Volunteering with Mother Teresa’s nuns: ‘Getting right in the dirty of things’

Lay missionary Eloisa Greenwald volunteered at Shanti Dan, home for women and girls with disabilities. (CNS photo/courtesy Eloisa Greenwald)

Lay missionary Eloisa Greenwald volunteered at Shanti Dan, home for women and girls with disabilities. (CNS photo/courtesy Eloisa Greenwald)

By Anna Capizzi

What is it like to volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata?

Thousands travel to Kolkata, India, each year to give their time helping the order of sisters Blessed Teresa founded to “satiate the thirst of Jesus” by serving the poor in the slums of India.

Anyone can volunteer. And you don’t have to make prior arrangements — just find lodging in advance and apply for a tourist visa. The sisters hold orientations three times a week for new volunteers.

Volunteers come from all over and might not necessarily be Christian or even religious. Some are curious about Mother Teresa’s work and just “want to do some good,” said Joe Reciniello, who has served in Kolkata six times.

Upon arrival the “cacophony of noises, smells and sights” struck volunteer struck volunteer Renee Roden, who volunteered in 2013 for two months with University of Notre Dame’s International Summer Service Learning Program.

Missionary of Charity Sisters chat in alley near the motherhouse in Kolkata, India, before afternoon prayer. (CNS photo/courtesy Victoria Vissat)

Missionary of Charity Sisters chat in alley near the motherhouse in Kolkata, India, before afternoon prayer. (CNS photo/courtesy Victoria Vissat)

Navigating through the chaotic, dusty streets thronged with people, “poverty hits you in the face, right along with discomfort,” said Eloisa Greenwald, a missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach, who volunteered for three weeks in 2015.

Volunteers find it difficult to see so many families and individuals sleeping along the road and “even more difficult to understand the greater complexities of poverty” and not become “desensitized,” said Jenna Ahn, who spent two summers volunteering.

But this is why volunteers come: to tend to the unwanted, the forgotten, those on the margins of society.

The day begins with Mass at 6 a.m., followed by a simple breakfast of chai tea, bread and a banana. The sisters sing a “thank you” song for departing volunteers and send everyone off with a prayer for the day’s work.

Volunteers pray before the tomb of Mother Teresa and ask for her intercession. (CNS photo/Victoria Vissat)


The volunteers split into groups and travel to the different homes the sisters have throughout the city. Each home has its own apostolate, a specific purpose.

At Shanti Dan, the home for women and girls with disabilities, Ahn spent mornings with the girls “singing, dancing, mediating, working on nonverbal modes of communication, learning colors and numbers, watering plants in the garden.”

“Over two years, the girls at Shanti Dan taught me so much more about love and acceptance than I could ever repay,” said Ahn.

Other volunteers assist with manual labor. To do laundry by hand “hit me hard,” Greenwald said. “You’re getting right in the dirty of things — carrying buckets of water, wringing out loads.”

While most volunteers typically can’t converse in Bengali or Hindu, they still find ways to communicate. “We would try to learn their name,” noted Levi Rash, a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students who spent five weeks there in 2015.

Rash’s group visited Titagarh, a leper colony Mother Teresa founded on the outskirts of town. Weavers there create the sisters’ saris and blankets for the sick and dying.

When Rash’s group arrived, the weavers “started working even harder, weaving the looms” to show us “the worth they had as humans.” The sight reminded him “that every single person has worth … and they should be cared for and loved as if you were loving Christ.”

The sisters allowed Dani Bell, a medical student on a five-week mission with Creighton University’s School of Medicine, to work with women they had brought in off the streets.

The most moving part of her trip, Bell said, was when she spent hours “hunched over one woman pulling dead pieces off her skin that maggots had eaten away. She was emaciated and barely alive. I remember looking in her eyes and telling her she is safe now.”

Flower petals on Mother Teresa’s tomb spell a different message each day for those who come to pray. (CNS photo/Christiana Molnar)

Flower petals on Mother Teresa’s tomb spell a different message each day for those who come to pray. (CNS photo/Christiana Molnar)

After the morning shift, volunteers break for lunch and a much-needed nap. The afternoon shift ends with evening eucharistic adoration. Volunteers then depart for dinner and are free to choose their own evening activities

During their time there, volunteers get a sense of the spirituality and personality of the Missionary of Charities.

