Everyone should pray the Stations of the Cross, Pope Francis said Wednesday, revealing that he always has with him a pocket-size book of “Via Crucis” meditations to pray with when he has a spare moment.
“Walking with Mary, behind Jesus carrying the cross, is the school of Christian life: there you learn patient, silent, and concrete love,” he said at the general audience Jan. 30.
Letting people in on a “secret,” the pope pulled out of his pocket a small Way of the Cross booklet, which he said was a gift from when he was in Buenos Aires that he always carries with him.
“And when I have time, I follow the Via Crucis. Pray the Via Crucis,” he encouraged, “because [it is] to follow Jesus with Mary on the way of the cross, where he gave his life for us…”
Via Crucis, or the Stations of the Cross, is always an important part of World Youth Day, the pope explained, as he reflected on his trip to Panama Jan. 23-28 for the international gathering, which takes place every 2-3 years.
He said that another aspect of the week which left an impression on him were the many parents and children he saw.
Whenever the popemobile would drive by the crowds, there were many parents proudly lifting their babies and small children up toward him, as if to say: “Behold my pride, here is my future!” he said.
Amid a “demographic winter” in Europe, he said he found that gesture to be one of dignity and eloquence. “The pride of those families is children, certainty for the future is children.”
Pope Francis also recalled the large numbers of young people present at the gathering, especially those from Central American countries in difficult periods.
“In Panama,” he said, “young people carried, with Jesus and Mary, the burden of the condition of so many suffering brothers and sisters in Central America and in the whole world.”
His message to young people at the event’s culminating Mass Jan. 27, was that young people are called to live the Gospel today, because they are not “‘tomorrow,’ they are not the ‘in the meantime,’ but they are the today of the Church and of the world.”
“And I have appealed to the responsibility of adults, so that new generations do not lack education, work, community and family,” he said.
Another significant moment of his trip to Panama, Francis said, was the consecration of the altar of the Cathedral of Santa Maria La Antigua.
He explained that the cathedral had been closed for seven years for restoration and that consecrating the altar with chrism oil – the same oil used to anoint the baptized, confirmed, priests, and bishops – had “a strong symbolic value.”
It was “a sign of rediscovered beauty, for the glory of God and for the faith and the feast of his people,” he said.
“May the family of the Church, in Panama and in the whole world, draw from the Holy Spirit ever new fruitfulness, so that the pilgrimage of the young missionary disciples of Jesus Christ may continue and spread on the earth.”