A WOMAN OF DISCERNMENT- COLLECTORS EDITION

Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment
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Abuses and dependencies, just like violence and deviance, are among the reasons that lead young people into prison, with a higher incidence in certain ethnic and social groups. All these situations present the Church with questions. Even more numerous in the world are the young people who suffer forms of marginalization and social exclusion, for religious, ethnic or economic reasons.

Let us recall the difficult situation of adolescents and young people who become pregnant and the plague of abortion, as also the spread of HIV, the various forms of dependency drugs, gambling, pornography, etc. Various interventions underlined the need for the Church to value the skills of excluded young people and the contributions they can offer to their communities. The Church should courageously take their side, accompanying them as they set about regaining their dignity and a role in building the common good.

Contrary to a widespread stereotype, the world of young people is profoundly marked by the experience of vulnerability, disability, sickness and suffering. The young who experience these various trials, together with their families, count on the support of Christian communities, but these communities are not always adequately equipped to welcome them. Nevertheless, this culture can also taint the young, Christian communities and their leaders, thereby contributing to the human, social and environmental degradation that afflicts our world.

The young who live in these situations have precious resources to share with the community and they teach us to measure ourselves against the limit, helping us to grow in humanity. There is no end to the creativity with which a community animated by Gospel joy can present an alternative to malaise and to situations of hardship.

In this way society can experience that the stones rejected by the builders can become cornerstones cf. The way young generations approach reality has some particular characteristics. The young ask to be accepted and respected in their originality. Among some of the most evident characteristics of youth culture the following were noted: the preference given to images over and above other forms of communication; the importance of sensations and emotions as a way of approaching reality and the priority given to the concrete and functional rather than to theoretical analysis.

Friendship is very important for them, as is belonging to peer groups, held together through social media. The young are generally spontaneous and open with regard to diversity, and this makes them attentive to the themes of peace, inclusiveness and dialogue between cultures and religions.

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There is much evidence from many parts of the world that the young know how to be pioneers of intercultural and interreligious encounter and dialogue, in the context of peaceful coexistence. Alongside some who are indifferent, there are many others who are ready to commit themselves to initiatives of voluntary work, active citizenship and social solidarity, and they need to be accompanied and encouraged, so as to bring out their talents, skills and creativity and to provide incentives for them to assume responsibility.

Social commitment and direct contact with the poor remain a fundamental opportunity for discovery or deepening of faith and discernment of vocation. With regard to the promotion of justice, the young ask the Church to show decisive and consistent engagement, stamping out any complicity with a worldly mentality. The Synod recognizes and appreciates the importance that the young give to artistic expression in all its forms: there are many young people who use their God-given talents in this field, promoting beauty, truth and goodness, growing in humanity and in their relationship with God.

For many, artistic expression is also an authentic professional vocation. Music is particularly important, representing as it does a real environment in which the young are constantly immersed, as well as a culture and a language capable of arousing emotion and shaping identity. The language of music also represents a pastoral resource with a particular bearing on the liturgy and its renewal.

The standardization of tastes through commercial interests sometimes risks compromising the link with traditional forms of musical and liturgical expression. Equally significant is the emphasis that young people place on sporting activity, whose potential for education and formation the Church must not underestimate, maintaining a solid presence there.

The world of sport needs to be helped to overcome the ambiguities by which it is afflicted, such as the idolization of champions, subservience to commercial interests and the ideology of success at any cost. One way forward is to underline the value of accompaniment and support for the disabled in sporting activity. The religious experience of the young is strongly influenced by the social and cultural context in which they live. In some countries the Christian faith is a strong and lively community experience, in which the young participate with joy. Whereas in other places, Catholics along with other Christian denominations form a minority that sometimes experiences discrimination or even persecution.

It is not possible to speak of the religiosity of the young without taking all these differences into account. In general the young say they are searching for the meaning of life and they show an 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.

