Speeches 1997 - Czestochowa — 4 June 1997

May the International Eucharistic Congress in Poland become for all nations the beginning of a miracle of transformation in the spirit of the freedom brought by the Gospel of Christ. May humanity stand firmly with God, to whom belongs the whole world.

Mother of Unity and Peace, strengthen the bond of communion within the Church of your Son, enliven ecumenical efforts so that all Christians, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may become one family of sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb. He 13,8).

Virgin Mother of God, help us to enter the Third Millennium of Christianity through the holy door of faith, hope and love.

O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, accept our trust, strengthen it in our hearts and present it before the face of the one God in the Holy Trinity. Amen.



TO POLAND (MAY 31-JUNE 10, 1997)


Czestochowa, Jasna Góra

4 June 1997

1. Hail Jesus, Son of Mary!

The International Eucharistic Congress which has taken place at Wroclaw is now having a vast effect throughout Poland. Here at Czestochowa, at Jasna Góra, the Congress is accompanied by this Eucharistic hymn which at the same time is Marian:

"We greet you, O living Host,
in which is concealed the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Hail Jesus, Son of Mary,
in the Blessed Host you are true God".

The following verses of this hymn contain a wealth of theology. Let us dwell though on this first verse, which is connected in a special way to the Gospel passage read at today's meeting. We know this passage well, it is one of the texts most often used in the liturgy: the one in which the Evangelist Luke describes the main events of the Annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel sent by God to Nazareth, to the Virgin Mary, greets her with the words which will make up the beginning of the prayer which is perhaps the one most frequently said, the Hail Mary: "Hail, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!" (Lc 1,28). The Angel continues: "You have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus" (Lc 1,30-31). And when Mary asks: "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" (Lc 1,34), the Angel replies: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lc 1,35). Mary's response: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lc 1,38).

In this way the Eternal Word became flesh. The only Son of God became man, taking on our nature in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin of Nazareth. Mary, accepting with faith the gift of God, the gift of the Incarnate Word, is for that very reason located at the beginning, the source of the Eucharist. The faith of the Mother of God brings the whole Church into the mystery of the Eucharistic presence of the Son. In the Church's liturgy, of both West and East, the Mother of God always leads the faithful to the Eucharist. It was good, therefore, that, a year before the Eucharistic Congress at Wroclaw , here at Jasna Góra the Marian Congress took place on the theme: "Mary and the Eucharist". In this very sequence of events the truth about Mary who leads to the Son, about the Mother of the Church who leads her children to the Eucharist, is symbolically highlighted. In fact, for us who believe in Jesus Christ, Mary is the most perfect Teacher of that love that enables us to unite ourselves most completely to the Redeemer in the mystery of his Eucharistic Sacrifice and his Eucharistic presence.

2. Jasna Góra is the place where our Nation down the centuries has come together to bear witness to its faith and to its attachment to the community of the Church of Christ. Many times we used to come here, asking Mary for help in the struggle to preserve fidelity to God, the Cross, the Gospel, the Holy Church and her Shepherds. Here we accepted the duties of the Christian life. At the feet of Our Lady of Jasna Góra we found the strength to remain faithful to the Church, when she was persecuted, when she had to keep silent and suffer. We always said "yes" to the Church, and this Christian attitude has been a great act of love for her. For the Church is our spiritual mother. It is thanks to her that "we should be called children of God; and so we are" (cf 1Jn 3,1). The Church is inscribed for ever in the history of our Nation, keeping careful watch over the destiny of her children, especially in times of humiliation, war, persecution or loss of independence.

Here, at the feet of Mary, ever anew we "learn the Church", entrusted by Christ to the Apostles and to all of us. The mystery of Mary is linked inseparably to the mystery of the Church, from the moment of the Immaculate Conception, through the Annunciation, the Visitation, Bethlehem, Nazareth, up to Calvary. Together with the Apostles Mary remained in prayer in the Upper Room, waiting, after the Ascension of her Son, for the fulfilment of the promise. She awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would publicly make know the birth of the Church, and afterwards she watched over the development of the first Christian community.

