Pope Francis quotes two phrases from The Confessions and one of the sermons of St. Augustine in the apostolic exhortation dedicated to young people.
The apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit which Pope Francis dedicated to young people is already a reference document for the Church’s youth and vocation ministry. In the document, Francis emphasizes the importance that young people have for the daily life of the Church. “You are God’s now,” he says.
Even St. Augustine is present in Christus Vivit. Pope Francis quotes the bishop of Hippo up to three times, placing him as a reference point for the youth who seek God in the midst of the difficulties of the world. The exhortation includes three of the best known phrases of St. Augustine that the Holy Father uses to demonstrate the need of God’s youth, the urgency to find Him, and the joy of celebrating faith through song.
Loving Christ from youth
In the first chapter there is the first reference to St. Augustine. Pope Francis advises young people to “be good” even when they are young. “One should not regret spending one’s youth being good, opening one’s heart to the Lord, living in a different way,” he says. He assures us that loving Christ does not take away youth but strengthens and renews it. It is here where he gives as an example St. Augustine, who in the Confessions laments his youth away from God: “I loved you late, so old and so new beauty! Late I loved you!”.
For this reason, Pope Francis recommends young people not to be like the rich young man: he had the opportunity to follow Christ but he decided to continue living attached to his goods. The Holy Father asks young people to take risks so as not to lament like St. Augustine the time lost without God.
In the Gospel of Mark, we find a man who, listening to Jesus speak of the commandments, says, “All these I have observed from my youth” (10:20). The Psalmist had already said the same thing: “You, O Lord, are my hope; my trust, O Lord, from my youth… from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds” (Ps 71:5.17). We should never repent of spending our youth being good, opening our heart to the Lord, and living differently. None of this takes away from our youth but instead strengthens and renews it: “Your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Ps 103:5). For this reason, Saint Augustine could lament: “Late have I loved you, beauty ever ancient, ever new! Late have I loved you!”. Yet that rich man, who had been faithful to God in his youth, allowed the passing years to rob his dreams; he preferred to remain attached to his riches (cf. Mk 10:22). – Christus Vivit, 17
Young people with restless hearts
In Christus Vivit, Francis asks for young dreamers. Point 183 says: “The love of God and our relationship with the living Christ do not deprive us of dreaming, they do not require us to shrink our horizons. Like St. Augustine, he says that a restless heart “sums up many of the searches of the hearts of young people. It is restlessness that makes the heart “young, available, open”. That is why he quotes St. Augustine. In The Confessions he expresses the restlessness of his heart in one of his best-known phrases: “Lord, you created us for yourself, and our heart is restless, until it rests in you.
“True inner peace coexists with this profound dissatisfaction,” says the Pope. Young people can never lose the hope of Christ, the urgency to meet him and to have a real encounter with Christ who vivifies and renews.
The love of God and our relationship with the living Christ do not hold us back from dreaming; they do not require us to narrow our horizons. On the contrary, that love elevates us, encourages us and inspires us to a better and more beautiful life. Much of the longing present in the hearts of young people can be summed up in the word “restlessness”. As Saint Paul VI said, “In the very discontent that you often feel… a ray of light is present”. Restless discontent, combined with exhilaration before the opening up of new horizons, generates a boldness that leads you to stand up and take responsibility for a mission. This healthy restlessness typical of youth continues to dwell in every heart that remains young, open and generous. True inner peace coexists with that profound discontent. As Saint Augustine said: “You have created us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”. – Christus Vivit, 138
Sing and walk
The third reference to St. Augustine is in point 226. Here Pope Francis recalls artistic expressions as a way to find God. It is painting, theatre or music, as the final document of the Synod of Youth says. Specifically, the document focuses on music, capable of creating “a true environment in which young people are constantly immersed, as well as a culture and language capable of arousing emotions and shaping identity”.
The Pope affirms in Christus Vivit that “singing can be a great stimulus for the walk of young people” and quotes Saint Augustine, who says in his Sermon 256: “Sing, but walk; alleviate your work with singing, do not love laziness: sing and walk […]. You, if you advance, walk; but advance in goodness, in upright faith, in good works: sing and walk”.
Nor can we overlook the importance of the arts, like theatre, painting, and others. “Music is particularly important, representing as it does a real environment in which the young are constantly immersed, as well as a culture and a language capable of arousing emotion and shaping identity. The language of music also represents a pastoral resource with a particular bearing on the liturgy and its renewal”. Singing can be a great incentive to young people as they make their way through life. As Saint Augustine says: “Sing, but continue on your journey. Do not grow lazy, but sing to make the way more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going… If you make progress, you will continue your journey, but be sure that your progress is in virtue, true faith and right living. Sing then, and keep walking”. – Christus Vivit, 226
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