Particularly in some cultures, many see religion as a private matter and they choose from a variety of spiritual traditions those elements in which they find their own convictions mirrored. There thus spreads a certain syncretism, which develops on the relativistic assumption that all religions are equal.

Discerning Spirits

Adherence to a community of faith is not seen by everyone as a privileged way to access the meaning of life, and it is accompanied and sometimes replaced by ideologies or by the cult of success in professional and economic terms, with a view to material self-fulfilment. Certain practices inherited from tradition remain alive, though, such as pilgrimages to shrines, which at times involve large numbers of young people, and expressions of popular piety, often linked to devotion to Mary and the Saints, which preserve the faith experience of a people. The same variety is found in the relationship of the young with the figure of Jesus.

Many recognize him as Saviour and Son of God and they often feel close to him through Mary, his mother, and they commit themselves to a journey of faith. Others have no personal relationship with him, but consider him a good man and an ethical point of reference. Others again encounter him through a powerful experience of the Spirit. For others, though, he is a figure from the past who is very remote from human experience and has no relevance for their lives. Even though to many young people God, religion and the Church seem empty words, they are sensitive to the figure of Jesus when he is presented in an attractive and effective way.

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Christian Quote Memes Going back to the grape illustration, the thing to remember is that a meme is not meant to exhaustively cover every aspect of the thought it presents. Sadly women run to Meyers and other false women without any discernment at all. The standardization of tastes through commercial interests sometimes risks compromising the link with traditional forms of musical and liturgical expression. He is the one with faulty theology not Beth. They are called to open themselves to the young of other religious and spiritual traditions, and to maintain with them authentic relationships that favour mutual knowledge and bring healing from prejudices and stereotypes.

In many settings, young Catholics ask for prayer opportunities and sacramental celebrations capable of impacting upon their daily lives through a fresh, authentic and joyful liturgy. In some parts of the world liturgical experience is the principal resource for Christian identity and there is a good level of participation, with conviction. The young see the liturgy as a privileged moment of experience of God and of the ecclesial community and a point of departure for mission.

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Elsewhere, though, we are witnessing a certain abandonment of the sacraments and of the Sunday Eucharist, perceived more as a moral precept than as a joyful encounter with the Risen Lord and the community. In general it seems that even where sacramental catechesis is offered, there is little by way of educational accompaniment for living the celebration profoundly, for entering into the mysterious riches of its symbols and its rites. Among the themes they hold most dear are social and environmental sustainability, discrimination and racism. The Synod is aware that a substantial number of young people, for all sorts of reasons, do not ask the Church for anything because they do not see it as significant for their lives.

Some, on the contrary, expressly ask to be left alone, as they find the presence of the Church a nuisance, even an irritant. Young Catholics are not merely on the receiving end of pastoral activity: they are living members of the one ecclesial body, baptized persons in whom the Spirit of the Lord is alive and active. They help to enrich what the Church is and not only what she does.

They are her present and not only her future. The young are actively involved in many Church activities in which they offer their services generously, particularly through leading catechesis and liturgy, caring for the weak, voluntary work with the poor. Movements, associations and religious congregations also offer young people opportunities for commitment and co-responsibility. Sometimes the availability of the young meets with a certain authoritarianism and mistrust from older people and pastors, who do not sufficiently recognize their creativity and who struggle to share responsibility.

The young also clamour for greater recognition and greater valuing of women in society and in the Church. Many women play an essential part in Christian communities, but often it is hard to involve them in decision-making processes, even when these do not require specific ministerial responsibilities.

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The Synod recommends that everyone be made more aware of the urgency of an inevitable change, not least on the basis of anthropological and theological reflection on the reciprocity between men and women. In various contexts there are groups of young people, often from ecclesial movements and associations, who are actively involved in the evangelization of their peers through a transparent life witness, accessible language and the capacity to establish authentic bonds of friendship.

