There is so much about Pope Francis' papacy that excites and inspires me, but I'm especially grateful for some of the key themes that are especially appealing to young people, writes Robert Christian.
It has been fulfilling to see many of my former students retain their religious beliefs as they head back to school as university second-years, despite growing up in the relatively secular atmosphere of Silicon Valley. I certainly cannot claim all the credit, but I like to think that the core messages of the class I taught helped. And as I assisted in confirmation preparation at my parish last year, I often returned to certain key ideas.
I did not invent these themes, but they are often overlooked -- or at least, they were until this year. There is so much about Pope Francis' papacy that excites and inspires me, but I'm especially grateful for some of the key themes that have appeared over and over again in both his words and his actions, themes that are especially appealing to young people and closely align with the core themes of the class I taught.
First, being a Christian means being a radical. Christianity does not promise a life of comfort and ease. It's not a religion for people who want to immerse themselves in our culture -- in consumerism, selfish ambition and every other bourgeois value -- and only break from that consensus at the margins. It is not a religion for people who are comfortable with the status quo. It demands more. It demands an extraordinary commitment to love: not the fleeting emotion but the force that can transform lives in both simple acts and by reimagining and recreating the world in which we live. It should shape everything from the way one interacts with a cashier to how one views global politics and justice.
It leads one to find debilitating poverty more offensive than harmless profanity. It inspires one to be daring and, as Pope Francis has said, to "swim against the tide." There will inevitably be resistance. And the Christian concern for everyone, including the weak and vulnerable, can lead to the experience of pain and suffering in a world with far too much injustice. Pope Francis highlighted this last week when he wrote, "We cannot sleep peacefully while babies are dying of hunger and the elderly are without medical assistance." Yet it offers a life of vitality, a sense of mission and purpose, and a vision of human flourishing.
Second, virtue and joy are deeply connected. Being a Christian does not mean being dour or aloof. The way of Christ brings meaning; it incites passion; it generates joy. Pope Francis has said "there is no holiness in sadness," and joy has been a theme throughout his papacy.
FULL STORY Four themes to help young Christians retain their beliefs (NCR)