Pope Francis to Millennials: ‘No Room for Benchwarmers’

Pope Francis conducts a mass at the Campus Misericordiae (Field of Mercy) in Brzegi, near Krakow on July 31, 2016 at the end of the World Youth Days (WYD). Pope Francis is in Poland for an international Catholic youth festival with a mission to encourage openness to migrants. / AFP …

In an address to more than 1.5 million young people in Krakow, Pope Francis challenged millennials to resist the temptation of a passive life of comfort and entitlements and to take responsibility for their existence.

“The times we live in require only active players on the field, and there is no room for benchwarmers,” Francis said at the World Youth Day festival. “Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark.”

The Pope spoke these words at a prayer vigil on Saturday night, on the eve of the final day of the Catholic festivity that has drawn young people from nearly 200 different countries around the world.

“The times we live in do not call for young ‘couch potatoes,’” Francis said, employing a similar metaphor while urging young people to take an active role in the future of the world.

The Pope warned his hearers of an insidious “paralysis” that affects many in today’s society, when people identify happiness with a life of ease without responsibilities or projects, a mentality often associated with the Millennial generation.

This paralysis, the Pope continued, comes from confusing happiness with a sofa. “In other words, to think that in order to be happy all we need is a good sofa. A sofa that makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe.  A sofa like one of those we have nowadays with a built-in massage unit to put us to sleep.”

This sort of “sofa,” Francis said, “promises us hours of comfort so we can escape to the world of videogames and spend all kinds of time in front of a computer screen. A sofa that keeps us safe from any kind of pain and fear.  A sofa that allows us to stay home without needing to work at, or worry about, anything.”

Rather than hide their heads in the sand, Francis urged the young people to become the agents of their own destiny, working hard instead of allowing others to “decide our future for us.”

True freedom, the Pope suggested, comes from engagement with the world, shaking off the lethargy that comes with a life of “ease and convenience.”

The Pope’s words came just days after a Catholic priest was brutally slaughtered in church by two Islamic terrorists in northern France, which the Pope condemned as a “barbarous murder.” The martyred priest, 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, was executed in the parish church that bears the name of Christianity’s first martyr: Saint Stephen.

Pope Francis ended his address Saturday by challenging the young people present to be courageous in facing life’s challenges, in order to “blaze trails,” and in this way to respond to Christ’s call.

“Jesus is the Lord of risk, he is the Lord of the eternal ‘more,’” he said. “Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease.”

“God expects something from you, God wants something from you,” the Pope said.

“So today, my friends, Jesus is inviting you, calling you, to leave your mark on life, to leave a mark on history, your own and that of many others as well,” he said.

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