Archbishop Julian Porteous

Archbishop of Hobart
Archbishop Julian

Message from Archbishop Julian Porteous

I recently attended the World Youth Day in Poland with around 2 million young people. In our Tasmanian contingent we had 30 pilgrims, who prior to attending the event in Krakow, visited Rome Assisi, and Milan.

Our pilgrimage enabled us to visit some profoundly spiritual locations. In Poland we were able to visit the birthplace of St John Paul II. Visiting Auschwitz was a sobering experience and brought home to us the profound suffering of Jews and Polish people under Nazism.

Pope Francis addressed the pilgrims on four occasions. I was particularly struck by his address at the prayer vigil, the evening before the final Mass for World Youth Day. In this address he spoke of the danger of paralysis of the spirit among young people. A paralysis that stops young people from being all they can be in and through Jesus Christ. The Holy Father speaks of this paralysis in terms of “confusing happiness with a sofa”. That is, choosing comfort as happiness which in turn prevents us from realising true happiness.

He goes on to say that “A sofa … makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe…A sofa that promises us hours of comfort so we can escape to the world of videogames and spend all kinds of time in front of a computer screen. A sofa that keeps us safe from any kind of pain and fear. A sofa that allows us to stay home without needing to work at, or worry about, anything.”

The Pope uses the term “Sofa-happiness”, adding that this “is probably the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis, since little by little, without even realizing it, we start to nod off, to grow drowsy and dull while others – perhaps more alert than we are, but not necessarily better – decide our future for us.”

Catholic Education is very much opposed to this “sofa-happiness”. It aims at the formation of young people in the Christian Spirit and in this way they are well formed to make a positive contribution to society. The Pope reminds us that in Catholic education we do not want our young people to be “couch potatoes” or “bench warmers” but ‘protagonists of history’, who inspired by Christ and directed by the Holy Spirit, ‘leave their mark on history’. In this address the Holy Father reminds us that Catholic education is about preparing young people for greatness, to be leaders in society who make a lasting contribution to the spiritual and material good. Young people can make such a contribution if they follow Jesus, who is “the way, the truth and the life”.

Archbishop Julian Porteous