January 1st is a treasured and solemn day in the liturgical calendar, for it is the day when the universal Church honors the special role of the Holy Mother of God, which is especially fitting as we continue our celebration of Christmas day.
January 1st is also an important day in the secular calendar, as it marks the beginning of a new year. Pope John Paul II sought to engage the culture by capitalizing on the natural rhythm of the secular calendar, using January 1st as an opportunity to teach about peace and justice. Every new beginning includes an internal inclination within the human spirit for greater peace and justice in our lives.
Pope Benedict selected the following theme for the January 1st, 2012 message: "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace".
As we gear up to return back to our academic schedules in the new year, the words of Pope Benedict can help us channel our focus and energies on the purpose of education. At Mount Royal, educators and parents collaborate to not only inform youth, but more importantly form our children to recognize the transcendent origin and purpose of human life. In a culture that elevates freedom to the supreme virtue, we continue to cling to truth that directs human freedom towards its ultimate goal.
Please consider reading and reflecting on this wonderful source of wisdom from our Holy Father. The words directly spoken to the youth are a truly remarkable illustration of the deep love that the Church has for younger generation:
To all, and to young people in particular, I wish to say emphatically: "It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true … an unconditional return to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?" Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13).
Dear young people, you are a precious gift for society. Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems. Do not be afraid to make a commitment, to face hard work and sacrifice, to choose the paths that demand fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication. Be confident in your youth and its profound desires for happiness, truth, beauty and genuine love! Live fully this time in your life so rich and so full of enthusiasm.
Realize that you yourselves are an example and an inspiration to adults, even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future. Be aware of your potential; never become self-centred but work for a brighter future for all. You are never alone. The Church has confidence in you, follows you, encourages you and wishes to offer you the most precious gift she has: the opportunity to raise your eyes to God, to encounter Jesus Christ, who is himself justice and peace.
All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace. With these thoughts I offer my reflections and I appeal to everyone: let us pool our spiritual, moral and material resources for the great goal of "educating young people in justice and peace".