“Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ, cannot keep him for themselves”. (Novo millennio ineunte, 40)
Pope Francis has convoked the Synod of Bishops for October 2018 to discuss the topic “Young people, the faith and vocational discernment”. The path to the Synod began with reflections contained in the Preparatory Document, which includes questionnaires (these are also available online) that aim to explore and get to know the ambitions, hopes and fears of young people. Almost all the world’s Bishops’ Conferences were involved in the preparation of the questionnaires: these are different for each continent and they were sent out together with the Preparatory Document. The replies will form the basis of the Instrumentum laboris (which will be ready by summer 2018) and will be a reference point for the Synod Fathers’ discussion.
The next Synod will thus be a work of evangelization based upon an experience of listening, an attitude that we missionaries, unfortunately, do not practice very much. It is a methodology that facilitates the active participation of young people, including the so-called “estranged” and those who belong to different faiths. It offers to all the opportunity to recognize, in the life experience of every person, the starting point for a comparison between equals, where the common terrain is not made up of opinions, but of life’s most profound dynamics. By asking herself how to accompany young people to recognize and embrace the call to love and life, the Church wants to ask them to help her perceive and identify the Lord’s voice which continues to resound among us today. «As in the days of Samuel and Jeremiah, young people know how to discern the signs of our times, indicated by the Spirit. Listening to their aspirations, the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called to follow». (Preparatory Document, Introduction). From this Synod, therefore, we are not to expect just a «pastoral reflection », but concrete paths that will allow us to encounter, accompany and take care of every young person, no one excluded.
Perhaps this methodology will also enlighten and encourage the youth and vocational pastoral ministry. How many opportunities (and how many difficulties …) to put young people, the faith and vocational discernment back at the center! All this should be close to the heart of those who have been generated to life and faith and, by God’s grace, have received the gift of vocation. As missionaries, let us try not to fall into the trap of whingeing like eternal “innocent” adolescents, who love to look from the window at what is happening in the world (Pope Francis would call this “balconeando”), constantly complaining and accusing “the others” of just about everything. They thus believe they can soothe their conscience, refusing to acknowledge their own responsibility and actively embrace the difficulties and the challenges that God presents to us today. Until proven otherwise, the love of Christ impels us, it does not hold us back, nor does it make us fall back.
We hope that during this year we can share reflections and experiences on young people, the faith and vocational discernment in our missionary realities, beginning from the great opportunity offered to us by the 2018 Synod.