Our younger generation will, at some distant point in the future, take over the reigns of society in all its diverse spheres. We often underestimate their energy, brains, imagination and talent, which can significantly fuel much-needed change in the way we have always done things. As British statesman Benjamin Disraeli once said, “The youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity.”
To value our youth is to nurture and sustain their continuous development through every possible means, embracing a holistic approach to ensure their full development not only academically, but also physically, emotionally, ethically, and most importantly spiritually.
At the recent Synod on Young People, Synod Fathers and Synod participants teamed up with young people precisely to discuss, modify or amend a document outlining the way forward to addressing, among other issues, contemporary and innovative approaches towards youth ministry.
The approved document text speaks of “the blessing of youth” from a Christian perspective and emphasises the importance of accompanying youth in their life choices through a proper discernment process.
Accompanying youths in their life choices is an ecclesial duty and the right of every young person
Our younger generation needs spiritual guidance to determine which path is best for their lives, to discover the will of God for their lives in every situation, to dwell deeper on their life calling and to choose only that which will ultimately bring them happiness and fulfilment.
The document asserts that accompanying youths in their life choices is an ecclesial duty and the right of every young person, adding that only the presence of a “prudent and wise” guide can help youth to correctly interpret God’s will for their lives.
While emphasising the importance of schools and parishes, it acknowledges the need for laity to be trained to accompany young people, especially since so many priests and religious are already overburdened.
The document also notes the irreplaceable role of Catholic educational institutions and addresses the need to rethink the role of the parish in terms of its vocational mission because it is often ineffective and lacks dynamics, especially in the realm of catechesis.
Last but not least, the document discussed the world of art, music and sports in terms of using these means as ‘pastoral resources’.
The Synod document offers a brief reflection on the different vocational paths, including the vocation of the family, of ordained ministry and of consecrated life.
Regarding discernment, the document notes that this goes well beyond simply deciding whether to get married or to live a consecrated life. Rather, discernment is a broader concept, and also includes helping youth to determine their profession and what sort of social or political commitments to make.
But to discern well, youths need accompaniment, both spiritual and psychological, and a formation that reaches their family, educational and social aspects of life.
Precisely due to the challenges modern society faces, the document stresses the need to form youth in politics and in how to be active citizens. It says particular attention should be paid to professional competence, opportunities for service, care for the environment and a better understanding of the Church’s social doctrine.
Pope Francis, in closing the Synod on young people, said that there are “three fundamental steps on the journey of faith: to listen, to be a neighbour and to bear witness”.
Let us be moved to listening to our younger generation, to be their neighbour and to bear witness of the love of God for them through our own lives.
Gordon Vassallo is a certified spiritual guide at the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality.
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