompanied also by the prayers of those of you who gradually came to know of this mission, have produced only ten thousand conversions. I can assure you that the suffering was terrible. In a conversation that God allowed me to have with Him, I asked: "My God, why it is so difficult to convert young people?" He said: "It is just as difficult as to convert priests who are in sin". For me it was a very hard blow. I also wondered: "To this poor woman would not be sufficient Methuselah's life in order to succeed to bring to God a substantial number of youth conversions". Here you take over.
Today, officially, if you wish, you are called by God to join the Seer and the Bishop in this mission, which will continue even when our sister will fly to Heaven. We, you, your children, your grandchildren, will have to go on because there is always a need for suffering, prayer and sacrifice for the young people who are the Church backbone. A Church that has no youth is a Church that is going to collapse; a Church that has youth is a Church that will stand up in time.
We can say that in the midst of joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, attendance and drop in attendance; we have given much for the formation of young people. Today these two young people will make their promise. I smile because two months ago, believe me, it was impossible to think just what is before your eyes, but God intervenes and overcomes all obstacles. After so many years I can say I learned something in the relationship with God and one of the experiences is this: do not wonder about anything. What seems impossible to us it quickly becomes possible and feasible, on the other hand, whatever seems to us so easy we will never attain because if there is no help from God's we cannot go forward.
Now is your time. Even in this situation of juvenile love, we think and reflect with a different mindset from the common young mentality, due to teachings coming from High Above. Our couples, both the married ones and those who are going to get married must not get interested in the words falling in love but just in the word love. Falling in love is a feeling, a superficial emotion that can last as long as the causes producing it: sympathy, beauty, wealth, health. But all these things will dwindle as time goes by.
To the more aged people present here I say to look at how different you were thirty or forty years ago when you got married and compare it to the present time: you have had to endure each other's grievances and if there had been no love it would have happened what, unfortunately, we hear so often: he left his wife because she was ill, she left her husband because he was aging and so on. Is this called love? No. That's why you, and others who have preceded you, have to aim to a love relationship, love that has God as the source. We need to keep in touch with Him, we cannot love unless we are united with God, we cannot love unless we are in God's grace and feed on the Eucharist. If we receive from God we will be ready to give to others what we receive. So in your talks there must always be just the sentence "I love you" and not "I am in love with you".
Love is all, is the virtue leading to Paradise. I say "I love God" not "I am in love with God". God says to me "I love you", He is not saying "I am in love with you". In our language there must be only the word love. For love to be strong you have always to feed on the Eucharist, the incarnate love, love made man, love on the cross, love of purification. Be united in the grace. Have you ever heard someone saying at a wedding: "You have to be united by the grace"? If one spouse would not be in a state of grace, the union will fail. Remember the image of Jesus about the vine and branches? The branches to bear fruit must be joined to the vine, you are the branches and Jesus the vine: if one of you is detached from Jesus what fruit will he give? It dries up and serves no other purpose than to feed the fire. Is this the ending you want to attain? If you will be good spouses you will good parents, if you will be bad spouses you will be bad parents.
Love means to desire the good of others, not our own good, not thinking about you first; work and, if necessary, suffer in order to make the other happy. If in order for your husband, wife or children to achieve happiness a sacrifice on your part is required, you must be ready and willing to do so. Is it difficult? Yes.
Our Lady and St. Joseph lived loving each other, searching each other, looking into each other's eyes. Mary and Joseph are the example we all must strive for.
If, during the day there should be any spark, for life is hard, boring, full of worries, bitterness and stress so that steam is let off on the nearest person, woe to you if you go to sleep without having made peace before. It's so nice to say: "My darling, I'm sorry, I was nervous" this is true love, you give a nice kiss and you go to bed. In this manner the family will go on quietly, peacefully and joyfully.
I wish all those present to renew their marriage and nourish it with the love I spoke to you about. Now, if you please, stand up and let us bless the rings.