Pope Francis invites university chaplains and pastoral workers to appreciate the differences of students while offering them God’s closeness so that miracles may spring up.
By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis met Friday with participants in a meeting of university chaplains and pastoral workers promoted by the Dicastery for Culture and Education.
In his address, the Pope highlighted the importance of the Church’s pastoral care for university students and staff.
He expressed appreciation for the meeting’s theme—“Towards a Polyhedric Vision”—saying it is “an image close to my heart.”
Indeed, the event was held on the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which he launched his call for the Church’s pastoral care to take on the model of the polyhedron, a three-dimensional shape with flat polygonal faces, straight edges, and sharp corners.
Seeds sown by God
Pope Francis drew on that image to focus on three aspects of pastoral care of university students: appreciating differences, accompanying with care, and acting courageously.
Noting that the polyhedron has sharp corners “as reality itself can have at times”, the Pope said the shape’s “complexity is at the basis of its beauty”.
He said the polyhedron reflects light with varying tones and gradations, while producing a variety of shades.
“Having a polyhedric vision,” he said about pastoral care, “implies training our eyes to grasp and appreciate all these nuances.”
Education, added the Holy Father, is a true mission, “in which individuals and situations are accepted, with all their lights and shadows, with a kind of ‘parental’ love.”
That appreciation of differences, he said, fosters the growth of “those seeds that God has sown within each person.”
Well-spring of miracles
Reflecting on the need to accompany university students with care, Pope Francis urged pastoral workers to be attentive to the “confused thoughts, desires, and affections of the young people entrusted to you.”
“If we remove the edges and erase the shadows in a geometric solid, we reduce it to a flat figure, without breadth or depth,” he said. “But if we wisely value it for what it is, we can make it into a work of art.”
The Lord, added the Pope, offers us a model for the “art of caring”, one which draws out the best in people by caring for their most fragile and imperfect aspects.
“Care for all of them, without seeking immediate results, but in the sure hope that, when you accompany young people and pray for them, miracles spring up.”
Courage to overcome struggles
The Pope went on to urge university chaplains to act courageously as they seek to nurture “the joy of the Gospel in the university environment”.
Highlighting the courage of Mary in her assent to God’s invitation to bear His Son, Pope Francis said the job of pastoral workers involves helping people overcome their inner struggles by focusing on what is most important in life.
“Courage enables us to bridge even the deepest chasms, like the fear, indecision and alibis that prevent us from acting and that encourage a lack of commitment,” he said.
In conclusion, Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the mutual generosity shown at the meeting.
He said several universities and individuals had contributed financially to help others attend who would have been unable due to lack of funds.
“It is also a way of reminding each of us that we need one another,” he concluded, “and consequently always have something valuable to give.”