POPE’S MESSAGE | Break the mirror of narcissistic culture

L’Osservatore Romano

VATICAN CITY — Today's narcissistic culture leads to sad souls who worry more about keeping up appearances than caring for others, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to young people of the Shalom community, Pope Francis warned them of the sadness caused by narcissism, when "you live worried about putting makeup on your soul, about looking better than you are, about contemplating whether you're more beautiful than others."

"It is the sickness of the mirror," the pope said. "Young people, break this mirror!"

"Don't look at the mirror because the mirror deceives," he said. "Look outside, look at others, escape from this world, from this culture we are living in that is consumeristic and narcissistic."

The pope met Sept. 5 with an estimated 4,000 young men and women from the Shalom community. Founded in 1982, the group is composed of married couples, celibate individuals and priests living out their faith through communities based on contemplation, unity and evangelization.

According to the group's website, the Shalom community has missions in 17 countries, including the United States, Israel, Brazil, France and Madagascar.

After listening to the experiences of three young Shalom members from Chile, France and Brazil, Pope Francis responded to each of their experiences off-the-cuff in his native Spanish.

Juan, a young man from Chile, spoke about finding meaning in his life by praying, sharing and evangelizing. Those three characteristics, the pope said, are "verbs of movement, of coming out of yourself" to share the good news of God's mercy "in a world marked by desperation and indifference."

Christians, he added, are called to proclaim the love of God who, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waits for His children "even in life's worse moments."

"That son was in the worst of sins, in the worst of situations and when he said, 'I will go to my father,' the father was already waiting for him," the pope said. "That is mercy, to never lose hope. Additionally, it looks like our God has a special preference for sinners."

Responding to Justine, a Shalom member from France who was baptized during the Year of Mercy, the pope said proclaiming the joy that comes from God helps young people who are living "centered only on themselves."

"A young person who looks at himself, who lives only for himself, ends up — and I hope you understand the verb, because it is an Argentine verb — 'empachado' (stuffed) with 'self-referentiality,' meaning, full of self-focus," he said.

Pope Francis said that instead of looking at themselves in the mirror to see how impressive they are, young men and women should instead "look into the mirror to laugh."

"Try it one day: look, and start to laugh at what you see there, it will refresh your soul. Knowing how to laugh at yourselves gives joy and saves us from the temptation of narcissism," the pope said.

Recalling the experience shared by Mateus, a former drug addict from Brazil, the pope warned that drugs are one of the main instruments "used to dominate us," and drug use uproots people "from your family, from love, from everything."

The pope called on young men and women to connect with their roots and to "give freely what we have received."

"If you are here, if we are here, it is because we were freely brought here. Please, let us give freely what we have received," Pope Francis said. 

Catholic social teaching builds a just society

VATICAN CITY — Catholic politicians should be guided by the Church's moral and social teachings when crafting legislation, Pope Francis said.

Meeting with participants in the annual meeting of the International Catholic Legislators Network Aug. 27, the pope said that Church teaching can contribute to a more humane and just society, but only if the Church is allowed a voice in answering "the great questions of society in our time."

"The laws that you enact and apply ought to build bridges of dialogue between different political perspectives, also when responding to precise aims in order to promote greater care for the defenseless and the marginalized, especially toward the many who are forced to leave their countries, as well as to promote a correct human and natural ecology," the pope said according to Vatican Radio.

Founded in 2010 by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna and British parliamentarian Sir David Alton, the Catholic Legislators Network meets annually "to discuss the promotion of Christian principles in the political arena," according to the organization's website.

"Every year, the network brings together about 120 people, including top-level politicians from a wide range of countries spanning all continents, to discuss urgent policy issues in different regions of the globe," the website said.

Among the participants was U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-West Virginia, who told Vatican Radio he was encouraged to "see faithful Catholics from every country promoting the values of the Church."

"We have an opportunity to meet here with other Catholic legislators and elected officials from other parts of the world and to discuss common concerns, problems and opportunities for our faith, and how to work together and support each other," he said.

Before concluding his speech, Pope Francis prayed that in the midst of people's sufferings, Catholic legislators "look to Christ" so that they may be "led ever more toward the truth and goodness."

The pope also urged the lawmakers to make sure their actions always reflect the teaching of Jesus that "no one is insignificant, that no one should be discarded at any stage of life."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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