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“Where God is, there is a future”

In his homily at a youth prayer vigil on 24 September 2011 in Freiburg, Germany, Benedict XVI exhorted the young people present to build their lives on Christ and thus be the “light of the world”.


by Barbara Krämer

[Translate to English:] Portrait Barbara Krämer ist wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Institut Papst Benedikt XVI.

“Where God is, there is a future” – this phrase not only served as the motto of Pope Benedict's final apostolic journey to Germany in 2011, but might also be considered the motto of an entire pontificate, of an entire Christian life.

An encapsulation of what Ratzinger has spent his life believing

The words spoken by the Pope to the young people gathered at that prayer vigil on the evening of 24 September 2011 in Freiburg are an encapsulation of what Ratzinger has believed in throughout his life: the saving, life-giving presence of God, the promise that God fulfills to his people in Jesus Christ, the communion of the faithful that serves as a blessing for the world.

Zahntausende Jugendliche auf einem Platz und doch hätte man nahezu eine Stecknadel fallen hören, so still wurde es bei der Vigil mit Benedikt XVI. am 24. September 2011 in Freiburg. Bei der Vigil auf dem Messegelände rief der Papst die Jugendlichen zur Entschlossenheit im Glauben auf.

A light that dispels all darkness

Taking as his starting point the biblical theme of the light that dispels all darkness, encountered each year during the Easter liturgy, the Pope elucidated the nature and meaning of the Christian vocation. More than that, he encouraged young people, who have their whole lives ahead of them, to conform their lives to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to cling to him, to strive for holiness, and to have no fear in doing so. It was a true profession of faith, as so often is the case with Joseph Ratzinger.

In a way that expresses, on the one hand, his own familiarity with the Word of God and the Lord himself, and on the other, closeness to and empathy towards young men and women, Benedict’s address reminds us of an important truth of the Christian faith: All our works, no matter how great, no matter how visionary, can only bear fruit if they are done from a place of faithful communion with Jesus Christ.

Papst Benedikt mit freudig erhobenen Armen beim Weltjugendtag
Papst Benedikt XVI. umgeben von Ministranten

No one has to be perfect

To put it another way, it is only when we Christians draw our strength from the well that never runs dry, when we lean on him who is the light of the world for our support, that we can we become a light that shines for others.

The consoling thing about this thought – and this is something the Pope reminded his young listeners – is that by no means do we Christians need to be perfect, entirely without fault, without joy, in order to live up our call to holiness. We can overcome evil, overcome sin, we can succeed in spreading the light, the joy of faith, and, as the Pope’s words indicate, we do so by following him who himself is the light of the world. Because he is good, because he is holy, because he is perfect, because he makes us his friends, we may allow his grace to work in us and share in the mission of the Church.

Living in friendship with God

In doing so, we do not need to perform great works, we do not need to keep coming up with new ideas; rather, we should strive for the kind of holiness that comes from deep, true friendship with God, who promises us a future. It is by looking towards Jesus Christ that the Christian finds his way to the future, and in this way – and only in this way – will the Church find true renewal.

At this time in particular, it is through her trust Jesus Christ alone that she draws courage, strength, and determination. The future of the Church, as we learn here in Benedict’s address (something Ratzinger had already put into words by 1970), “can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith” (Ratzinger, J., Faith and the Future).

[Translate to English:] Portrait Barbara Krämer ist wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Institut Papst Benedikt XVI.

The author, Barbara Krämer (lic. iur. can.) is a research associate at the Pope Benedict XVI Institute.