Today’s youth challenge
The Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment just ended last October 27 and a final report has already been submitted to Pope Francis. We will just wait for what the Holy Father will make out of it. For sure, many interesting things will be said.
The final report tackled a great variety of issues regarding the youth of today. The more prominent ones, of course, are those related to sexuality and gender. Other issues addressed were those of synodality, abuse, migration, the digital age, art, music and sport, violence and persecution, suffering, education, and seminary formation.
I am sure that each of these issues can generate endless discussions. But to me, the most important task is to give a working and practical, not a theoretical, accompaniment to the youth with the view of imbuing in them an authentic spirituality where the fullness of Christ is known, followed and lived.
This will obviously be a tall order. But today, there is actually no challenge that is not a tall order. We just have to face this challenge of the youth of today as boldly as possible, relying always on God’s grace and on our unremitting effort that would include heroic patience and humility. There is really no way but to be truly holy to tackle this challenge effectively.
In fact, in the final report a reference is made to that episode of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus whom the resurrected Christ approached without identifying himself as Christ.(cfr Lk 24,13-35) It is proposed as the model of the accompaniment we ought to give to young people these days.
But this presupposes that to accompany the young people effectively, we should be like the resurrected Christ himself and the young people should already be in some basic level of discipleship, which is hardly the case of what we have at the moment. But yes, we just have to work this out, no matter how daunting and demanding the prospect for this ideal would seem to us now.
My experience with the young ones with whom I am dealing these past years has always convinced me that what they need is an authentic human and Christian spirituality. And I am happy to note that in that final report of the Synod, there is mention about something as basic as human sexuality that should be part of the foundation for true Christian life.
“It is necessary,” the report says, “to propose to young people an anthropology of affectivity and sexuality capable of giving the right value to chastity, showing pedagogically the most authentic meaning for the growth of the person.”
I find that statement very interesting because while we already have a rich faith-inspired doctrinal body about affectivity and sexuality, there is still a dearth of the finer points that would effectively address the concrete situations of young people already mired by all kinds of affective and sexual irregularities.
In other words, we already have good theories and principles, but we still lack the practical skills to apply these theories to the concrete cases of young people. In this regard, what I find important is to try our best to win the confidence of the young people by developing a true friendship with them.
We need to spend time with them, and in manner of speaking, to mix and to “mess up” with them, regardless of the differences of age, temperament, culture, etc. In other words, to be “all things to all men,” as St. Paul once said. (cfr 1 Cor 9,22) Once this friendship is established, we can start talking to them about more serious things and offer plans and strategies to help them develop their spiritual life.
Things should be done very gradually, without overwhelming them with stiff demands. In fact, the gradient of demands should be low at the beginning. And we just have to pray and pray that what we do with them now will bear fruit someday.*
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