When it comes to happiness, there's no app for that, pope tells teens

IMAGE: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Happiness “is not an ‘app’ that
you can download on your phones nor will the latest update help you become free
and great in loving,” Pope Francis told thousands of teenagers.

Youth from around the world flocked to Rome for a special
Year of Mercy event for teens aged 13-16. The celebrations began April 23 with
confessions in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope caught many off guard as he made an unannounced
visit to the square. After greeting several people, he placed a purple stole
over his shoulders and sat down, joining more than 150 priests offering the
sacrament of reconciliation.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the
pope “listened to the confessions of 16 boys and girls,” spending
more than an hour in the square.

Celebrating Mass with the young people April 24, the pope
told them true freedom is priceless and comes from making the courageous
decision to do good and not from the mediocre belief that happiness can be
easily obtained through worldly possessions and fashion.

A person’s happiness has “has no price and cannot be
bought,” the pope told them during the Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

Gray clouds looming over St. Peter’s
Square did little to deter an estimated 100,000 young teens and pilgrims from
attending the final Mass of the jubilee celebration.

In his homily, the pope encouraged the
youths to carry out the “enormous responsibility” entrusted to the
disciples by Jesus in the Sunday Gospel reading: “By this everyone will
know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love, he said, is the “only valid
‘document’ identifying us as Christians” and the only path to happiness.

True love is free “without being
possessive” of people or worldly things, he said. “There is always a
temptation to let our affections be tainted by an instinctive desire to take, to
have what we find pleasing; our consumerist culture reinforces this tendency.
Yet when we hold on too tightly to something, it fades, it dies and then we
feel confused, empty inside,” he said.

The freedom that comes from love, he
continued, does not come from “doing whatever you want,” which only
makes people “self-centered and aloof,” but is a gift that comes from
“being able to choose good.”

“Be skeptical about people who want
to make you believe that you are only important if you act tough like the
heroes in films or if you wear the latest fashions. Your happiness has no
price; it cannot be bought,” the pope stressed.

The first day of the celebration ended late April 23 with
music and testimonies at Rome’s Olympic Stadium for an estimated 70,000 youth.
In a video message played at the rally, Pope Francis compared the absence of
Jesus in one’s life to being somewhere without a cellphone signal so it is
impossible to connect with each other.

“Just remember that if Jesus is not in your life, it is
as though there was no signal,” he said. “Let’s always place
ourselves where we have the signal: the family, the parish, the school, because
in this world we will always have something to say that is good and true.”

The youths had made a pilgrimage to the Holy Door at St.
Peter’s Basilica, and the pope told them, “Do not forget that the door is the encounter with Christ, who introduces us
to the Father who asks us to be merciful as he is merciful.”

Reminding them of the importance of simple
gestures in carrying out works of mercy, the pope said that to be merciful with
others, one must first be able to forgive. Resentments or the desire for
revenge are like a worm that “eats away at the soul and does not allow us
to be happy,” he said.

“Let us forgive and forget the wrong
done to us; in this way we can understand the teaching of Jesus and be his disciples
and witnesses of mercy,” he said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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