Care of Youth V


As I write Pope Francis has returned to Rome after his visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families. His remarks to journalists on the flight back to Rome indicated how impressed he was at the strength of faith in Ireland.

This he stated was not to negate the difficulties arising from the legacy of the scandals of the abuse of children by clergy and religious and the failure to openly address this by the hierarchy for which he asked pardon at the penitential rite of the mass in Phoenix Park.

Nevertheless he witnessed a lively and vigorous faith apparent within the Irish population across generations. The land of saints and scholars appeared to be recalling something of its heritage in our contemporary setting and a very different Ireland still revealed the blossoming seeds of holiness.

How important this is as a sign of encouragement and hope for young people. If I was to give an image for the potential of the faith, the joy and hope and encouragement that I viewed through the Vatican media outlet it would I think be the performance of the River Dance troupe united to the many children of various ages dancing along with them.

The energy of music and dance is contagious. It is not too fanciful I think to suggest that it is a little like the spirit of hope and encouragement and joy in music and movement that bursts through communicating a sense of passion and possibility. This is the very spirit at the heart of the hope of young people. It is a spirit I would hope to see communicated in some way in the deliberations of the Synod Fathers in October.

October 3rd– 28th 2018 the XV Ordinary Synod of Bishops will meet in Rome to consider the theme Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. On the 19th June this year the Instrumentum Laboris the working document for the Synod was published, first in Italian and later in an English translation.

The document brought together findings from a universal questionnaire and also a pre-synodal meeting with many young people in Rome in March. The document is in three clear parts distinguished by the 3 verbs Pope Francis often uses in connection with discernment: recognize, interpret and choose.

The first part under recognition involves the Church listening to the reality of what it means to be young today; listening to the experiences and languages with which young people communicate; listening to the experience of what often seems a ‘waste’ culture fraught with anthropological and cultural challenges.

There are many challenges facing young people ‘strong social and economic inequalities that … push some young people into the arms of the mob and drug traffickers” levels of youth unemployment it calls ‘dramatic’ and a global migratory trend that “represents an impoverishment of human capital … in the countries of origin and a threat to sustainable development.”

The document addresses so-called ‘fake news’ in the section on the eruption of new digital technologies and social media networks, stating that young people have a “growing difficulty of distinguishing what is true.”

The second focus is interpreting faith and the discernment of vocations and here the Church is called to see the blessing of youth; and to call young people to the light of faith; the Church is also called to a dynamism of vocational discernment; and to become skilled in the art of accompaniment: spiritually, psychologically, in reconciliation and “in reading the signs of the times”.

The third section entitled Choose: pastoral and missionary conversion paths, focuses initially on an integral perspective. It is clear that young people desire a church that is more ‘authentic’, a church that is immersed in the fabric of everyday life; that is an evangelized and evangelizing community.

There are “a substantial number of young people, coming mainly from very secularized areas, who do not ask the Church for anything because they do not consider it a significant interlocutor for their existence … some on the contrary, expressly ask to be left alone, since they feel its presence as annoying and even irritating”.

Nevertheless “there are also young Catholics that find in the teachings of the Church a source of joy and desire not only that they continue to be taught despite their unpopularity, but that they be proclaimed with greater depth” the document continues that there are also “those that do not share the teachings but express the desire to remain part of the Church and ask for a greater clarity about them.”

Those present at the Synod have many matters to address and difficulties to face with courage but there are signs of hope. Perhaps watching the powerful energy of the young Irish dancers might be a means of encouragement for the deliberations as the Synod begins.

Gill Goulding is an Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Spirituality at Regis College, Toronto.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 08:52h, 15 September Reply

    Thank you Gill!

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