Saint Paul says that "the Church is the Body of Christ" (cf 1Co 12,27). This means that she is formed according to Christ's plan as a community of salvation. The Church is his work, and is being endlessly built up in Christ, because he continues to live and work in her. The Church belongs to him and will remain his for ever. We must be faithful children of the Church which we ourselves make up. If by our faith and our lives we say "yes" to Christ, we cannot fail to say "yes" also to the Church. Christ told the Apostles and their successors: "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects the one who sent me" (Lc 10,16). It is true that the Church is also a human reality, that she bears in herself all the limits and imperfections of the human beings who make her up, sinful and weak beings. Was it not Christ himself who desired that our faith in the Church should face this difficulty? Let us always seek generously and in a spirit of trust to accept what the Church proclaims and teaches. The path shown to us by Christ, living in the Church, leads us to goodness, truth, eternal life. For it is Christ who speaks, who forgives and who sanctifies. A "no" said to the Church would at the same time be a "no" said to Christ.

At this point I wish to use the words of my Predecessor in the See of Peter, Paul VI, the Pope who loved Poland and wanted to take part in the ceremonies of the Millennium at Jasna Góra on 3 May 1966, but to whom the authorities of that period did not grant permission. Here are his words: "Love the Church! The hour has come to love the Church with a strong and renewed heart . . . the very defects and misfortunes of those who belong to the Church ought to make our charity all the more powerful and solicitous. At least, such will be the case with whoever aims at being a living, healthy and persevering member of the Church. Such is the attitude of good sons and of the Saints . . . To love the Church is to esteem her and to be happy to belong to her. It means to obey and serve her, to help her with joy and sacrifice in her arduous mission" (General Audience at Castelgandolfo, 18 September 1968; in L'Osservatore Romano, English-language edition, 26 September 1968, p. 8).

"Hail Jesus, Son of Mary", we sing today at Jasna Góra and then we add: "In the Blessed Host you are true God". We profess our belief that when we receive Christ in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine we receive the true God. It is he who becomes the supernatural food of our souls, when we our united to him in Holy Communion. Let us give thanks to Christ for the Church instituted by him, which lives by his redeeming Sacrifice made present on the altars throughout the world. Let us give thanks to Christ, because he shares with us his divine life, which is eternal life.

3. It is good that my visit to Poland includes this time also a stop in Jasna Góra. I wish to greet cordially the whole Archdiocese of Czestochowa with its Pastors, with the Monks of Saint Paul the First Hermit, and also the pilgrims from all over Poland, gathered today at the feet of Our Lady of Jasna Góra. I have said many times that Jasna Góra is the shrine of the Nation, the confessional and the altar. It is the place where Poles find spiritual transformation and renewal of life. May it remain so for ever. I wish to repeat the words which I spoke during my first pilgrimage to my homeland: "So many times we came here to this holy place with attentive pastoral ear, to listen to the beating of the heart of the Church and of that of the motherland in the heart of the Mother . . . For her heart beats, we know, together with all the happenings of history, with all the events of our national life . . . But if we want to know how this history is interpreted by the heart of the Poles, we must come here, we must attune our ear to this shrine, we must hear the echo of the life of the whole nation in the heart of its Mother and Queen. And if her heart beats with a tone of disquiet, if it echoes with solicitude and the cry for the conversion and strengthening of consciences, this invitation must be accepted. It is an invitation springing from maternal love, which in its own way is shaping the historical processes in the land of Poland" (Homily at Mass, Jasna Góra, 4 June 1979; in L'Osservatore Romano English-language edition, 11 June 1979, PP 10-11). This perhaps is also the best place to recall the most ancient Polish hymn:

"O Mother Divine,
O Virgin by God glorified,
Mother elect, to us send
Your Saviour Son.
O Son of God, by your Baptist,
Hear our voices,
Fulfil our human thoughts.

This is how our ancestors prayed and today the pilgrims who come to Jasna Góra continue to pray: "Hear our voices, fulfil our human thoughts". I too ask this during the pilgrimage that I am making on the occasion of the millennium of Saint Adalbert. Standing here today at this point of the millenary celebrations, I cannot fail to recall another man of God whom Providence gave to the Church in Poland at the end of the Second Millennium, a man who prepared this Church for the celebrations of the millennium of her Baptism and who is commonly called the Primate of the Millennium. How often the Servant of God, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the great devotee of the Mother of God, stayed here; how many graces he obtained kneeling motionless before the image of Jasna Góra. It was precisely here, on 3 May 1966, that the Cardinal Primate read the Act of Jasna Góra of complete service of the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, for the freedom of the Church of Christ. Remembering that historic act, I wish today to entrust anew to the Queen of Jasna Góra all the prayers of my fellow countrymen and all the needs and intentions of the universal Church and of all people throughout the world, both known and unknown to me, especially the sick, the suffering and those who have no hope. Here too, at the feet of Mary, I wish to give thanks for all the graces of this year's Eucharistic Congress — for all the good that it has brought about in people's hearts and in the life of the Nation and the Church.

