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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP: Synod on Youth Blog Day 10

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Pope Francis greets a youth delegate before a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican on 4 October. PHOTO: CNS/Vatican Media

For the first several minutes of the Synod’s General Congregation today, the English translation didn’t work. Various Synod fathers tried waving to the chairman, the translation booths or the assistants, who simply waved back and kept talking (or miming)… With at least a third of us being Anglophones, we can only hope it was nothing too important! An ancient Church and modern technologies don’t always mix …

Archbishops Paglia and Forte and Bishop Pietro Fragnelli are the Italian relators. They reported a number of calls or issues that had been discussed:

  • The importance of the exegesis of the call of the young Samuel and his response of availability to God: “Here I am, Lord”
  • The friendships, courage, fragility and freedom of the young Christ are an example for young people, not his youthfulness per-se
  • Vocations can only be discerned within the ecclesial community
  • “We have gone beyond the eternal return”
  • The need for recognition within the Church community of “differently-abled” young people
  • The interventions of the young in the Synod and the interactions with the fathers is a model for the Church today
  • The positive discussions that have been had about vocations: “Our dialogue about vocation in these days gushes forth”

The Spanish relators are Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, Archbishop Mariano José Parra Sandoval. They reported main points and conclusions from Spanish language groups:

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  • The importance of the exegesis of Emmaus and other texts
  • Some felt the Instrumentum Laboris does not connect Christian anthropology sufficiently with vocation
  • Contemporary experiments in same-sex ‘marriages’, same-sex parenting, surrogacy etc. reveal an essentially pagan culture and the challenge of discerning vocations requires a Christian culture/community
  • Consecrated life, some felt, was not well developed in the Instrumentum Laboris and controversy over the idea of the ‘single vocation’ was unresolved
  • The Church must present the beautiful and the ideal to the young before presenting challenges e.g. the high calling of the human body to marriage or celibacy
  • The Church’s accompaniment inspired by the Catechumenate stretches across life
  • The lay vocation is not primarily about being a liturgical acolyte etc. but taking Christ to the world

The Francophone relators were Bishops Gaspard Béby Gnéba and Laurent Percerou and Dominican Master-General Bruno Cadoré OP. The main points or conclusions from their groups were:

  • Vocation is not just to ‘a relationship’ with Christ but to be conformed to Him and to participate in divine filiation, to become a son or daughter of God
  • ‘Single vocations’ should be welcomed as expressions of the baptismal vocation
  • The gift of discernment is NOT given to all, but only to some intensely prayerful clerics, religious and laity
  • The importance of hearing the kerygma (the preaching, or proclamation of the Gospel) and experiencing mercy precedes discernment
  • Not all choices are ‘vocations’; we must be careful with talk of the ‘single vocation’
  • Calls for accompaniment of the young are important, but this is only one element of the journey of faith
  • The sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation should be placed at the heart of the vocational journey
  • One-on-one accompaniment and communal accompaniment of the young are both required and inter-related; this requires a particular formation

The Anglophone relators are Archbishop Eamonn Martin, Bishops Robert Barron, Thomas Dodd and Mark Edwards OMI. The points they reported on included:

  • The call to start Part II of the Synod with the Emmaus story, especially the summons to love and holiness
  • The difference between a modern anthropology of self-creation and the Christian concept of receiving a call: eg as set out in the biblical books of Samuel, Jeremiah, Timothy
  • “Accompaniment” comes from the Latin cum pane (‘with the Eucharistic bread’): in this sense accompaniment is a summons to sacraments, mission and heaven
  • A focus on the formation and mentoring of mentors and spiritual directors is needed; this will assist discouraging a cult of personality
  • The Synod document needs a richer sacramental theology; the sacrament of Confirmation, in particular, needs elaboration
  • Conscience (from the Latin con sciential) requires a community in which it can be formed
  • The importance of Jn ch 1: young people need someone to say “Look, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” and “Come and see”
  • Vocation is not just about living in Christ but even dying for him
  • The Synod document needs clearer definition of the concept of vocation: the first part of vocation is to life and love, understanding who, for Christians, is Jesus; his call to discipleship, his struggle with and obedience to God’s will; the call and response motif which constantly appears in the Scriptures
  • The Synod document (the Instrumentum Laboris) would benefit from a distinct treatment of Mary’s call and response
  • The importance of the interplay of prudence, consolation and conscience in vocational discernment
  • The importance of the call to holiness (which includes the call to Christian joy, to try and become the best version of one’s self, to choose the best possible path, to incarnate in one’s life the attributes of God)
  • Understanding that the vocations of being precede and inform the vocations of doing
  • The ascetic component of vocation; finally making a choice means renouncing some other possibilities (as opposed to the Fear Of Missing Out culture]
  • The need for greater clarity on the role of psychology
  • The vocational dimensions of the Eucharist
  • Part 2 Chapter 1 of the Instrumentum Laboris, some felt, should capture the graces of being young; Chapter 2 should better connect the struggles of youth with those of Christ, the joys of self-giving and a broader sense of vocation; Chapter 3 can present discernment as a dialogue with God, con-pane means sharing daily life and being accompanied by family, friends, fellow believers precede and surround specialist accompaniment

The Portuguese language relator is Bishop Joaquin da Silva Mendes SDB. He reported his group felt that:

  • Peer-to-peer ministry operates best with young people
  • It is difficult to accompany young people suffering culture shock
  • The established principles of dialogue with non-believers also apply to dialogue with many youngsters
  • The one accompanying the young must present the faith as adventure of freedom and of certain fundamental options
  • The need for clarity about various vocations, including those appropriate to homosexuals

The relator of the German speaking group is Bishop Stefan Oster SDB. This group emphasised:

  • We need to learn how young people’s hearts beat, and why
  • God is leading us to a greater joy and freedom, he has a project for every one of us
  • The uniqueness of every person, nobody can live another person’s life
  • The sacraments of initiation should be integrated better with calling
  • The willingness and determination to give self totally for mission of Christ in priests and religious is intrinsically life-long
  • Accompaniment of the young and those discerning vocations must be supervised, observing both freedom and boundaries

+Anthony Fisher op

For all updates on the Synod on Youth click here.


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