What does Pope Francis mean by “get off the couch”?

For Pope Francis, a young man who lives on a sofa, “it’s not pretty”! For him, youth is rather the time of dreams, the dream that leads to decision. Explanations.

After the “Y” generation (the sign of the headset wire connected to your laptop) which saw the beginning of the Internet and the explosion of social networks, and since the time of confinement, we are now talking about the “Netflix – smartphone – couch”! It is not insane to make the link between this expression of Pope Francis: “Get out of your sofa, and realize your dreams” and the two preparatory speeches for WYD in Panama in 2017. What happens for a certain young people (which must touch the young, dyed-in-the-wool Catholics to whom the Holy Father is also addressing!), so that she can hear these words: “It’s not nice to see a young man retiring at 20, it’s not pretty; and it’s also not nice to see a young man living on a couch. Isn’t that true? Neither “retired” young people, nor “couch” young people” (Prayer Vigil, April 8, 2017). “The stakes are high, it is the demon of acedia, spiritual laziness, that the Holy Father points out, like the prophet Amos speaking of the Israelites “sprawled on their ivory beds”… General Mac Arthur liked to say that youth is a “question of state of mind, an effect of the will, a quality of the imagination, an emotional intensity, a victory of courage over shyness, of the taste for adventure over ‘love of comfort’.

A couch generation?

To tell the truth, the youth of today is confronted with the eyes and the speeches of the serpent Kaa coming from the Metavers, lulled by the fascination of the virtual taken for the real: smile and be complicit. Let your senses drift towards these tempting delights. François knows the little Cubs of the modern world: the temptation of addiction to the screen, slowly but surely alienating the will, ending in desocialization, even in major schizophrenic disorders. The sofa is the image of everything that contributes to a soft alienation of our human capacities.

Against the hypnotizing power of screens and the kaleidoscope of interposed avatars, the Pope also dares to speak of dreams to young people tempted by discouragement or despair.

The future is not lived on a sofa, but on the road. “The time we live in today does not need young people on sofas, but young people with shoes, better still, wearing crampons. This era only accepts regular players on the field, there is no place for reserves” (Krakow, July 30, 2013). Against the hypnotizing power of screens and the kaleidoscope of interposed avatars, the Pope also dares to speak of dreams to young people tempted by discouragement or despair. We would be surprised at least by this vocabulary: if the Pope wants young people to leave their sofa, is it to go and daydream under the duvet?

Francis knows that what drives us forward are, along with faith in God, a sense of human dignity and great ideals. And to pass from the universal ideal to the particular reality, one needs imagination and creativity. In this active sense, dreaming is a sign of young people ready to build their future without forgetting their history. The dream belongs to the youth to build the real, while the passivity of the virtual scares away all commitment. We must take the dream as what wakes us up, that is to say a voluntary activity. In his letter to the young Christus Vivit, the term appears no less than sixteen times, and in particular in this eloquent statement: “Youth, a phase in the development of the personality, is marked by dreams which, little by little, take shape, by relationships which acquire ever more consistency and balance, through attempts and experiences, through choices that gradually construct a life project. At this period of life, young people are called to project themselves forward, without cutting their roots, to build their autonomy, but not in solitude” (CV, 137).

The dream leads to the decision

The dream, far from being an escape or a passive attitude, is another word that joins the whole process of discernment and election of the Ignatian method, for a choice and a unity of life freed from contemporary conditioning: “It is better that you let dreams germinate and that you make decisions” (CV, 143). The word dream also has an antidotal meaning: “Against dreams which lead to decisions, often there is the threat of lamentation, of resignation. Those we leave to those who follow the “Lamenting Goddess” […]. It is a deception” (CV, 141).

Behind the words and images of the Sovereign Pontiff, there is therefore an urgent appeal to the “Net-Smart-Canap” generation to leave the drowsy comfort of their sofa, the place of the “Kaa syndrome” to put on the spiked shoes of the real, to pass from deadly acedia to missionary audacity.


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What does Pope Francis mean by “get off the couch”?

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