Roden described the sisters as “tough,” yet “so full of joy.” The strength and will of the sisters to love and help others “simultaneously puts me to shame and inspires me to be better.”

Like their founder, the sisters are straightforward. When Susan Johnson volunteered in 2011, she told the sisters she missed her six children back in New Jersey. Instead of comforting her, the sisters offered a challenging response: “These children here need you more right now.”

For all volunteers, the experience is transformative. “I’ve always known it was important to serve the poor,” but there “I realized how much help was actually needed,” said Greenwald.

To go to Kolkata takes careful planning and spiritual preparation. But a response to Christ’s words “whatever you did to one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” is possible anywhere.

As Mother Teresa said, go “find your own Kolkata.”

Wildcat pride in Rome

By Gaby Maniscalco*


While some Villanova students watched from Rome, Villanova Wildcats forward Kris Jenkins celebrates with the student section April 4 after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 77-74 in the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four in Houston.  (CNS photo/Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

ROME — Feelings of hope and anticipation fill the air each year as students at Villanova University, a Catholic university in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, gather on campus to cheer on the Wildcats at the start of basketball season.

Avid sports fan or not, any Villanova University student can tell you the tale of the 1985 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game, which was the last time the Wildcats took home the NCAA tournament trophy.

The students embrace Villanova basketball as a part of campus culture that is instilled in them the moment they step on campus, and while the Cats have made the NCAA tournament the past few years, it’s been more than 30 years since they actually won the tournament or even made the Final Four. Yet, optimistic students consistently place Villanova at the center of their brackets.

So imagine what ran through my mind as a student abroad in Rome this semester while watching the Wildcats win game after game on a low-quality streaming service on my laptop when I’m used to being at games in person.

I mean, while we were truly happy that the team was doing so well, my friends abroad and I couldn’t help but feel pangs of jealousy as our friends at Villanova packed their bags to follow the team to Houston when the Cats progressed to the Final Four and ultimately the championship.

We wanted to complain that the team got this far the one semester we chose to go abroad, and at times we desperately wished that we could be there in person. But then we remembered that we’re living in Rome, having amazing experiences traveling, exploring and interning, and that we really shouldn’t be complaining at all.

Some of my friends studying in other countries felt the need to travel all the way home for the weekend to see the game. But in Rome, my classmates and I found that the deep-rooted sense of community at Villanova isn’t confined to campus borders. The hope and determination to win was felt strongly here, and we all came together as a Villanova family to watch the Cats however we could (even if that did mean spotty streaming services). We created our own Villanova home away from home.

By researching some local pubs, we were able to find a bar in the area that was willing to play the championship game for us. The Highlander Pub agreed to keep its doors open, even though the game was at a ridiculous hour. They even provided free popcorn!

The energy in the room was electric, as more than 30 of us piled into the pub clad in Villanova gear with painted faces at 3:19 in the morning, eager to watch our favorite team make history. The game was a wave of emotions, and with so many Villanova fans in one room sporting blue war paint it felt like we had never left campus. Everyone exploded when we won the game with a three-point buzzer-beater.


The Villanova-Rome watch party.

The staff at the Highlander allowed us to make their pub feel like home, and it was one of my favorite nights this semester. It made me realize how strong the Villanova spirit and culture really are, and although part of me would have loved to be in Houston or Villanova for the game, I am truly lucky to have experienced it Rome, as my abroad classmates and I will forever share unique memories from the historic game.

We realize just how blessed we are to be able to feel such a connection to our school even from over 4,000 miles away, and it’s something none of us will ever take for granted.

Besides, who says the Wildcats can’t do it again next year when I’m a senior and back on campus?

*Gaby Maniscalco is a junior majoring in communications at Villanova University. She hails from New Jersey and loves yoga, traveling and her mini-labradoodle. She is currently studying abroad at Roma Tre University, while interning at Catholic News Service’s Rome Bureau.

