Archbishop Smith says much of the developing world is suffering and is hungry.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Archbishop Smith says much of the developing world is suffering and is hungry.

April 28, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

To make poverty in spirit a way of life, we have to undergo a conversion in the way we see the poor, the archbishop of Edmonton told young people as the Edmonton Archdiocese marked World Youth Day 2014 locally.

This means meeting the poor, listening to them, caring for them and offering them both material and spiritual assistance, Archbishop Richard Smith said at an April 12 retreat with mostly university students.

"The poor are not just people to whom we can give something," he said. "They have much to offer us and to teach us. They show us that people's value is not measured by their possessions or how much money they have in the bank.

"A poor person, a person lacking material possessions, always maintains his or her dignity. The poor can teach much about humility and trust in God."

During the retreat at St. Joseph Basilica, Smith expounded on Pope Francis' World Youth Day message, released at the Vatican, which focused on the beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

The pope chose the Beatitudes from Matthew's Gospel as the themes for World Youth Day 2014 to 2016.

This year and next, World Youth Day will be celebrated locally – on Palm Sunday – and in 2016 it will be an international gathering in Krakow, Poland.

THE GREAT PATRON

The pope told young people that in April, he will canonize Blessed John Paul II, who began the international celebrations and who will be "the great patron of the World Youth Days."

"To be blessed means to be happy," Pope Francis said. "In an age when we are constantly being enticed by vain and empty illusions of happiness, we risk settling for less and 'thinking small' when it comes to the meaning of life. Think big instead. Open your hearts."

To be poor in spirit, young people must learn to be free or detached from material things, he said.

In a way the pope is calling the young to adopt the Development and Peace slogan: "Live simple so that others might simply live," Smith said at the retreat.

"What the pope is calling us to is to adopt a simple way of life and to focus on what's truly essential in order to free up for others what they may not have otherwise."

Smith, who answered questions during his talk, invited his young audience to have a global perspective when it comes to the poor. He said it is in the developing world where there is the greatest mass of humanity who are poor and suffering.

"When we have that global perspective and especially when we have opportunity to meet brothers and sisters who literally have nothing, our relationship with material goods changes very radically and our sense of priorities really is challenged in dramatic ways."

JUST A BANANA

Once, during a visit to Peru, Smith met a little girl who lived in a cardboard shack with her family and simply wanted a banana for her birthday. That experience not only broke his heart but changed the way in which he sees the poor.

"When we consider the conversion in the way that we see the poor, we need to recognize 'I am one of them' and they are one of us," the archbishop said. "We are brothers and sisters."

In his message, the pope entrusted the young with the task of "creating solidarity in the heart of the human culture."

Smith said that task begins with noticing and listening to those in need. "Do we really notice those around us who are in need in any kind of way and do we act toward them in such a way it lifts up and honours their human dignity?" he asked.

PARTICIPANTS HAPPY

University of Alberta student Rosie Kilgannon of Edson was happy to be at the retreat.

"I always like to listen to the archbishop speak," she said. "He feeds my soul."

Kilgannon especially liked the fact Smith tied his World Youth Day message with that of the pope. "He gave us a good reminder that we are brothers and sisters with the poor."

Teacher Julie Godin said she was glad to have decided to spend part of the day reflecting with people her own age. "It was absolutely worth it. It refilled my spiritual cup."