Pope Benedict's three day Apostolic Journey to the Czech Republic concluded today with an open air Mass commemorating the feast of St. Wenceslaus, the national hero and country's patron saint. The Holy Father spoke of Wenceslaus as an example of holiness, particularly for leaders. But "is holiness still relevant?" he asked. What is the value of holiness? The Pope offered a reply alluding to communism:
The last century – as this land of yours can bear witness – saw the fall of a number of powerful figures who had apparently risen to almost unattainable heights. Suddenly they found themselves stripped of their power. Those who denied and continue to deny God, and in consequence have no respect for man, appear to have a comfortable life and to be materially successful. Yet one need only scratch the surface to realize how sad and unfulfilled these people are. Only those who maintain in their hearts a holy “fear of God” can also put their trust in man and spend their lives building a more just and fraternal world. Today there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired. This is holiness, the universal vocation of all the baptized, which motivates people to carry out their duty with fidelity and courage, looking not to their own selfish interests but to the common good, seeking God’s will at every moment.
At the conclusion of Mass, the Holy Father offered a message to young people. He expressed his joy in seeing the many young people, exclaiming "Being with you makes the Pope feel young!" Calling young people the "hope of the Church," he reminded them that Jesus wants to welcome them as a friend:
The Christian faith is this: encounter with Christ, the living Person who gives life a new horizon and thereby a definitive direction. And when the heart of a young person opens up to his divine plans, it is not difficult to recognize and follow his voice. The Lord calls each of us by name, and entrusts to us a specific mission in the Church and in society. Dear young people, be aware that by Baptism you have become children of God and members of his Body, the Church. Jesus constantly renews his invitation to you to be his disciples and his witnesses. Many of you he calls to marriage, and the preparation for this Sacrament constitutes a real vocational journey. Consider seriously the divine call to raise a Christian family, and let your youth be the time in which to build your future with a sense of responsibility. Society needs Christian families, saintly families!
In this Year of the Priest he also appealed to young men:
... be attentive and open to Jesus’s call to offer your lives in the service of God and his people. The Church in every country, including this one, needs many holy priests and also persons fully consecrated to the service of Christ, Hope of the world.
Later in the day, after a luncheon with the Bishops of the Czech Republic, the Holy Father headed to Stara Ruzyne Airport for his departure. In his farewell words, the Pontiff highlighted different aspects of his trip, and specifically mentioned young people, encouraging them to build on the best traditions of the Czech Republic's Christian heritage:
According to a saying attributed to Franz Kafka, “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old” (Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka). If our eyes remain open to the beauty of God’s creation and our minds to the beauty of his truth, then we may indeed hope to remain young and to build a world that reflects something of that divine beauty, so as to inspire future generations to do likewise.
He concluded by expressing his blessings to all, and entrusting the nation to the Holy Infant of Prague.
After an exchange of greetings with Church and civic officials, the Holy Father climbed the stairs to his aircraft, offered one final wave and smile to the crowds, and departed for Rome -- his three day journey to the heart of Europe concluded.
Follow the links to read the Holy Father’s text as posted on the CNS Blog:
Photos by Juan Provecho @ the official Czech Republic Papal Trip Web Site