Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Regina Caeli on May 7, 2023. / Vatican Media

CNA Staff, May 7, 2023 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Sunday warned against the danger of living life without a sense of purpose or a destination to set our course by, reminding the faithful that Jesus is “our compass for reaching heaven,” our true home.

Speaking to pilgrims gathered on a sunny day in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Regina Caeli, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus consoles his disciples before his ascension, telling them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).

“Jesus sees the disciples’ distress, their fear of being abandoned, just as it happens to us when we are forced to be separated from someone we care for. And so, he says: ‘I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am you may be also,” the pope said.

“Jesus uses the familiar image of home, the place of relationships and intimacy. In the Father’s house — he says to his friends, and to each one of us — there is space for you, you are welcome, you will always be received with the warmth of an embrace, and I am in Heaven to prepare a place for you!”

Pope Francis said that keeping in mind “where life is headed” is the way to get through the experiences of “fatigue, bewilderment, and even failure.”

When we lose sight of what makes “life worth living for,” he said, we “compress our life into the present,” the pope said. We merely seek maximum enjoyment and “end up living day by day, without purpose, without a goal.”

“Our homeland, instead, is in heaven; let us not forget the greatness and the beauty of our destination!” he urged.

Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the recitation of the Regina Caeli on May 7, 2023. Vatican Media
Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Regina Caeli on May 7, 2023. Vatican Media

But if we know the goal, we also have to know how to get there, the pope continued. When we face problems or when there is the “sensation that evil is stronger,” we ask, like Thomas, “What should I do?”

The pope responded: “Let us listen to Jesus’ answer: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ … He is the way and therefore faith in him is not a ‘package of ideas’ in which to believe, but rather a road to be traveled, a journey to undertake.”

“He is the way that leads to unfailing happiness,” the pope said, and imitating him is “the compass for reaching heaven: loving Jesus, the way, becoming signs of his love on earth.”

“Let us not be overwhelmed by the present,” the pope said. “Let us look up, to heaven, let us remember the goal, let us think that we are called to eternity, to the encounter with God.”

The pope then led the traditional Easter midday prayer, the Regina Caeli, in Latin.

After the prayer, the Holy Father noted two beatifications that happened on Saturday, one in Spain and one in Uruguay.

The first bishop of Uruguay, Bishop Jacinto Vera, was beatified in Montevideo. The bishop, who died in 1881, “witnessed to the gospel with powerful missionary ideals in the very difficult times of civil war,” the pope noted.

In Spain, Conchita Barrecheguren was beatified. Her full name was María de la Concepción del Perpetuo Socorro, but she was known as Conchita (the nickname for those named after the Immaculate Conception). The pope recalled how she “was bedridden for a long time and was able to face her illness with a lot of courage and strength.” She died in her early 20s, in 1927.

Members of the Meter Association, an organization that works to combat the abuse of minors, wave flags and a banner in St. Peter's Square on May 7, 2023. Vatican Media
Members of the Meter Association, an organization that works to combat the abuse of minors, wave flags and a banner in St. Peter’s Square on May 7, 2023. Vatican Media

The pope also greeted a number of the faithful who were in the Square. Among those he welcome were members of the Meter Association who were dressed in bright yellow clothing and were accompanied by their founder, Father Fortunato di Noto. This association works to combat the abuse of minors. The pope noted that they were marking a remembrance day for victims. He encouraged them in their work and thanked them, reminding them that Jesus meets them in the young people they assist. I “accompany you with my prayers,” he said.

The pope also had a special hello for members of the Swiss Guard with their friends and family members, who participated in Saturday’s swearing-in ceremony.

There were 23 recruits sworn in on May 6, the tradition day of the initiation ceremony, which marks the anniversary of the sacrifice of 147 Swiss guards who died during the Sack of Rome in 1527 as they protected Pope Clement VII.

Finally, the pope noted the May 8 feast of Our Lady of Pompeii.

“In this sanctuary where we pray for peace, and especially in this month of May, we pray the rosary asking Our Blessed Mother for the gift of peace, especially for the people in Ukraine.”

He expressed his wish that leaders of countries “would listen to the desire of the people — who continue to suffer, and who desire and long for peace.”

The shrine in Pompeii — just a few minutes from the city that was famously destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. — is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary and was renovated in the late 1800s.

The history of the shrine is a testament to God’s practice of choosing the weak and bringing good out of evil. The shrine was renovated by Bartolo Longo, who had joined a sect during his time as a student and became a satanic priest. He publicly ridiculed Christianity, until eventually a friend introduced him to a saintly Dominican priest, and he converted. Longo, who became a mystic devoted to the rosary, died in 1926.