Mother of the Church at Jasna Góra, pray for us all. Amen.



TO POLAND (MAY 31-JUNE 10, 1997)



4 June 1997

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Ep 1,3-4). With these words of Saint Paul I greet all the Orders, Religious Congregations, Societies of Apostolic Life and Secular Institutes of Poland. "Blessed be God" for the gift of a vocation to religious life. For this gift we should praise and give him thanks unceasingly. Before the beginning of time he chose you in Jesus Christ and out of love he destined you for himself. Each of you has experienced in your life a particular encounter with Christ, when you heard within the depths of your heart the mysterious call: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mt 19,21). Unlike the young man in the Gospel, you have responded with generosity to this invitation, embracing the way of the evangelical counsels: of chastity, poverty and obedience. With an open heart you have welcomed the grace of a vocation, like a "precious pearl" (cf. Mt Mt 13,45).

Together with you I give thanks today to the Blessed Trinity for the gift of the consecrated life in our homeland, for the Saints, the Beati and the candidates for the honours of the altar from your Institutes and for all of you who "fight for the Gospel" (cf. Phil Ph 4,3) on Polish soil, as well as in other parts of the world, especially in mission countries, proclaiming, sometimes to the point of heroism, "the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour" (Tt 3,4).

With gratitude I think of those among you who bring help to the Church in the neighbouring countries, so that there, after years of oppression and persecution of the faith, there will not be "sheep without a shepherd" (cf. Mt Mt 9,36).

I offer special words of greeting and appreciation to the communities of contemplative life, completely dedicated to prayer and sacrifice and, precisely because of this, so productive for the Kingdom of God on earth. "Peace to all of you that are in Christ" (1P 5,14).

2. The Second Vatican Council clearly highlighted the importance of the consecrated life, affirming that it is profoundly linked to the holiness and mission of the Church. It is at the Church's very heart, since it expresses the deepest meaning of Christian vocation: it is the radical gift that individuals make of themselves out of love for Christ — Teacher and Spouse — and for their brothers and sisters redeemed on the Cross by the Blood of the Saviour. This teaching of the Council, set out above all in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium and in the Decrees Perfectae Caritatis and Ad Gentes, has been taken up and developed in subsequent years, especially by Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelica Testificatio, and in the documents issued by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life.

I myself, ever since the beginning of my Pontificate, being solicitous for the renewal of the Church in line with the Council, have turned my attention as Pastor to the life and apostolate of consecrated persons, who have an extremely important role in the evangelization of the modern world. There remain in my heart all the meetings with men and women religious and with the representatives of Lay Institutes held during my apostolic travels and in the Eternal City. Each year, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, I invite consecrated persons to Saint Peter's Basilica for a celebration of the Eucharist in common, during which those present renew their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

On various occasions I have addressed the communities of consecrated life, expressing the love that the Church has for their vocation and for their service to the People of God. For the Jubilee Year of the Redemption, I addressed to all the men and women religious of the world the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptionis Donum, and for the Marian Year the Letter dedicated to the presence of the Virgin Mother of God in the consecrated life. This life —your life — has also been the theme of many of my addresses to pilgrims during the General Audiences, and was given an exhaustive presentation during the work of the Ninth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in October 1994.

The work of the Synod and, subsequently, the Post-Synodal Exhortation Vita Consecrata, which I published last year, gave new impetus to the consecrated life, and lent greater depth to its identity, spirituality and mission in the Church and in the contemporary world. This wealth of conciliar and postconciliar teaching about the consecrated life must be ever better known, meditated upon, made the object of personal and community reflection, so that your Congregations and Institutes may be renewed and grow according to the divine plan, in conformity with the spirit of your Founders and in full communion with the Pastors of the Church. It is my hope that the celebrations of "Consecrated Life Day", established this year, will prompt the clergy and the faithful to deepen their awareness of the beauty of the path of the evangelical counsels, to express to God their gratitude for this gift and to develop vocational programmes.

