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Be big-hearted like a giraffe, Jesuit leader tells World Youth Day pilgrims

By on Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A baby giraffe (PA)

A baby giraffe (PA)

Using the example of a big-hearted giraffe, the superior general of the Jesuits, Father Adolfo Nicolas, told 2,000 World Youth Day pilgrims: “Keep your eyes and your hearts open.”

The young people from around the world, mostly students from Jesuit universities, gathered in Salvador, Brazil, for Magis, a 10-day pre-World Youth Day programme.

Before setting off for prayer and service activities in dozens of locations throughout Brazil, they attended a Mass on Monday with Father Nicolas.

In his homily Father Nicolas told the pilgrims about a Cambodian bishop who chose the giraffe as his diocesan symbol because it has one of the biggest hearts in the animal kingdom (Giraffes have to have big hearts to pump blood all the way up to their brains).

“Humanity is more than any one of us has experienced in our own countries,” the Jesuit general told the young people, before adding that if they approach the people of Brazil and their fellow pilgrims with a big heart then they can change lives.

The Gospel story of the good Samaritan “contains one of the secrets our faith,” which is that “faith is mostly in the heart,” said Father Nicolas.

Some people, he continued, want to hold on to ancient traditions “which say nothing to you young people. And many young people don’t come to church and the older people say, ‘They have no faith.’ But I say, ‘Yes, they have faith. Look at their hearts. There you will find it.’ God says to us that there is nothing complicated about the faith, but you must listen to your heart.”

World Youth Day celebrations will run from July 23-28 in Rio de Janeiro.

  • The Great Stalin

    Big-hearted like a giraffe?

    You what, Comrades?

    Next it will be “as temperate as a stoat”, or “as brave as a spiny ant-eater”.

  • $28180339

    Fr Nicolas, you are so wrong. Many young people who do not practice a religion are looking for something to believe in. Some are successful in finding Jesus Christ while others just drift into relativism. Young people need guidance to find Jesus which tradition offers.

    They need the Eucharist to nurture that tiny seed of faith that God gives all or it will die. Many seeds have died or hopefully just lie dormant.

    BTW I know of many young Catholics who prefer the Extraordinary form of the Mass which is traditionally based. (It’s you old folks who do not like tradition.)

  • Julian Lord

    Humble as that man we photoshopped out of our Glorious Revolutionary cricket club reunion photo last week, Comrade !!!

  • defiant12314

    I have the Hear of a Giraffe, the Brain of a human, the patience of a badger and the claws (always used in the service of charity) of a Velociraptor

  • Julian Lord
  • LocutusOP

    To be honest, it would seem to me as though this piece has been put together so as to seem more sensationalist than perhaps the actual speech was.

    I dearly want to believe statements such as ”
    Some people, he continued, want to hold on to ancient traditions..” and ” Yes, they have faith. Look at their hearts…” were said in a context which robs them of their ambiguity.

    He’s right about one thing though: “Keep your eyes and your hearts open.”

  • Sara_TMS_again

    On the face of it (though I certainly agree it may just be the editing) he is trying for the simplicity and directness of Pope Francis, and failing miserably.

    That’s the problem with simplicity- a lot of people confuse it with simple-mindedness.

  • agent.provocateur

    Be big-hearted like a giraffe???!! Using the language like this would shake even the faith of St. Vitus.


    More hodge podge generic words from a Jesuit “priest”. These modern “homilies” (more like a speech) are so generic and fruitless. Where is the PASSION, and MOTIVATION in the words in which the priests of old spoke. Your St. Anselms & St. Bernards…….Your St. Thomas’ & St. Paul?

  • counter-revolutionist

    World you day…………why dont we call it what it is…………catholic WOODSTOCK!!!!!

  • LocutusOP

    That’s patently unfair.

    I’ve been to World Youth Day and it’s nothing like that. It’s more a celebration of the human spirit through the common Catholic faith. I saw nothing of the depravity that has been claimed.

  • James M

    “As reliable as the Comrade Chairman”, perhaps.

    “God says to us that there is nothing complicated about the faith”

    So why does the CCC, even in the beta version of 1994, cost 25 quids ? Say what you like about modern Catholicism, but it costs a lot – it’s the original merchandising opportunity. If it wasn’t complicated, the Apostle’s Creed would be all any Catholic needed. It’s so complicated, that it’s impossible to negotiate the mine-field of doctrines, rival interpretations, laws, prohibitions, hermeneutics of X or Y and so forth without being blown up. It’s like trying to walk on the pavement without stepping on the edges of the paving stones and summoning up the polar bears: impossible.

  • James M

    That’s arguably worse – since when the Church engage in tosh like “celebration of the human spirit” ? To do so “through the common Catholic [F]aith” is even worse, because the Faith is being used as a means of bowing down to the great god that is the Human Spirit – which is not even worthy of celebration in the first place. It beggars belief that the CC would idolise anything so vapid. Since the Church now approves & practices indifferentism, panreligionism, opposition to evangelism, and other such evils, this bit of secularism is not shocking at all. The Church that has eagle eyes for secularism outside the Papacy, is stone blind to secularism when Popes & their minions practice it.

  • LocutusOP

    Calm down…I did not write that World youth Day celebrates the human spirit. However, one cannot but appreciate humanity when seeing the joy of the participants.

    It means a lot to the youth who don’t come from Catholic-majority
    communities to be able to meet other Catholics and realise they are part of the global faith.

    I’m the last person you need to be preaching to about the dumbing down of the faith, but if you think that World Youth Day is mere empty talk then you are sadly mistaken.

  • James M

    You write: “Calm down…I did not write that World youth Day celebrates the human spirit. ”

    - having written: “[b]I’ve been to World Youth Day and[/b] it’s nothing like that. It’s more a celebration of the human spirit[/b] through the common Catholic faith.”

    If “[it is] a celebration of the human spirit” – then it “celebrates the human spirit”. Semantically, the two phrases are identical in meaning: the human spirit is what being celebrated.

    It celebrates it “through the common Catholic faith”, to be sure, but that makes the Catholic Faith the means by which the the human spirit is being celebrated. And that is to use the Faith for a worldly end – it’s an idolatrous inversion of priorities.

  • Julian Lord

    You’re just twisting words in order to pursue a private agenda of your own.

    The Spirit that has been given to mankind is not, however, an idol.

  • bluesuede


  • IgnationMan

    To all of you people who commented and were not present at this homily to hear it as it was delivered, you all need to keep quiet. I was a Magis pilgrim this year and this speech was the most profound symbolism of what young Catholics need to survive in this day in age when “logic” and “reason” are more important than faith and the fundamental spirit which makes us human. I believe, and I will strive to live what Father General had said to us that day and it has been one of the most profound statements in my young life. So to all of you who are disparaged or are in disagreement with this statement, you do not truly understand the 3 million Catholic youth who packed Copacabana this past weekend because WE believe in these words and we strive to live the example of Christ and make disciples of all nations.

    Oh and to whoever called this speech typical generic Jesuit hodge podge, it was St. Ignatius himself who calls us all to “go and set the world aflame” and thats what Father General exactly called upon us to do. If that’s not passion and motivation to look at our fellow human being through their hearts, then I don’t know what is.