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MESSAGE FROM POPE FRANCIS
TO THE 54TH WORLD DAY OF
SOCIAL COMMUNICATION MEANS
“So that you can tell your son and grandson” (Ex 10.2). Life becomes history
I want this year Message for World Communication Day dedicate to the subject of storytelling, because I believe that if we do not want to lose ourselves, we need the truth of good stories like breath: stories that edify, not destroy; Stories that help us find our roots and the strength to move forward together. In the jumble of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human narrative that speaks to us about us and the beauty that lives in us. A narrative that knows how to look at the world and events with tenderness; that tells us that we are part of a living fabric and that shows how much the threads that bind us together are intertwined.
1. Weave stories
Man is a narrator. We have been starving for stories since childhood, just as we have been starving for food. Whether it's fairy tales, novels, films, songs or news: stories influence our lives even if we are not aware of it. Often times, we decide what is right or wrong based on the characters and stories we have absorbed. Stories shape us, they shape our beliefs and behavior, they can help us understand and say who we are.
Man is not only the only living being that needs clothing to cover up his vulnerability (cf. Gen 3:21) - he is also the only one who has to tell about himself, “clothe himself” in stories in order to live his life preserve. We not only weave clothes, but also stories: the human ability to “weave” brings textiles and Texts emerged. The stories of all time have a common “loom” and the fabric structure provides for “heroes” - including everyday ones - who chase after a dream and overcome difficult situations and fight evil, always driven by a force that gives them courage: the Power of love. By immersing ourselves in the stories, we can find heroic motivations that help us face life's challenges.
The human being is a narrative being because he is a being in the making who discovers himself in the fabric of daily life and finds enrichment in it. But our narrative is threatened from the start: evil lurks everywhere in history.
2. Not all stories are good
"If you eat from it, you will become like God" (cf. gene 3.4). The serpent's temptation puts a difficult knot in the fabric of the story. "If you have this or that, then you will, then you will achieve ..." those who still whisper to us today who do the so-called storytelling instrumentalize. How many stories numb us, make us believe that in order to be happy we have to have more and more, to consume more and more. We no longer even notice how much we crave gossip, how much violence and falsehood we “consume”. Often the “looms” of communication are not used to produce constructive stories that hold social ties and cultural fabric together, but rather destructive and provocative stories that wear out and tear the fragile threads of coexistence. By gathering unchecked information, repeating banal and manipulative talk, unloading hateful tirades on the others, one does not weave the history of the people, but rather deprives them of their dignity.
But while those stories that are instrumentalized for any purpose or to exercise power are short-lived, a good story is able to transcend the boundaries of space and time. It remains relevant for centuries because it nourishes life. In an age where the art of counterfeiting is becoming more and more refined and has reached an incredible level (Deepfake), we need wisdom in order to receive and produce beautiful, true and good stories. We need courage to reject the false and malicious stories. And we need patience and discernment to rediscover those stories that help us not to lose the thread in the midst of the turmoil of our time; Stories that bring the truth of our being to light again - also in the often overlooked heroism of everyday life.
3. The Story of stories
Scripture is one Story from stories. How many events, peoples and people do we encounter in it! From the beginning it shows us a God who is both creator and narrator: He speaks his word and things are there (cf. gene 1). Through his word, God calls things into life and as the culmination of creation he creates man and woman as his free interlocutors who together with him bring about history. In a psalm the creature tells the Creator: “You yourself made my innermost being, you made me woven in my mother's lap. I thank you for being so amazing and wonderfully designed am [...]. My limbs were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, worked in the depths of the earth "(139: 13-15). We are not born perfect - we must be "woven" and "knitted" all the time. Life is given to us as an invitation to continue to “weave” that “amazing and wonderfully designed” being that we are.
In this sense, the Bible is the great love story between God and mankind. The focus is on Jesus: his story leads God's love for man and, at the same time, man's love story with God to perfection. And so, from generation to generation, man is called the most important episodes of this Story from stories to tell and not to be forgotten: those episodes that are suitable to convey the meaning of what has happened.
The title of this Embassy is taken from the book of Exodus, the fundamental biblical narrative that describes how God intervenes in the history of his people. When the enslaved children of Israel call out to God, he listens to them and remembers them: “God thought of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God looked to the Israelites. God saw it "(Ex 2.24-25). Remembrance of God leads to liberation from bondage through signs and wonders. And at this point God also reveals to Moses the meaning of all these signs: »...in order toyou can tell your son and grandson, [...] which signs I have [...] performed. Then you will know that I am the Lord! «(Ex 10.2). The experience of the Exodus teaches us that the knowledge of God is conveyed primarily by telling from generation to generation how God continues to show His presence. The God of life makes himself known by narrating life.
