There’s a message circulating around the Internet from Pope Francis, a recounting of his 2018 New Year’s message to the world. It’s compelling, inspirational—and also fake news.
I found this out almost by accident when my wife forwarded a Facebook posting of the Pope Francis sermon from a mutual friend. I thought it was well done and did a Google search to find some background info on it—only to discover the Pope never wrote it. The website Inquirer.net reports that:
It is in fact an almost-word-for-word translation of a Portuguese text titled “Palco de vida” (Stages of life), attributed to the renowned poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). Only the concluding line “Life is an incredible show” was changed from the less-exciting “Life is a no-miss obstacle.”
The story goes on to point out there are scholars who are now questioning if Pessoa is actually the author:
There’s an additional twist here: Even the attribution to Pessoa has been dismissed by scholars, citing major differences from his style and the absence of any actual manuscript.
Does it matter who wrote it? Not really, I suppose. At its core is message about life’s ups and downs, the struggles we face on a daily basis and how by overcoming them we can find happiness. The full message appears below, though I put my writer’s cap on and made a few small edits where needed. I also put my favorite passages in bold type.
Pope Francis’s End of Year Message
You can have flaws, be anxious, and even angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust. Many appreciate you, admire you and love you.
Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.
To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity.
To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny’s author. It is to cross deserts, yet be able to find an oasis in the depths of your soul. It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life.
Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It is having the courage to hear a “no”. It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified. It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us. To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple.
It is to have the maturity to be able to say: “I made mistakes”. It is to have the courage to say “I am sorry”. It is to have the sensitivity to say, “I need you”. It is to have the ability to say “I love you”.
May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness. That in spring may it be a lover of joy. In winter, a lover of wisdom. And when you make a mistake, start all over again. For only then will you be in love with life.
You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life. But use the tears to irrigate tolerance. Use your losses to train patience. Use your mistakes to sculpt serenity. Use pain to plaster pleasure. Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.
Never give up. Never give up on people who love you. Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show.