3. In his farewell discourse to the Apostles before his Passion, Christ said: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit" (Jn 15,16). These are the words that Christ speaks unceasingly to those whom he has loved and chosen, and to whom he has entrusted the work of evangelization. By virtue of your baptismal and religious consecration, you are called to give yourselves completely to the mission of Christ "whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world" (Jn 10,36). Communities of consecrated life have always distinguished themselves within the Church by such an attitude of responsibility with regard to the proclamation of the Gospel. In difficult moments of history and in moments of crisis the Holy Spirit has raised up new Orders and Institutes so that through holiness, selfless service, and the charisms of their Founders they might contribute to the renewal of the Church. Your vocation springs from the innermost heart of the Gospel and serves the work of evangelization in a most productive manner.

"Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1Co 9,16). These words of the Apostle to the Gentiles inspired also the thoughts and work of Saint Adalbert. The love of Christ guided him towards countries and peoples which had not yet received the Good News of Salvation. He sealed with suffering and his martyr's death his profession of faith and his proclamation of the Gospel on the Baltic, doing just what his Master and Lord had done. In the attitude and apostolic activity of Saint Adalbert is manifested the universality of the Church's mission, the universality of love and service, the source of which is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The Jubilee of the martyrdom of Saint Adalbert, Bishop of Prague and Benedictine monk, exhorts us to reflect on Christ's command: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28,19). It exhorts the Church in Poland to take up again with renewed energy the work of the new evangelization in the years of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

On the threshold of the Third Millennium of Christianity, we must all join in the fundamental mission of "revealing Christ to the world, helping each person to find himself in Christ, and helping the contemporary generations of our brothers and sisters, the peoples, nations, States, mankind, developing countries and countries of opulence — in short, helping everyone to get to know ?the unsearchable riches of Christ' (Ep 3,8), since these riches are for every individual and are everybody's property" (Redemptor Hominis RH 11).

We live in times of chaos, of spiritual disorientation and confusion, in which we discern various liberal and secularizing tendencies; God is often openly banished from social life, attempts are made to limit faith to the purely private sphere, and in people's moral conduct a harmful relativism creeps in. Religious indifference spreads. The new evangelization is an impelling need of the moment also in the Polish nation, baptized a thousand years ago. The Church expects you to dedicate yourselves with all your strength to proclaiming to the modern generation of Poles the truth of Christ's Cross and Resurrection, and to stand up against the greatest temptation of our times: the denial of the God of Love.

With your eyes fixed on Saint Adalbert, work with zeal and perseverance for the deepening of faith and for the renewal of the religious life of the faithful, for the Christian education of children and young people, for the formation of the clergy, for missionary commitment "to the end of the earth" (Ac 1,8), in the various areas of pastoral ministry, in the social apostolate, in ecumenism, in teaching, in the world of culture and of the media. Focus particular attention on the areas where help is most needed: families in difficult situations, the poor, the abandoned, the suffering, those who have been rejected by all. Search out new ways for the Gospel to touch all sectors of human reality, keeping in mind that the new evangelization cannot neglect the proclamation of faith and justice, defence of the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death, the preaching of the mystery of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Love Holy Mother Church and live her problems in imitation of Christ who "loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Ep 5,25). May your service be characterized by the profound sensus Ecclesiae which distinguished your Founders. Form also among the laity a more mature and profound awareness of the Church, so as to increase their sense of belonging and of responsibility for her.

4. "And thus, even though the many different apostolic works that you perform are extremely important, nevertheless the truly fundamental work of the apostolate remains always what (and at the same time who) you are in the Church" (Redemptionis Donum, 15). The soul of the new evangelization is a deep interior life, because only the one who "remains" in Christ "bears much fruit" (cf. Jn Jn 15,5).

Preparations for the International Eucharistic Congress at Wroclaw and its solemn celebration have put once more before the Church, especially in our homeland, the ineffable mystery of the Eucharist and have recalled the "new commandment" announced by Christ at the Last Supper.

