ASSISI, Italy, Oct. 4, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Francis urged youth today to have the “courage” to get married and have children despite a culture that emphasizes “individual rights” over family.

The pope made the remarks in Assisi during an energetic question and answer session with a number of young people.

"Don't be afraid of taking definitive steps, like that of marriage," the pope told the crowds assembled in the square outside the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, according to CNS

The pope pointed out that marriage is a "real vocation, just like priesthood and religious life are. Two Christians who marry each other have recognized in their love story the Lord's call, the vocation to form one flesh, one life from the two, male and female." 

The pope told the story of a woman who told him she had a son who was in his 30s who had a girlfriend, but wouldn’t get married. 

"I told her, 'Ma'am, stop ironing his shirts,'" the pope said to laughter.

"It takes courage to start a family," he said, adding that the world will put obstacles in the way of those who want to do so, by "privileging individual rights rather than the family." 

He criticized the culture of divorce, saying: “You know that marriage is for a lifetime? 'Yes, we love each other, but we'll stay together as long as love lasts. When it's over, we go our separate ways.' That is selfishness.”

The pope also shared a reflection on his own parents and previous generations, saying that while they faced significant economic hardships and war, they knew with "certainty that the Lord was with them, that their family was blessed by God with the sacrament of matrimony and that their mission of bringing children into the world and raising them also was blessed."

The pope urged couples never to end the day angry. "Argue as much as you like, even if the plates fly that is fine, but never end the day without making peace,” he said jokingly.

Pope Francis is visiting Assisi on the day the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of his patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. 

The day began with a visit to a home for seriously disabled children, where the pope greeted many of the children. Later he celebrated a Solemn Mass outside the Basilica of St. Francis, where he delivered a homily emphasizing the theme of the peace of St. Francis.

“Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis!” the pope said. “Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either; it is a notion some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who 'take up' their 'yoke', namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart."

He also urged the assembled crowds to “respect each human being.”

“May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood,” he said, “may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world.”

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