Why rain in Spain is to blame for student’s new odyssey to Rome

By Elliot Williams

VATICAN CITY — As Pope Francis released his annual message for World Youth Day last week, I couldn’t help but recall my own experience as a pilgrim four years ago. The trip was surreal. I had barely traveled anywhere in the United States on my own, and certainly had never been abroad. Yet, I refused to be held back by the fear of the unknown, so in the summer of 2011, I went along with Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald of my local Philadelphia Archdiocese to Madrid for World Youth Day. As a leader in an archdiocesan youth group, I was blessed enough to be chosen as one of five students to embark on the pilgrimage.

sanctuary of loyola spain

Villanova student and CNS intern, Elliot Williams, in front of the Sanctuary of Loyola in Azpeitia, Spain, in 2011, during World Youth Day celebrations. (CNS photo/Elliot Williams).

I kept a journal, took pictures, and reveled in the bliss of Europe as we traveled through Lourdes, France; Lisbon, Portugal and Burgos, Spain, visiting sites where the Blessed Mother appeared to those suffering from poverty and war. Throughout the 10-day excursion, we spent many hours listening to motivational speakers who spread messages of love, self-control, and the value of young lives — much like the message Pope Francis shared with the youth in preparation for WYD 2016, to be held in Krakow, Poland next summer.

Our trip culminated with a message from Pope Benedict XVI, which focused primarily on building faith. Four years later, the message from Pope Francis suggests a resemblance to the former, but centers mostly on the Beatitudes, and seeking happiness through the Lord. For those attending WYD in Krakow, this spiritual journey will be life changing, unprecedented for most young people, especially for those who have never seen the Holy Father speak in public before.

1storm wyd

An aide holds an umbrella for Pope Benedict XVI as rain and wind moves through the Cuatro Vientos airfield in Madrid during the World Youth Day vigil Aug. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

I will never forget camping out on a massive lawn of soil with a sea of fellow pilgrims, and watching as the sky turned from a promising blue, to a menacing red, threatening to end the entire event. Pope Benedict XVI spoke for as long as he could before the wind and the rain made it nearly impossible for him to continue (or for his cap to stay on his head). The wild storm persisted, after temperatures had peaked in the 100s (Fahrenheit) a few hours earlier.

I hardly fell asleep that night. Scared, wet and confused, I laid cocooned in a sleeping bag as the pope’s words about remaining strong, despite the rain, churning in my head. After a long night, we awoke to an unexpectedly clear sky. I dare say it was one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. Firefighters were circling the field, spraying pilgrims with refreshing water to keep us cool. Pope Benedict’s message about remaining firm in the faith was coming to life right before our eyes. The brightest days often come after the stormiest nights, right? Quite the cliché if you ask me. However, I believe that everyone who witnessed that fascinating event four years ago was profoundly impacted.

Now, a third-year student at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, I am interning for Catholic News Service’s Rome Bureau, about a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Square. What can I say? I just can’t stay away from pontifical goings-on. I would be lying if I said that WYD 2011 isn’t the reason I’m sitting here in Rome, writing this post. Perhaps it is the beauty of Christ, which Pope Francis often speaks of, that so attracts me. Or maybe it is the delicious food that has brought me to Rome.

In either case, I believe the real answer can be found in the remarks of St. John Paul II — who created World Youth Day 30 years ago — spoken at WYD 2000, “It is He who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise.”

I urge those attending WYD 2016 to keep an open heart, to embrace the universal message of change that Pope Francis hopes to share, and in case there is a nasty thunderstorm… pack a poncho.


The sun rises as pilgrims prepare for the final Mass of World Youth Day at Cuatro Vientos airfield in Madrid Aug. 21, 2011. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Elliot Williams is a Communication major at Villanova University. He is originally from Abington, PA, and is studying abroad at Roma Tre University, while interning for Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau. Elliot is an avid Nutella fanatic.

Walkers spent their summer taking pro-life message cross-country

This year’s Crossroads cross-country treks ended almost two weeks ago, but the participants who spent most of their summer walking from coast to coast on behalf of the pro-life movement hope their efforts will have a lasting impact.

Last year was Tyler Cutrer’s first Crossroads walk. He signed up “on a whim,” he said, but found it such a transformational experience, he was back this year for his second walk and has taken a full-time job with the organization.

Crossroads was founded in 1995 by Steve Sanborn, a student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, in response to a call by St. John Paul II during World Youth Day in Denver in 1993 — that youth around the globe take an active role in the pro-life movement “to establish a culture of life.”

It sponsors three simultaneous pro-life walks/pilgrimages across the United States; a fourth takes place in Canada.