The Eucharist, "a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 47), most perfectly expresses the meaning and the truth of your vocation, of fraternal life in community and of the need for evangelization. The Eucharist is sacrifice and gift. As such, it requires a response worthy of the gift and the sacrifice. The words of the well-known Eucharistic hymn say of Christ: "He gives himself completely to us". A corresponding response to this extraordinary Gift is the complete and generous gift of self, which finds proper expression in the faithful fulfilment of the evangelical counsels, that is, in moving towards perfect love of God and neighbour, and, consequently, in the dedicated proclamation of the message of salvation. The Eucharist is an inexhaustible source of spiritual energy that comes directly from the Lord, who, although silent in this "mystery of faith", nevertheless repeats continuously: "I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades" (Ap 1,17-18). His help, in proportion to your openness to the ministry of love, always sustains your efforts anew, efforts which sometimes grow weak, and shines its light on "the dark nights of the soul". Thanks to this help and by virtue of your cooperation, the Lord's exhortation: "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Ap 2,10) will certainly find its fulfilment. He, "chaste, poor and obedient to the Father", and now glorious in the Eucharist, is for you the pledge of your reaching the goal of your difficult and fascinating journey to holiness.

You must never forget that you are called to bear personal and community witness to that holiness which is the essence of the call of the consecrated life and the source of apostolic dynamism in the Church. The laity expect you to be before all else witnesses to holiness and guides who show the way to attain this holiness in daily life. It is good, therefore, that you should offer generous hospitality and spiritual help to those looking for a living contact with God and who through contact with you wish to strengthen their commitment to holiness. There is a need for your witness to promote and support "every Christian's desire for perfection . . . The fact that all are called to become saints cannot fail to inspire more and more those who by their very choice of life have the mission of reminding others of that call" (Vita Consecrata VC 39). The increasing impoverishment of human values, linked with models of behaviour which are spreading also in Poland and which are based on the triple concupiscence, gives the sincere practice of the evangelical counsels the particular characteristic of being a prophetic sign. For the evangelical counsels "propose . . . a spiritual therapy' for humanity, because they reject the idolatry of anything created and in a certain way they make visible the living God" (ibid., 87). The Church in our day in Poland has an enormous need of this prophetic sign if she is to help people to make good use of freedom.

The witness of your lives, offered authentically and unreservedly to God and to neighbour, is indispensable for making Christ present in the world and for making the Gospel reach the people of our time, who more willingly listen to witnesses than to teachers and are more receptive to living examples than to words. Consecrated persons must be in the world as salt which has not lost its flavour, as light which does not cease to shine on everything round it, as a city set on a hill that draws people's attention from afar (cf. Mt Mt 5,13-16).

Attaining the ideal of holiness in one's personal life and in community life entails, obviously, spiritual combat and self-discipline. The secularizing processes at work in society do not leave untouched those who are consecrated to God. They too are subject to the temptation of "doing" rather than "being". The participants in the Synod of Bishops, in 1994, emphasized these dangers. Vigilance and discernment of spirit is always necessary to protect the consecrated life from external and internal dangers, from anything that could lead to a weakening of the original enthusiasm or to superficiality and mediocrity in the service of God. "Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rm 12,2).

I rejoice that religious life in Poland is growing and producing magnificent fruits of holiness, as I can testify before the whole Church also during this pilgrimage, by raising Saints and Beati to the glory of the altar: John of Dukla, the Servant of God Sister M. Bernardina Jablolska and Sister Maria Karlowska.

5. I give you this message in the Shrine of Our Lady of Jasna Góra, where so often you gather for prayer, for days of retreat and for spiritual exercises. Mary, the first among all human creatures, at the moment of the Annunciation received the gift of God — the eternal plan for her participation in the mission of her Son. Jesus, in agony on the Cross, with the words: "Woman, behold, your son!" (Jn 19,26) entrusted to her, as Mother, John and all people and, in particular, those whom the Father "foreknew and predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Rm 8,29). All those who down the centuries have followed the way of the imitation of Christ have been called with "the disciple whom he loved" to "take Mary into their own home" (cf. Jn 19,27), to love her and imitate her in a radical way, in order to experience in turn her special maternal tenderness.

Mary, the first consecrated person, is for you the model of openness to the gift of God and of acceptance of grace on the part of the creature, the model of complete self-giving to God loved above all else. She responded to the gift of God with the obedience of faith that accompanied her all her life. Every day she was in contact with the ineffable mystery of the Son of God, not only in Jesus' hidden life, when with Joseph she remained at his side, but also in the decisive moments of his public activity, and especially on Calvary, when beneath the Cross she was profoundly united with him in suffering and in praising God: "Blessed is she who believed" (Lc 1,45). Mary's faith overcame every trial without ever yielding. For every consecrated person the Virgin of Nazareth "teaches unconditional discipleship and diligent service" (Vita Consecrata VC 28). Seek in Mary's faith support for your own faith, in order to proclaim to the people of today "faith working through love" (Ga 5,6).

