The Cross is God’s love letter to humanity. Yet the Instrumentum Laboris (the Synod’s working document) hardly mentions Christ crucified. The call to “take up the cross and follow” is made by [the young man] Christ to [mostly young] apostles with a child placed in front of them as an example of [youthful] trust; the final document must echo Christ’s call.
Bishops from Congo, Mali, Malawi, Senegal, Mauritius and Ethiopia spoke both of the youthful energy and the suffering of young Catholics in some parts of Africa. They identified their zeal for Christ despite hardships, even persecution, the challenges of getting education, and their initiatives to create meaningful work, enterprise, and integral development. The Church tries to assist such initiatives through providing schooling, tertiary education, micro credit, moral and social teaching, chaplaincy and groups such as Young Christian Workers and Legion of Mary. Such projects help reduce mass migration, poverty, isolation and disorientation.
One Synod Father spoke of “the Church tormented” in the Middle East and the beauty of young people continuing to worship even amidst such dangers.
An Indian bishop spoke of the persecution of young Christians in parts of India, gang rapes (including of his niece who is a nun) and martyrdoms (he told a very moving story of a young man who refused to deny Christ as he was slowly killed by a fundamentalist gang). This has been the seed of new Christians.
A Vietnamese bishop described a Church in which 90 percent of youth practise the faith and 2 million are members of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement [we have thousands in Sydney alone]. This movement combines social, catechetical and prayer life, and demonstrates what is possible.
Two bishops from Nigeria told how their young people are “incurable optimists” and strongly attached to their families. But they can be easy prey to prosperity Gospel preachers, forces undermining the family, and pressures to migrate.
Synod Fathers, experts and youth suggested that:
- We need some pastors who smell not of the sheep but of the lambs!
- But many bishops conferences, dioceses and parish under-invest in youth ministry
- The Church must be anchored in this world but have its sights set on eternity; signs like poverty, chastity, obedience, works of prayer and charity, speak of this eschatological horizon
- Our document needs a much fuller treatment of the proclamation of the kerygma (Łódź)
- Our response to the unsatisfying diet offered young people by modernity must be to cultivate in them attitudes and practices of prayer, devotion and worship, and to call them to heroic lives of sanctity by our own example
- The need to form young consciences well, confident that truth, beauty and goodness are real, objective, and found in Christ; love heals wounds, transcends egoism, allows genuine growth
- Youth are waiting to hear from us a strong and clear restatement of the Scriptural-Catholic understanding of marriage and family
- Unless the Synod has something to say to the mass migration of youth from Africa its document will be irrelevant to at least one entire continent
- Oriental churches benefit from married clergy
- The Catholic school is the church for many youth
- Participants in the Neocatechumenal Way [Neocats] and its seminaries [Neokittens] undertake an itinerary of kerygma, conversion, catechesis and mission; their families have heard our now-St Paul VI’s call to generous family sizes and to announce the Gospel to the world
One young Italian woman told how she had left the practice of the faith after Confirmation like so many youth. After a great grief she rediscovered the love of God and joined the ‘New Horizon’ movement. Her community seeks out young people in various “hot spots”. She recommended some strategically placed parishes be entrusted to movements, families, women; and that seminaries must be drastically re-imagined.
Another young woman from Cameroon described a very different reality of poverty, witchcraft, sex addiction, and disorder. Through the brothers of the Emmanuel Community she discovered the “perfume of holiness” which was so attractive. She is driven to prayer, community and mission in her new life.
As a reward for another long day of Synodding, I will tonight go out with the Sydney seminarians and young priests studying in Rome.
+Anthony Fisher op
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