Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP: Synod on Youth Blog Day 14

Synod youth delegates arrive for a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican on 16 October. PHOTO: CNS

This morning a bishop reminded us that St Paul warned the young Timothy (2 Tim ch. 4) that the time would come (and now has come) “when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will surround themselves with teachers who only say what their itching ears want to hear. They will block their ears to the truth and turn aside to myths.” In these circumstances Paul charged him, as he does us today, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word, in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction… Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, work especially at evangelisation, and discharge all the other duties of your ministry.”

Another bishop quoted Rabindranath Tagore, the Bard of Bengal: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

Points made in the first Morning session at the Synod today included:

  • The process of moving young people from being objects of pastoral care to being subjects providing evangelisation and care to their peers
  • Young people learn by doing as much as by hearing; works of justice and mercy are embraced by many
  • Many young people grow up in broken families and are emotional-spiritual orphans, so our parishes – more than ever – must be families that welcome them; once received they can be co-responsible for mission
  • Too many university students lapse in faith and practice; parents may not be able to do much about this; we must invest more of our energies into engaging them
  • After a long absence from the Church, some young people return: what can we do to ensure that more of them do? Catechesis, pilgrimages, encounters aimed at young adults are part of the solution
  • We could do more to turn the new media to the service of the Gospel; the young can show us how
  • Youcat and Docat could be more widely dispersed and used
  • We need young catechists and reliable on-line evangelisation and catechesis; “the new media is the agora of our time” (as Pope Benedict XVI said) and so much is possible; but many web pages and blogs are extreme or falsify Catholic teaching, so young people need approved sources
  • African youth need access to education and this must address civics, the dignity of women, the importance and limitations of politics, why anti-corruption policies are so important

One bishop said this Year of Youth has challenged Church leaders to make more opportunities for young people to lead and serve. We are challenged by St Paul: “Let no-one despise you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Tim 4:12)

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa. PHOTO: CNS

Another Synod Father spoke directly and with passion about how international governments, agencies and aid organisations continue to colonise Africa, by imposing conditions on aid and by cultural interference regarding sexuality, marriage, contraception and abortion right up to birth – and so on. We must teach the young with greater clarity than ever, he said, rather than collaborating through our inaction in a culture that encourages multiple abortions – and more – in young people’s lives. With St Paul VI interceding for us we can form young people as apostles for life and love.

The Africans are making quite a splash at this Synod: they come from the fastest growing part of the Church; the average age of their believers is in the 20s; and their leaders are solid in the faith and optimistic. A black pope would make a striking figure! Go Catholic Africa!

Other points that were made in the second session of the 14th Congregation:

  • Every young person is ours; there is no in-group and out-group
  • Those responsible for the formation of seminarians and young religious must allow candidates space to discover themselves and God, to confirm and savour their vocation, even to make mistakes as they grow in prudence. They must gain pastoral experiences of those on the edge, the poor, small communities etc; must resist a new clericalism
  • Responding to the screen-culture (rather than book-culture) of our young people… we must develop e-tools for lectio divina, catechesis and discernment
  • Young Catholics in Christian minority countries need assistance to deal with discrimination, identity and diversity

A sixth Synod Father said oriental youth want clear teaching, and authentic, radical witness  – even to death.

Finally, one Cardinal celebrated the initiatives of St John Paul II with youth, especially World Youth Day. There is now overwhelming evidence that WYD inspires new youth ministries in the host nation, and many vocations. WYD is commonly a defining moment in the conversion process of many young people. His Eminence quoted Australian research on the impact of WYD on the young.

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