On the threshold of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I entrust to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary all the Orders, Congregations, Societies of Apostolic Life and Secular Institutes in Poland, both men and women.

On the journey of your lives and apostolic work may my Apostolic Blessing accompany you, so that "in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1P 4,11).

Jasna Góra, 4 June 1997



TO POLAND (MAY 31-JUNE 10, 1997)




Saturday 7 June 1997

1. "Let the children come to me" (Mc 10,14), Jesus once said to the Apostles. This was a marvellous invitation. The Lord Jesus loved children and wanted them to be close to him. Many times he blessed them and even used them as an example for adults. He said that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who become like little children (cf. Mt Mt 18,3). Naturally, that does not mean that adults must become like children in every aspect, but that their hearts must be pure, good and trusting, that they must be filled with love.

Dear children! The Pope comes to you today to tell you in the name of the Lord Jesus that He loves you. Certainly the priests and sisters who have taught you have spoken about this many times. But I want to say it once more so that you will remember this happy news all your lives. Jesus loves you!

A little while ago you experienced this in a special way — when Jesus came for the first time into your hearts. You received him under the appearance of bread in First Holy Communion. What does it mean that he came into your hearts? To answer this question we must go back for a moment to the Upper Room. There, during the Last Supper, just before his death, the Lord Jesus gave the bread to the Apostles and said: "Take this and eat it: this is my Body". In the same way he gave them the wine, saying: "Take this and drink from it: this is the cup of my Blood". And we believe that, although the Apostles ate what tasted like bread and wine, they were really eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ. And this was the sign of his infinite love. For a person who loves is ready to give to the person he loves all the most precious things he has. In this world, the Lord Jesus did not have many things to offer to the Apostles. But he gave them something more — he gave them himself. From then on, when they received this most holy Food, they could always be with Jesus. He himself lived in their hearts and filled them with holiness. This is what it means that Jesus has come into your hearts. He is in you, his love fills you and makes you become always more like him, always more holy.

This is a great grace, but also a great task. So that the Lord Jesus can live in us we must make sure that our hearts are always open to him. And so this is what you must do: love Jesus always; have a good and pure heart; and as often as possible invite him in, so that through Holy Communion he can live in you. And never do anything that is bad. Sometimes this can be hard. But remember that Jesus loves you and wants you to love him with all your strength.

2. Today, together with you, I want to thank Christ for the infinite love that he pours out on every person. We praise him in a special way for the gift of the Eucharist, in which he has remained so that we may have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn Jn 10,10). I also thank your teachers, who have brought you to the Eucharistic Jesus, and I thank all those throughout Poland who take on the work of passing on the faith in schools. It is a noble task, although often not easy. It demands a witness of faith, hope and love: faith that stands firmly on the Gospels; hope that sees no one as beyond the possibility of salvation; love that does not hesitate to give the best, even at the cost of self-sacrifice. Do not lose the conviction that young people, even if they do not show it, need and want this witness of yours. May the Holy Spirit who has enlightened and strengthened generations and generations of Christ's apostles sustain you too — the legions of catechists in Poland today.

Finally, I wish to address a word of gratitude also to the parents, those present and all parents in Poland. When you brought your children one day for Baptism, you took on the obligation of educating them in the faith of the Church and in the love of God. These children, who for the first time have received Holy Communion, are a sign that you have accepted this obligation and are sincerely trying to live up to it. I beg you never to reject this. It is first of all the parents who have the right and the duty to educate their children in keeping with their own convictions. Do not give up this right to institutions which can pass on to children and young people indispensable knowledge but which are not able to give them the witness of parental care and love. Do not let yourselves be fooled by the temptation to ensure for your children the best material conditions at the price of your time and attention, which they need in order to grow "in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man" (Lc 2,52). If you want to defend your children against the loss of moral values and the spiritual void which the world proposes by various means, sometimes even in school programmes, surround them with the warmth of your motherly and fatherly love and give them the example of a Christian life.

I entrust your love, your efforts and your concerns to the Holy Family, the Patron of this church. May the protection of Jesus, Mary and Joseph bring you comfort.

Speeches 1997 - Czestochowa — 4 June 1997