Jesus himself did not speak of God in abstract speeches, but in parables, short stories taken from everyday life. In it, life becomes history - and for the listener the story then becomes life: this narrative penetrates and transforms the life of everyone who listens to it.
So it is no coincidence that the Gospels are also narratives. They not only inform us about Jesus, they are also “performative” , they make us like Jesus: the Gospel calls on the reader to participate in the faith of Jesus in order to participate in his life. The Gospel of John tells us that the narrator par excellence - the logos, the eternal word - has become a narrative: »The only one who is God and rests in the heart of the Father, he brought customers« (Joh 1.18). I used the term “tell” because the original term exeghésato can be translated as “bring customer” as well as “tell”. God himself has "woven himself" into our humanity and given us a new way of weaving our stories.
4. A story that is renewed
The story of Christ is not an inheritance from the past, it is our story and it is always current. It shows us that man, our flesh, our history, God was so close to our hearts that he himself became man, flesh and history. And it also tells us that there are no insignificant, "little" human stories. Since God became history, every human history is in a sense divine history. In the history of every human being, the father recognizes the story of his Son who came down to earth. Every human story has an indestructible dignity. And that is why humanity deserves stories that correspond to their level, that dizzying and fascinating height to which Jesus raised them.
"You are unmistakably a letter of Christ - as St. Paul remarked - ... written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets made of stone, but - as on tablets - in hearts of flesh" (2Cor 3.3). The Holy Spirit, the love of God, writes in us. And by writing in us, he anchors the good in us and reminds us of it. Recall namely means recommendto "write" in the heart. By the power of the Holy Spirit, any story, even the most forgotten, even the one that seems to be written on the most crooked lines, can find inspiration, be born again as a masterpiece, become an appendix to the gospel. As the Confessions of Augustine. Again Pilgrim's report from Ignatius. As the Story of a soul Theresa of the Child Jesus. How The bride and groom from Manzoni or The Karamazov brothers by Dostoevsky. And like countless other stories that have admirably staged the encounter between God's freedom and that of man. Each of us knows different stories that have the scent of the gospel and testify to the love that transforms life. These stories demand to be passed on, told and brought to life at any time, in any language, by any means.
5. A story that renews us
Our own story appears in every great story. When we read the Bible, the stories of the saints and also the texts that were able to read in the soul of man and bring to light its beauty, then the Holy Spirit is free to write in our hearts and in us the memory of to renew what we are in the eyes of God. When we remember the love that created and redeemed us, when we let love flow into our everyday stories, when we weave mercy into the fabric of our daily lives, then we really are starting a new chapter. Then we are no longer trapped in our nostalgia and sadness and bound to a sick memory that holds the heart captive. By opening up to others, we also open ourselves to the narrator's vision. Telling our story to God is never in vain: even if external events remain unchanged, the meaning and perspective change. Telling the Lord about yourself means accepting His perspective, which is full of compassionate love for us and for others. We can tell him our experiences, we can entrust people and situations to him. With God we can weave the web of life anew, mend its breaks and tears - how much we all need it!
With the gaze of the narrator - the only one who has the final overview - we then approach the protagonists, our brothers and sisters, who, like us, play a role on the stage of today's history. Because nobody is an extra on the world's stage, and everyone's story is open to possible change. Even when we talk about evil, we can learn to leave room for redemption, we can also recognize the dynamics of good in the midst of evil and give them space.
So it's not about the logic of the storytellings to follow and also not to advertise or flaunt oneself, but to preserve the memory of who we are in the eyes of God; to bear witness to what the Holy Spirit writes in our hearts; to reveal to all that their stories contain marvelous miracles. In order to do this, let's entrust ourselves to a woman who has “woven” the human nature of Christ in her womb and who, as the gospel says, has woven everything that has happened to her into one fabric. Indeed, the Virgin Mary kept everything and weighed it in her heart (cf. Lk 2.19). Let us ask for help from those who have understood how to untie the knots of life with the gentle power of love:
O Mary, wife and mother, you have woven the divine word in your lap, you have told of the wonderful work of God with your life. Hear our stories, keep them in your heart and also make those stories yours that nobody wants to hear. Teach us to see the good thread that guides history. Look at the myriad of knots that our lives are tangled in and that numb our memories. Your gentle hands are able to untie any knot. Lady of the Spirit, Mother of Confidence, inspire us too. Help us to create stories of peace, stories of the future. And show us the way how we can live these stories together.
Rome near St. John Lateran on January 24, 2020, the feast day of St. Francis de Sales
 Cf. BENEDICT XVI., Enz. Spe salvi, 2: »The Christian message was not only“ informative ”, but“ performative ”- that means: The Gospel is not just a communication of what can be known; it is communication that works the facts and changes life. The dark door of time, of the future, has been blown open. Those who have hope live differently; a new life has been given to him «.
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