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THE POPE OFFERS A DEATH-DEFYING CHALLENEGE TO YOUNG PEOPLE

26 March 2018 No Comment

THE POPE OFFERS A DEATH-DEFYING CHALLENEGE TO YOUNG PEOPLE
Father John Walsh

Young people have abandoned the Church. On any weekend (Saturday or Sunday) a visit to a local parish it takes only a visual overview of the small congregations to realize that young women and young men are scarce. The reasons young people are leaving the church are manifold. Many youth say the Church is dead. I would venture that one reason is they know through experience and they feel that they are not being listened to. They are looking for love and they have seldom been told about the love of Jesus. In October of this year the center of attention at the Synod of Bishops will be Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. Will it be the same old, same old?
At the two previous Synods On The Family Pope Francis told the Bishops to speak fearlessly and listen humbly about the pastoral challenges of the family. The topics included some controversial topics such as cohabitation, divorce, birth control and the impact of social and economic pressures. The Pope is candid: Let nobody say: I can’t say this; they’ll think such-and-such about me. Everyone needs to say what one feels duty-bound in the Lord to say: without respect for human considerations, without fear. And, at the same time, one must listen with humility and welcome with an open heart what the brothers say. One cardinal told him some had hesitated to speak out for fear of disagreeing with the pope. The Pope responded: This is no good, this is not synodality, The synods ended and disagreements among the participants became evident and even confrontational. Francis saw the confrontations as necessary for an understanding of how the Church such react pastorally to the needs of the family. In the media the center of attention became a secondary topic: divorce and remarriage of Catholics and their reception of communion. Much more needed to be reported on the contemporary needs of the family.
The Pope has expressed a very similar attitude of synodality for the young people to express their ideas freeing and without fear. At a pre-synod meeting with 300 young people the Pope said, Be brave! Speak bravely and inject a dose of creativity to a Church in need of young prophets. Here, we leave shyness at the door and as he told the Bishops, listen with humility. He went on to say, too often people speak of youth without consulting you. Some believe that it would be easier to keep you at a safe distance, so as not to be provoked by you. It’s not enough to exchange a few little messages or share cute pictures. Young people must be taken seriously!

Young people are the builders of culture with their style and originality, yet, too often they are left alone. It doesn’t have to be this way in the Church, this pre-synodal meeting wants to be the sign of something big: The desire of the Church to listen to all youth, without exclusion. God has faith in you, he loves you and calls you.
The Church needs to find a youthful enthusiasm. Francis looked to the Second Vatican Council ad encouraged youth to see it as an invitation to search for new paths and walk them with courage and trust, keeping the gaze fixed on Jesus and opening oneself to the Holy Spirit, to renew the same face of the Church. The heart of the Church is young precisely because the Gospel is like a vital sap that continuously regenerates it.
An institution that makes choices so as not to change remains a child, it does not grow. We must risk, because love knows how to risk, without risk, a young person ages, and the Church ages too. We need you young people, living stones of a Church with a face that is youthful, not wearing makeup, not artificially looking youthful, but revived from within. And you provoke us to escape the logic of ‘it’s always been done this way’ while young people are “creating a new culture,” We need young prophets, but this can only happen if young people make the old men dream.”
James Carrroll, a few years ago wrote in The New Yorker: The key to Pope Francis’s astounding arrival, for beyond all matters of style, doctrine and behavior, he is offering a sure glimpse of a fleeting truth about the faith: The man on his knees washing the feet of the tired poor is the Son of God. Francis is pointing more to that figure than to himself, or even to the church, which is why institution-protecting conservatives are right to view him with alarm. For this pope, the church exists for one reason only — to carry the story of Jesus forward in history, and by doing that to make his presence real.

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