Pope: Don't pretend to be teens; help youths see blessings of adulthood

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giorgio Onorati, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) — Instead of “pretending
to be adolescents,” parents must help young people see the blessing of
growing into adulthood, Pope Francis told priests, religious, catechists and
parish council members from the Diocese of Rome.

The belief that youthfulness
is a model of success “is one of the most dangerous ‘unwitting’ menaces in
the education of our adolescents” that hinders their personal growth
because “adults have taken their place,” the pope said June 19,
opening the Rome Diocese’s annual convention.

This “can increase a
natural tendency young people have to isolate themselves or to curb their
process of growth” because they have no role models, the pope said.

In his nearly 45-minute talk,
Pope Francis reflected on the convention’s theme, “Do not leave them
alone! Accompanying parents in educating adolescent children.”

The pope said the first step
in reaching out to young people in Rome is to “speak in the Roman dialect,
that is, concretely” rather than in general or abstract terms that do not
speak to teens’ problems.

Families in big cities such
as Rome face different problems than those in rural areas. For this reason, the
pope said, parents must educate their adolescent children “within the
context of a big city” and speak to them concretely with “healthy and
stimulating realism.”

Families, the pope continued,
also must confront the challenge of educating their children in an
“uprooted society” where people are disconnecting from their roots
and feel no sense of belonging.

“An uprooted culture, an
uprooted family is a family without a history and without memory,” he

Although social networking
has allowed more people to connect and feel part of a group, its virtual nature
can also create a certain alienation where people “feel that they do not
have roots, that they belong to no one,” the pope said.

“If we want our children
to be formed and prepared for tomorrow, it is not just by learning languages,
for example, that they will succeed in doing so. They need to connect, to know
their roots. Only then can they fly high,” he said.

Departing from his prepared
speech, Pope Francis said parents “should make room for their children to
speak with their grandparents,” who have the gift of passing on “faith,
history and belonging with wisdom.”

Often disregarded and cast
aside, grandparents must be given the opportunity to “give young people
the sense of belonging that they need.”

Pope Francis said parents,
catechists and pastors must understand that adolescence is a challenging time
in young people’s lives where “they are neither children (and do not want
to be treated as such) and are not adults (but want to be treated as such,
especially on the level of privileges.)”

He also said he was worried
about the current trend in society to view adolescence as a “pathology
that must be fought” and that leads some parents to “prematurely
medicate our youths.”

“It seems that
everything is solved by medicating or controlling everything with the slogan ‘making
the most of time’ and in the end, the young people’s schedules are worse than
that of a high-level executive,” he said.

Instead, schools, parishes
and youth movements can take a pivotal role in helping young men and women want
to feel challenged so they can achieve their goals.

In this way, “they can
discover that all the potential they have is a bridge, a passage toward a
vocation (in the broadest and most beautiful sense of the word),” he said.

Young people, Pope Francis
added, need educators that help grow within them “the life of the spirit
of Jesus” and help them see that “to become Christians requires
courage and it is a beautiful thing.”

“I think it is important
to live the education of children starting from the perspective as a calling
that the Lord has made to us as a family, to make this step a step of growth,
to learn to enjoy the life that he has given us,” Pope Francis said.

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