Question for youth, “FOR WHOM AM I?”

All the different vocations come together in the one universal call to holiness, which finds its inexhaustible source in the Father, who through his Spirit sends us Jesus, “the holy one of God” (Mk 1:24), who came among us to make us holy through friendship with Him, who brings joy and peace into our lives.  165.

Pope Francis speaks to youth

Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2017 addressed the young people, “So often in life, we waste time asking ourselves: ‘Who am I?’  You can keep asking for the rest of your lives.  But the real question is: ‘For whom am I?’” Effectively “My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an ‘extra’ or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world.” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 273).

Instead of the purely psychological question “Who am I” the Final Report of the XV ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS (From 3th to 28 October 2018) “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” suggests the Jesus-centred mission approach.

The English translation has just been issued and warrants some serious consideration by all “the faithful,” hierarchy, clerics and consecrated persons as well as, of course, by youth. The document is rich and beautiful with deep insights but very long and unlikely to be read by lay family people and most likely far too detailed for the vast majority of the youth themselves unless it is translated again into a digital format with shortened text, images and maybe accompanied by appropriate music, of whatever form that could take, and spread over at least 10 webinars.

As a lasting resource it is the fruit of months of preparatory meetings, a questionnaire, sessions with many young people and a three week long meeting of the Synod of Bishops with inputs, debates and discussions also attended by some religious, laity and some youth not all of whom were able to vote on the final document.

The report in three main parts is structured around Luke’s gospel account of the Emmaus walk.

Part 1: Jesus meets and accompanies two disciples,

Part II: helps them to an understanding in the gesture of breaking bread and,

Part III: with their hearts burning within them, sees them rushing back to Jerusalem.

Part 1 demonstrates careful listening to the minimal relevance of the Church, varied reality and needs expressed by youth in their different cultures and contexts of the world today. This includes the more secular West, the more conservatively religious South, the marginalised, migrants, refugees, the digital domain and more. Discovering their identity and the world they inhabit today is their lifetask and some observations are made on this.

Part II is more teachy, presenting responses  and unpacking the synod’s core concepts of Vocation, Accompaniment and Discernment.  Vocation is not taken narrowly as a calling to the priesthood or religious life but as the common baptismal call to mission.

Part III takes on the action response of Missionary Synodality of the Church.  This collaboration in the call to mission apparently does not sit comfortably with all the bishops although one could say it was what the youth were asking for; a greater role of youth, women, and even greater freedom of thought which at times is at odds with Church teaching.

Some important topics include the issue of abuse not only clerical abuse, but abuse of conscience, finances, power and sexuality with a brief reference to orientation.  Families feature in a number of places.  The family continues to be the principal point of reference for young people” 32.  Its variety of forms is noted, apart from marriage mainly negatively as presenting problems for members, in particular children. The need to include families in sexuality education, spiritual formation and catechesis in partnership with catechists is also stated.       .

Although a great deal of good was acknowledged, with some exceptions it can be said that youth overall don’t much like the Church of today.    A real difficulty shown up in my view is that in general “the young say they are searching for the meaning of life and they show interest in spirituality.  This attention, though, can sometimes take the form of a search for psychological well-being rather than openness to encounter with the Mystery of the living God.” 49

Although noted, a true living relationship with Jesus as a foundation for practical aspects of their own moral living appears to be poorly developed. What about family conflict, materialism, pre- and extra-marital sex, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy and abortion, substance abuse, blessers or sugar daddies, bullying and cyber-bullying?  What role does Jesus play in their lives? How is this to be developed? In catechesis, liturgy, community, family life as the domestic church?  I agree that a witnessed experience of the Joy of Love in marriage as well as the realities of other committed relationships can be a pretty good starting place.

This short presentation can only give a tiny outline and some of the gems to be unpacked and discussed at the coalface over time, beginning maybe at 2019 World Youth Day now underway in Panama. “For many young people such moments have been an experience of transformation, in which they have experienced the beauty of the face of the Lord and have made important life choices.  The best fruits of these experiences are gathered in daily life.”142

To recover in all the ordinary pastoral work of the Church living contact with the happy existence of Jesus is the fundamental condition for all renewal.  165

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