This apostolate makes it possible to bring the Gospel to people who might not otherwise be reached by ordinary youth ministry and it helps to mature the faith of those who engage in it. So it deserves to be appreciated, supported, wisely accompanied and integrated into the lives of communities. The young ask the Church to offer a shining example of authenticity, exemplariness, competence, co-responsibility and cultural solidity.

At times this request can seem like a criticism, but often it assumes the positive form of personal commitment to a fraternal, welcoming, joyful and committed community, prophetically combatting social injustice. Among the expectations of the young, one that stands out particularly is the desire for the Church to adopt a less paternalistic and more candid style of dialogue.

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So they drew near to the village to which they were going. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. The Holy Spirit inflames the heart, opens the eyes and awakens the faith of the two wayfarers. He acts in every time and in every place, in the variety of contexts and cultures, calling forth even in the midst of difficulties and sufferings the commitment to justice, the search for truth, the courage of hope.

The desire for life in love and the healthy restlessness that is found in the hearts of young people form part of the great longing of all creation for the fullness of joy. In each of them, including those who do not know Christ, the Creator Spirit acts so as to lead them to beauty, goodness and truth. Youth is an original and stimulating stage in life, which Jesus himself experienced, thereby sanctifying it.

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It is not about creating a new Church for the young, but rather rediscovering with them the youthfulness of the Church, opening ourselves to the grace of a new Pentecost. In the journey of Christian initiation, it is above all Confirmation that allows believers to relive the Pentecostal experience of a new outpouring of the Spirit for growth and mission. It is important to rediscover the richness of this sacrament, to grasp its link with the personal vocation of every baptized person and with the theology of charisms, to take greater care over the way it is presented pastorally, so that it does not become a formal and insignificant moment.

In Christian communities we sometimes risk presenting, even without intending it, an ethical and therapeutic theism, which responds to the human need for security and comfort, rather than a living encounter with God in the light of the Gospel and in the strength of the Spirit. If it is true that life is awakened solely through life, it becomes clear that young people need to encounter Christian communities that are truly rooted in friendship with Christ, who leads us to the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

Contemplating his life is the best way to grasp the blessing of youth: Jesus had an unconditional trust in the Father, he maintained friendship with his disciples and even in moments of crisis he remained faithful to them. He showed a profound compassion for the weakest, especially the poor, the sick, sinners and the excluded. In Jesus, all the young can see themselves, with their fears and their hopes, their uncertainties and their dreams and they can entrust themselves to him.

Listening to Christ and being in communion with him will help pastors and educators to cultivate a wise interpretation of this stage in life. We believe that even today God speaks to the Church and to the world through the young, their creativity and their commitment, as well as their sufferings and their pleas for help. Youth, as a phase in the development of the personality, is marked by dreams which gather momentum, by relationships which acquire more and more consistency and balance, by trials and experiments, and by choices which gradually build a life project.

At this stage in life, the young are called to move forward without cutting themselves off from their roots, to build autonomy, but not in solitude. The social, economic, cultural context does not always offer favourable conditions. Many young saints have allowed the features of youth to shine forth in all their beauty and in their day they have been real prophets of change. Their example shows what the young are capable of when they open themselves up to encounter Christ. Young people with disabilities or marked by illness can also offer a valuable contribution.

The Synod invites communities to make room for initiatives that recognize and permit them to be active participants, for example through the use of sign language for the deaf, suitably tailored catechetical programmes, social experiences and work experience. The young experience a restlessness that above all is to be accepted, respected and accompanied, with utter confidence in their freedom and responsibility.

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The Church knows from experience that their contribution is fundamental for renewal. Young people, in some respects, can be a step ahead of their pastors. On Easter morning the young Beloved Disciple arrived first at the tomb, before Peter, who was weighed down by age and by betrayal cf. At the same time, the attitude of the Beloved Disciple indicates that it is important to remain in touch with the experience of the elderly, to recognize the role of pastors and not to go forward alone. Hence the symphony of voices that is the fruit of the Spirit. The young, like everyone else, also carry wounds.