06/19/2018, 14.40
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Synod: Accompanying the life choices of young people today

The "Instrumentum laboris" of the Synod on Youth presented. An opportunity to address vocational discernment for the Church and to rediscover how it can best correspond today to its call to be the soul, light, salt and leaven of our world.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The need to accompany the life choices of today's young people, who are "great seekers of meaning", even though often times they also experience a “reciprocal estrangement”  with adults; Young people  who suffer from a “disinterest,” indeed "apathy" in terms of faith, but who also show attention to various forms of religiosity and who are immersed in a digital world that isolates, promotes selfishness and "post-truth". Moreover the need to propose a concept of life as a "vocation" that "invites the human being to renounce the lie of self-foundation and the illusion of narcissistic self-realization, to allow ourselves to be challenged through history by the design with which God directs us to the goodness of others (No. 90).

These are the primary objectives of the Synod of Bishops that in October will address the theme "Young people, faith and vocational discernment" according to the working guidelines, or Instrumentum laboris, presented today in Italian.

General secretary of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, stated that the document "firstly aims to make the whole Church aware of its important and imperative task of accompanying every young person, no one excluded, towards the joy of love; secondly, by taking this mission seriously, the Church itself will be able to reacquire a renewed youthful dynamism; thirdly, it is also important for the Church to take this opportunity to put itself in vocational discernment, so as to rediscover how it can best correspond today to its call to be the soul, light, salt and leaven of our world ".

Vocational accompaniment, as a goal that the Church must have for "all young people" is the result of discernment, articulated in the three verbs: to recognize, interpret, choose. Which are also the thematic divisions of the 67 page document.

In the contemporary world marked by globalization, the document notes, "individualism, consumerism, materialism and hedonism, in which appearances dominate," prevail. This reality, not only gives rise to an estrangement in relationships with adults, also renders relations within the family, the school, the university more difficult and complex. As for the Church, if "a certain number of young people, variable according to the different contexts, feel themselves to be a vital part of the Church and show this with conviction, through an active commitment within it" (n.31), there is often disinterest towards religion. And often "young people struggle to find a space in the Church" and "their experience leads them to believe that the Church considers them too young and inexperienced (No. 33).

The document also notes that young people live in a "digital" culture, which tends to isolate, and are "very frequently" victims of that culture of waste, often denounced by Pope Francis. "At the same time, we must not forget that young people can also be imbued with this culture and implement behaviors that produce the" discarding "of other people or the degradation of the environment as a result of irresponsible consumer choices. Finally, we must recognize that sometimes even some ecclesial leaders collude in this way of thinking and acting, contributing to generating indifference and exclusion (n.41) ".

"Another trait that goes through many contemporary societies is the weakness of the institutions and the eroding of trust in them, including the Church. The answers to the Online Questionnaire show that only a minority of young people (16.7%) think they have the possibility to affect change in the public life of their country (No. 59) ".

In this context, however, "secularization does not seem to affirm itself as the ineluctable destiny of humanity". A return of the sacred is recognized. "This phenomenon coexists with the decline of priestly and religious vocations and the emptying of churches that is taking place in some parts of the world: we are not therefore faced with a return to the past, but the emergence of a new paradigm of religiosity, described as not institutionalized and increasingly 'liquid', marked by a radical variety of individual paths even among those who declare themselves belonging to the same confession (No. 63) ". The consequence, especially in very secularized areas, is that "a substantial number of young people", "ask nothing of the Church 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 (No. 66) ".

But more generally young people desire above all an "authentic Church", which shines for "exemplarity, competence, co-responsibility and cultural solidity", which shares "their life situation in the light of the Gospel rather than giving sermons", which is "transparent" , welcoming, honest, attractive, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive ". A "less institutional and more relational Church, capable of welcoming without pre-judging", a "friendly and forthcoming Church", an ecclesial community that is "a family where one feels welcomed, listened to, safeguarded and included (No. 68). And that has a style of dialogue, both internal and external. "Many young people ask the Church for operational concreteness, which touches on various points: to really be in favor of the poor, to have the ecological issue at heart, to make visible choices of sobriety and transparency, to be authentic and clear, and even bold in denouncing evil with radicality not only in civil society and in the world, but in the Church itself (No. 71) ".

Moving on to the Synod, young people ask it "to illuminate the vocational horizon of human existence in a convincing way. The young people themselves ask the Church to help them "find a simple and clear understanding of the meaning of 'vocation'", to be understood in its broadest sense. The Second Vatican Council used this term to express "both the destination of all men to communion with Christ (see LG 3.13, GS 19.32) and the universal call to holiness (see LG 39-42), then inserting it into this interpretive horizon the understanding of the individual vocations: those to the ordained ministry and to consecrated life as well as the lay vocation (see LG 31), especially in the conjugal form (see LG 35, GS 48.49.52) "(No. 87). Faced with this approach, there is an objective difficulty: young people have "a reductive vision" of the term "vocation" and the pastoral care of vocations is seen as "an activity aimed exclusively at the 'recruitment' of priests and religious". Hence the need to rethink the vocational youth ministry so that it is "broad" and "meaningful for all young people". And singles also appear alongside the choices of the priestly ministry and marriage. "Some episcopal conferences are asking what is the vocational collocation of people who choose to remain 'single’ without any reference to a particular consecration or marriage. Given their numerical increase in the Church and in the world, it is important for the Synod to reflect on this issue. (No. 105) ".

Moreover, if every young person, in fact, has a vocation that can be expressed in various areas - the family, study, their professional life, politics then, the theme of 'accompaniment’ is central". "The whole tradition of spirituality insists on how fundamental accompaniment is, especially during the process of vocational discernment. (n: 120"."The accompaniment of young people by the Church thus assumes a variety of forms, direct and indirect, it intersects a plurality of dimensions and uses multiple tools, depending on the context in which it is placed and the degree of ecclesial involvement and faith of those who are being accompanied (No. 122). "And it is a matter of finding" the most opportune means to enable the Church to fulfill its mission towards the young: to help them encounter the Lord, to feel loved by Him. and responding to His call to the joy of love (No. 138) ".

"The call to joy and life is always placed within a cultural context as well as a context of social relations. It is in the circumstances of daily life that young people wish to be accompanied, formed and made protagonists. This is why the Church is called to "go out, to see, to call" (DP III, 1.3), that is, to invest time in knowing and measuring the constraints and opportunities of the different social and cultural contexts and making the call to the joy of love. (No. 144).

The Synodal Document concludes by recalling the universal vocation to holiness. And since "youth is a time for holiness", it should be proposed as a "horizon of meaning accessible to all young people". "What also deserves mention is that alongside the 'young saints', there is a need to present the 'youthfulness of the saints' to young people. In fact, all saints were young once and it would be beneficial to show young people today how the Saints lived during their youth. Thus it would be possible to intercept many situations for young people which are neither simple nor easy, but where God is present and mysteriously active. Showing that His grace is at work through tortuous paths of patient construction of a holiness that matures over time through many unexpected ways, can help all young people, no one excluded, to cultivate hope in a holiness that is always possible (No. 214) ".

*Translation of citations from original Italian text by Asianews

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