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October 18, 2005 at 11:33 pm #1145
Pope urges children to cultivate lifelong friendship with Jesus
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI urged children to cultivate a lifelong friendship with Jesus because he would guide them, help them make the right decisions in life and help them become better people.
“We need this friendship with God, who helps us make the right decisions, to mature as human adults,” he said Oct. 15 to a crowd of nearly 150,000 people, mostly young children who had just celebrated their first Communion earlier this year.
During a colorful, festive ceremony in St. Peter’s Square featuring clowns, people on stilts, singers and dancers, the pope led eucharistic adoration as well as a warm and informal catechesis based on the questions posed to him by several children.
One by one, seven children came up to the pope and asked him questions on the microphone about why it is important to go to Mass and to confession and what their teachers mean by the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
“But how can that be?” asked one boy. “I can’t even see him.”
With a polite laugh, the pope smiled and explained that there were lots of important things that exist even though they cannot be seen. Intelligence and reason, for example, as well as electricity are all things that are invisible, but one knows they are there because one can see their effects, the pope said.
“We don’t see electrical current, but we see the light” it produces, he said.
Just as people cannot see Jesus with their eyes, they can see him through what he effects.
“We see that where Jesus is, people change, they become better, they become a bit more open to peace and reconciliation,” he said.
In the Eucharist, he said, “we meet up with this invisible but strong Lord who helps us live well.”
The pope was visibly delighted at the children’s questions, which in some cases drew a hearty laugh from the pontiff and his audience for their poignancy and sincerity.
“Do I have to go to confession every time I go to Communion,” one girl asked the pope, “even when I commit the same sins because I’ve started to realize they’re always the same ones?”
Pope Benedict assured her that while it was good to make a habit of going to confession as a sort of “soul cleaning” it was not necessary to go to confession every time, given that her sins were probably not grave.
Going to confession before Communion “is necessary only when one commits a truly grave sin that has deeply offended Jesus in such a way that the friendship has been destroyed and one must start all over again,” he said.
However, just as people clean house or children pick up their room “at least once a week, even if the mess is always the same,” the faithful should make a habit of going regularly to confession, he added.
“If I never go to confession, my soul becomes neglected to the point at which I am always pleased with myself and I no longer understand that I also have to work at” becoming a better person, the pope said.
“This soul cleaning … helps us have a conscience that’s more alert, more open” and it helps one “mature spiritually and as a person,” he said.
In the hour-and-a-half meeting with children, the pope told them about his first Communion in which he understood that “God himself was in me.”
The pope said from that first moment on “a beautiful Sunday in March 1936” when he received this “gift of love” it marked “the beginning of a common journey” together with God who “always took me by the hand and guided me even through difficult situations.”
One girl told the pope that she was happy to go to Mass every Sunday, but she asked how she could convince her parents to go, since they used Sunday as a day to “sleep in” or visit grandparents out of town.
Pope Benedict cautioned the child to be very loving and understanding of her parents, “who certainly have a lot to do.”
“Nonetheless, with respect and love,” a child could tell her parents that “meeting Jesus is enriching and offers an important element to everyone’s life,” he said.
He suggested the family work together to find how to go to Mass and make it “a sweet Sunday for the whole family.”
In response to other questions, the pope explained what Jesus meant when he said he was the bread of life, saying, “Jesus is food for the soul.” Both the body and spirit need nourishment in order to both “grow and reach fullness.”
He also explained eucharistic adoration as “recognizing Jesus as my Lord who shows me the life to follow.” Adoration is a time to tell Jesus, “I am yours and I pray that you, too, will always be with me,” he said.
Some of the prayers offered by the children included an appeal to the faithful and to government leaders to remember and respond in some way to “all the children of the world who suffer from war, disease and a lack of food, education, medicine and affection.”
Another child asked God “to grant us holy priests who can celebrate the Eucharist in your name and give to everyone the Word and Bread of Life.”
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