Crossroads walker Caleb on southern route. (Photo/Crossroads blog)

Crossroads walker Caleb Courville on northern route. (Photo/Crossroads blog)

The northern U.S. route starts in Seattle; the central route, in San Francisco; and the southern route, in Los Angeles. All three walks, which this year were May 24 to Aug. 16, end in Washington, D.C., with a pro-life rally. The Canadian walk goes from Vancouver, British Columbia, and ends in the capital of Ottawa, Ontario, with pro-life rally there. Crossroads now hosts walks in Ireland, Spain and Australia, too.

Wearing “Pro-Life” T-shirts, walkers stop along the way to pray outside abortion clinics, speak at parishes and schools to raise awareness about abortion and promote the dignity of human life, and encourage others to get involved in the pro-life movement.

Walkers range in age from 18 to 25. This year a total of 35 participated. On each route, they are accompanied by an RV, and split into two groups that walk in a relay fashion, averaging 40 to 50 miles a day. One group takes the morning shift, from sunrise and to 2 p.m.; the second group walks from 2 p.m. to sunset.

As one group walks, the other cleans the RV, prepares dinner, and finds a camp site for the night. The whole group gathers for Mass each day. The walkers post photos of their journey and observations they have along the way on a blog. Each walk has a leader.

Cutrer, 23, led this year’s southern walk.

He said last year he led the northern walk. He had just graduated from college, and was “young, dumb and not keeping eye on future,” he told Catholic News Service. “I was nervous about what to do” after college, so he joined a Crossroads walk for personal reasons, thinking it might be “a good spiritual pilgrimage and a chance to be a part of God’s mission.”

“The walk completely transformed my entire outlook,” he said.

Cutrer, who is from Dallas and relocating to the Washington area for the Crossroads job, said he always considered himself pro-life but “had never pondered the issue” or thought about “how serious the battle is.”

After praying outside a Planned Parenthood clinic during the 2013 walk “and watching mothers walk in and out all morning, I had a very burning passion to do something about (abortion). … That is when I definitely became unconditionally pro-life and a witness.”

He wants to encourage more men to get involved in the pro-life movement, he said. “It is a much a man’s issue” as a woman’s, he said.

“My huge passion is to tell guys they shouldn’t be on the sidelines,” Cutrer said. “You hear countless stories of ‘my boyfriend drove me’ to get an abortion, ‘my boyfriend urged me’ to get one. Occasionally –- sadly — you’ll see a parent or grandparent bring them, but the majority of time you’re watching the boyfriend walk the girl to the door (of the clinic).”

“Men need to be pro-life” for women’s sake and to stand up for their unborn child, he added.

Molly Sheahan, 20, who is from Sacramento, California, and attends Franciscan University, walked the central route. It was her first Crossroads.

“I had several friends who had walked before,” she said. “I heard about it from a walker who came to my parish and was inspired by their witness, their joy, their passion for activism.”

As her group walked, people would turn out to encourage them to carry on.

That showed Sheahan people want “to see some kind of hope” that abortion can be ended and “walkers give them hope.”

“I’ve always very involved in pro-life movement,” she added. “When I was 9 I first heard about abortion and I was shocked it was legal and decided it would be my job to end it.”

At age 10 she wrote a letter to the editor about abortion and by age 12 she was already involved in a student pro-life group.

“More and more, young people are inspired to get involved in the pro-life movement,” Sheahan added, because they understand that “in the human level, it is the greatest human rights cause of our time.”

Crossroads walker Eric Zlatos, of Manassas, Virginia, has always been “staunchly pro-life.” The 2014 Ave Maria University graduate took the northern route.

Crossroads walkers visit the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. (Photo/Crossroads)

Crossroads walkers visit the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. (Photo/Crossroads blog)

“We don’t choose Crossroads, Crossroads chooses us,” he told CNS. The chance to participate “just fell in my lap.” He welcomed the opportunity “to be able to touch the lives of others one heart at a time, one step at a time.”

“I cannot event even describe” Crossroads, said Zlatos, 22. “It was an incredible experience.”

It might seem like you are not doing much walking on the side of the road, he said, but “young people at parishes and older people alike come up to us and thank us for (our) testimony and witness. They were very supportive.

