Today, bishops from around the world continued to explain the great range of challenges currently facing their young.
For example, the mass movement of people around our world today is largely a migration of young people who face many challenges of changed circumstances, integration and identity, including spiritually.
One bishop pointed to the sociological evidence of absent, confused or unconfident fathers and the psychological evidence of the negative effects of this on young people (of both sexes). He noted some important new ministries to men to help them find their identity, spirituality and mission, which in turn assists the whole family.
Several others focused on the challenges to marriage and family today, and the reduced effectiveness of this institution in transmitting faith, identity, vocation and mission. One identified ecclesial movements and ministries that are successfully supporting families. Another emphasised the link between formation in the family and formation in the years beyond in seminary or elsewhere.
Another focused on ‘the generation gap’. As St John XXIII observed, young people must be reminded that the world existed before them. The elderly must be reminded that it will still exist after them. We must arouse in both young and old a desire to know and hear each other and to work together.
Others suggested we must learn from the Pentecostals about the kinds of worship music that attracts the young and the kinds of homiletics that excite them. Another observed that we need new models, rhetorics and media to speak our perennial truths, being aware that young people are not just a ‘demographic’ or a ‘market’ but a ‘theological place’ where the Word of God is revealed, pondered and communicated.
Along similar lines, Melbourne’s Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards recalled how the sainted Curé of Ars had once asked a shepherd to show him the way to Ars and offered in return to show him the way to heaven. We must likewise embrace our ‘new parish’ of today’s world, the new (young) parishioners and their (youth) culture as the place we are sent to cure and care.
“You will soon be old, yourselves”
Later in the day it was, again, striking what a variety of issues young people face today. There are:
– Victims of abuse and loss of trust in the Church
– Young refugees and migrants, long deprived of home and security, now seeking new community and identity
– Churches and societies left behind after civil war or other mass migration events, denuded of youth
– Young people growing up in unstable families, absent a father, without the love and role models they need
– Young Christians in societies where they are a tiny, often oppressed, minority
– “Digital natives” uncritically receiving and half-digesting ideas from many, often unreliable sources
One bishop called on young people to forgive older generations for letting them down in various ways “because you will soon be old yourselves and in need of forgiveness”.
In addition to bishops, we heard from several leaders of ecclesial movements or religious communities, and from some young people. They spoke of:
– New forms of beautiful and inclusive worship
– Integrating faith with chosen jobs and relationships
– The need for spiritual mentors, youth ministers and companions
– Enabling the young who live in poverty to rise above the injustices they suffer and give them a voice
– Creating “safe spaces” for young people to ask their questions, express their opinions without being judged, experiment, learn and lead
– Listening to and accepting young people who do not live the Church’s teaching regarding extra-marital and same-sex relationships
For all updates on the Synod on Youth click here.