On Palm Sunday this year, no less than the Vicar of Christ told the youth, “You have it in you to shout.” He proclaimed this message in commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, an event the entire Christendom celebrates as it starts its observance of the Holy Week. But Pope Francis’ message also comes in the heels of the March for Our Lives movement for stricter gun control laws led by hundreds of thousands of young people across America and in parts of Canada on March 24.
At the Palm Sunday Mass, Pope Francis asked young people "not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?"
That the Pope himself would encourage “shouting” and dissent should not come as a surprise for any Christian. Jesus himself was a very independent 12-year-old who purposely stayed behind in a temple in Jerusalem to ask the rabbis questions about the scriptures and to perhaps engage in a lively debate as the rabbis themselves were said to be amazed by his understanding of the scriptures. Some parents of the teenagers that joined the March for Our Lives probably worried as much as Joseph and Mary did when they embarked on this momentous undertaking. They are so young, according to most adults, and should not be in the business of effecting policy changes.
However, history and recent events show that the young can and do create change on a global magnitude.
In Canada, it was a 17-year-old Rebecca Schofield who, upon learning she had terminal cancer, started a bucket list that included an item to encourage people to perform acts of kindness and to share them through social media. Thus began the #BeccaToldMeTo that inspired people around the world to do random acts of kindness in Becca’s honour.
Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan was only 15 when she “shouted” and campaigned for girls be allowed to receive an education. Being shot in the head for doing so did not stop Malala from campaigning for girls’ rights to education all over the world, mostly where girls are denied access to education. She went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
In the Philippines, the First Quarter Storm of 1970 was led by student activists who were in their teens. These young activists led a series of demonstrations, protests, and marches against the Marcos government from January to March of 1970, a movement that took over 15 years to come to fruition in the historic People’s Revolution in 1986. Today, it is the millennials that are taking to the streets of Manila to protest social injustice in the form of extrajudicial executions.
Tomorrow is the youth’s future, it does not belong to the adults of this world. Pope Francis went on to say, “the temptation to silence young people has always existed” and that many seek “to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive.” The Holy Father sets the stage for this year’s Holy Week commemoration by empowering the young whose dreams for the future we all must ensure will be there for them.
In the Filipino tradition called salubong, the Easter moment that Mary meets the resurrected Jesus is re-enacted with a little girl playing the role of the angel who lifts the veil that covers Mary’s head in mourning. As we enter the most holy season of the year that culminates in the Resurrection, may both the young (and old) be that angel that lifts the veil of mourning for all to “shout” not in protest but in joy and hope that our youth have what it takes to shape their future and that of the world’s.
By Rachel Ramos-Reid for
The CFNet Editorial Board