“The media so skewed against our position, they often make it seem like most of America is pro-death,” he said, but Crossroads walkers experience “firsthand that is simply not the case. America is most definitely pro-life. … That was very encouraging to me.”

At one stop, he recalled, an elderly man tapped him on the chest and told him, “It takes a real man to wear this shirt,” meaning Zlatos’ Crossroads T-shirt.

That reaction was “very powerful, authentic,” he said, and shows Crossroads has an impact.

Official prayer, logo for World Youth Day 2016

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican and the Archdiocese of Krakow — host of WYD 2016 — unveiled today the official logo and prayer for the international youth gathering that’s set for July 26-31, two years from now.


Both the prayer and the logo focus on Divine Mercy and the theme chosen by Pope Francis from the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

Here’s a handy breakdown of the logo, describing what it means:

wyd symbols mean

Graphic distributed on the Facebook page of the official World Youth Day website: http://www.krakow2016.com/en/

The Archdiocese of Krakow is the former see of St. John Paul II and is home to the Divine Mercy sanctuary. St. John Paul had a great devotion to the Divine Mercy, the recognition of God’s mercy as demonstrated in his sending his son to die for the sins of humanity.

Here’s the official prayer (in English and Spanish), which begins with a line from the homily St. John Paul II delivered at the dedication of the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow in 2002.


Prayer for World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow

“‘God, merciful father,
in your son, Jesus Christ, you have revealed your love
and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the comforter,
we entrust to you today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman.’

We entrust to you in a special way
young people of every language, people and nation:
guide and protect them as they walk the complex paths of the world today
and give them the grace to reap abundant fruits
from their experience of the Krakow World Youth Day.

Heavenly Father,
grant that we may bear witness to your mercy.
Teach us how to convey the faith to those in doubt,
hope to those who are discouraged,
love to those who feel indifferent,
forgiveness to those who have done wrong
and joy to those who are unhappy.
Allow the spark of merciful love that you have en-kindled within us
become a fire that can transform hearts and renew the face of the earth.

Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us.

St. John Paul II, pray for us.”


Oracion para la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud de Cracovia 2016

“’Dios, Padre misericordioso,
Que has revelado tu amor en tu hijo, Jesucristo
y lo has derramado sobre nosotros en el Espíritu Santo, consolador,
te encomendamos hoy el destino del mundo y de todo hombre.’
Te encomendamos en modo particular
los jóvenes de toda lengua, pueblo y nación.
Guíales y protégeles en los complejos caminos de hoy
y dales la gracia de poder cosechar abundantes frutos
de la experiencia de la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud de Cracovia.

Padre celestial,
haznos testigos de tu misericordia.
Enséñanos a llevar la fe a los que dudan,
la esperanza a los desanimados,
el amor a los indiferentes,
el perdón a quien ha obrado el mal
y la alegría a los infelices.
Haz que la chispa del amor misericordioso
que has encendido dentro de nosotros
se convierta en un fuego que transforma los corazones
y renueva la faz de la tierra.

María, Madre de Misericordia, ruega por nosotros.
San Juan Pablo II, ruega por nosotros.”



Bethlehem University students engage in service through Catholic Charities program

By Julia Willis

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A group of students recently arrived in the U.S. from Bethlehem University in Palestine in order to participate in a one-of-a kind program with Catholic Charities.

Fostered by a two-year partnership between the Catholic university and Catholic Charities USA, selected students travel to America every year and participate in a six-week summer internship program that allows them to use the skills they have developed within their prospective majors in Catholic Charities agencies nationwide.

Bethlehem University students to spend six weeks at catholic Charities agencies around U.S. (Photo courtesy Catholic Charities USA)

Bethlehem University students to spend six weeks at catholic Charities agencies around U.S. (Photo courtesy Catholic Charities USA)

By learning how the organization combats the problem of poverty within the United States and developing a newfound understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the U.S., participants are encouraged to use everything they learn throughout the experience in order to enact social change after returning home.

As many of the interns have never left Palestine before this trip, the participants were excited to experience a new culture, grow in knowledge, and gain a new form of insight into the problems that plague our world today.

One of this year’s 10 participants, Sarah Hasanat, described how the program will benefit many of the students.

“Many of us … have never been to the U.S. or even traveled outside of our home country so this is an amazing opportunity to learn about another culture.”

Dina Rishmawi explained that all 10 students escort tourists or visiting students around Palestine as part of an ambassador program through the university and being able to come to America allows them to continue serving as ambassadors who represent their own country. “It’s an amazing opportunity for us to not only work in the field we study but also to continue to serve as ambassadors of our country in another place.”

Amjaad Musleh, who will be working at the Catholic Charities agency in Camden, N.J., elaborated on how this experience will allow her to promote the culture of Palestine throughout the U.S. “Some people do not have a clue where Palestine is or even if it exists so this is an opportunity for us to share information regarding our country and our culture.”

Although the students were still unsure exactly what to expect out of the program during their initial four-day orientation in Washington, almost all of them recognized that they would be changed in some way by the experience.

Hasanat said, “A lot of people are poor and are in need and I think that, to experience that, to live with them and try to help them, will teach and help all of us as well. I know this program will definitely change my perspective.”

The program has already inspired new ways of thinking for Mariana Bahnan Nazi, who described how she was affected by a trip the students took to visit the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“After going to the PLO yesterday, I really loved the idea of serving my country as an ambassador for Palestine in the United States or in another country,” she said. “I began thinking more about how I can represent the Palestinian people and help others around the world.”

I am sure that these students will find new ways to serve those in need throughout the rest of their time in the U.S. and look forward to seeing what they are able to accomplish in the future.

Teach your children well: The Pope Francis guide to education

VATICAN CITY — Among his many traits, retired Pope Benedict XVI is well-known as a brilliant professor. But how many people know about Pope Francis’ early ties to teaching and education?

Pope Francis smiles as he meets with students from Jesuit schools at Vatican

Pope Francis smiles as he meets with students from Jesuit schools at the Vatican June 7, 2013. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Teaching is a normal part of the Jesuit vocation, and the future pope started out teaching high school literature and psychology right after he got his degree in philosophy. Then, after getting his theology degree, he continued teaching, this time theology and philosophy, and served as a rector of a major seminary in Buenos Aires.

The pope’s experience and insight inspired him to always encourage educators and teachers.

And now a new book, released this month, compiles the reflections, messages and talks he gave to teachers and educators in Argentina between 2008 and 2011.

The book, “Education for Choosing Life,” is being published in English by Ignatius Press. It shows how the pope sees education as “an act of hope” and how faith and the Christian vision of humanity fuel that hope.book cover

He also expresses the need for passion and creativity as added weapons against the spirit of the “mundane” that’s seeking to numb, distract or discourage our youth.

The book is available in other languages through other publishers, but the Ignatius Press’ English-version can only be sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to the publishers’ website.

Pope Francis’ unique approach to teaching made a huge impact on at least one of his former students, and you can read our story about it right here.

Pope Francis reacts to children during special event for families in St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis reacts to children during a Year of Faith family life celebration at the Vatican Oct. 26, 2013. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The same March 1 “La Civilta Cattolica” article with Jorge Milia included an article the young Father Bergoglio wrote for the high school’s annual publication for the students, parents and alumni in 1965.

The piece focuses on the importance of teaching young people to discern truth from rhetoric and “the song of the Sirens.”

Pope Francis reacts to children during special event for families in St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis at a Year of Faith celebration of family life Oct. 26, 2013. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

He wrote that we are accomplices in “the tragedy of truth being welcomed just halfway” unless we are sure young people are prepared to go out into the world with the full guidance and expression of the truth.

He asked:

When graduates go on to university or elsewhere, will they know how to use “the sword” of truth expressed clearly, forcefully and completely against “the noisy skylarks of eternal students, the huge bigmouths at the service of error, who are like giant pots: the emptier the vessel, the more sound they make?”

Rhetoric and lies can be “brilliant and seductive,” Father Bergoglio wrote. Too often when trying to teach about truth, teachers and adults stop halfway “with ice cold timidity, incapable of addressing the message to others with the luminosity of the whole truth.”

The future pope wrote that the problem isn’t just knowing what the truth is and being dedicated to it, it’s also knowing how to express it “with brilliance and fruitfulness.” And that can only be done, he wrote, by trying to live like Jesus — reflecting deeply on the truth and expressing it definitively, courageously and clearly as an act of love.