Moderator: Em.mo Card. DiNARDO Daniel N.
Relator: S.E. Mons. BARRON Robert Emmet
Relator: S.E. Mons. BARRON Robert Emmet
It is once again my privilege to make this report on behalf of the Anglicus D group, a community of wise and generous people from all over the English-speaking world. The themes that we would like to present for the consideration of the Synod are seven in number.
First, we believe that the second principal section ought to commence with that moment in the Road to Emmaus story when Jesus emerges as teacher and interpreter. We should make clear that he gives to young people today the very same interpretive framework he gave his disciples long ago, namely, himself. Succinctly and with evangelical fervor, we should propose Jesus Christ, who preached the Kingdom of God, faced persecution and misunderstanding, performed miracles, called men and women to conversion of heart, suffered and died on the cross, and rose from the dead for our justification. This Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the pattern by which young people today ought to understand their own struggles, joys, and aspirations. As they see the whole of life in light of Christ, they will appreciate that they are summoned, above all, to love and to holiness.
A second motif that especially caught the attention of our group is the sharp contrast between an anthropology of self-creation and an anthropology of vocation. In so much of the postmodern culture, individuals are encouraged to invent themselves and define their own values through an exercise of their freedom. But this is repugnant to a Biblical understanding of the human being who is called by the voice of God, beckoned to go beyond her own projects and plans and to surrender to the one “who can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” We feel that the story of Samuel and Eli in the first book of Samuel is a marvellous Scriptural icon for this uniquely Biblical anthropology. Like many young people today, Samuel was unable to distinguish the voice of God from a merely worldly voice. He required the mentorship of Eli in order to move into the wide space of God’s providence and eventually to accept a prophetic call.
Thirdly, like so many others at this Synod, we were intrigued by the complex and multi-faceted notion of accompaniment. We delighted in the etymological link to the Emmaus story, given that behind the term “accompaniment” is the Latin cum pane (with bread). Ultimately, the accompaniment provided by mentors and spiritual guides in the Church is meant to bring people to a share in the Eucharistic Christ. Further, accompaniment, we feel, is in service of vocation, and this means that it is a life-long process, for vocation is never heard once and for all: it is a matter of vocans rather than vocatus. We think that the document ought to acknowledge the various dimensions of vocation, from the general call of all the baptized to be disciples of Christ, to the summons to particular forms of mission within the Church. And even as we fully grant that the missionary vocation involves the work of establishing greater peace and justice here below, we believe that the final document ought to insist on the properly eschatological horizon of vocation as well, that is, sharing the life of God in heaven.
Fourthly, there was a good deal of energy in our group around the issue of the formation of mentors and spiritual directors. One member insisted that though any baptized person can be an effective, even powerful, role model in the Christian life, the art of authentic spiritual mentorship requires specific training and the cultivation of real expertise. It is, she insisted, precisely this kind of guidance that young people crave. The suggestion was made that the narratives of Andrew bringing his brother Peter to the Lord and of Philip bringing Nathaniel to Christ would be particularly illuminating and instructive here. Other participants in our conversation warned that spiritual teachers too frequently devolve into gurus and encourage a cult of personality around themselves. They, therefore, often require the discipline of the wider community and direction from a personal director. In the life of the Church, unmentored mentors are not a desideratum. Finally, it ought to be noted, with a certain sadness, that many prospective mentors today, especially in the West, are reluctant to enter into a relationship with a directee for fear that they might be accused of boundary violations.
Fifthly, our group thought that there is a very natural connection that ought to be made in the document between accompaniment and the sacramental life of the Church. Baptism, which makes us participants in the Son’s relationship to the Father, is missionary by its very nature, and therefore all vocation finds its ground in that sacrament. Further, since a major feature of spiritual accompaniment is providing help when someone falls, the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is essential to it. If specification of vocation is key to accompaniment, then the Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders must belong to it. Many in our group thought that, in this context, an energetic presentation of the sacrament of Confirmation would be a wonderful addition to the document. As many in the Synod Hall commented, far too often, Confirmation is effectively a sort of graduation from the life of the Church. Spiritual mentors, including Confirmation sponsors themselves, ought to be active, both before and after the administration of the sacrament. The new name adopted by most confirmandi should be celebrated as a sign that a new stage of mission has begun.
A sixth theme that particularly intrigued our group was that of conscience. We strongly agree with the IL that conscience, that place where the voice of God echoes within us, in indeed indispensably ingredient in any act of vocational discernment. However, we were concerned that the language used in the document might give the impression that conscience is an individualistic affair, a matter merely of a given person’s feelings and will. We found that, once more, etymology is illuminating. The word “conscience” (con-science) designates a type of objective knowing that takes place precisely with others, that is to say, within a community of discernment. We felt that the introduction of the simple phrase, “a well-formed conscience” might serve to hold off any concerns regarding subjectivism. One member of our group proposed that both the YouCat and DoCat texts are particularly helpful regarding the process of forming one’s conscience.
Finally, we were delighted with the use the IL made of St. Irenaeus’s idea that Jesus sanctifies all stages of human life, including adolescence and young adulthood, by his full embrace of our time and space conditioned humanity. We believe that young people will find great inspiration in this connection. However, we were especially pleased with the frequent Biblical references throughout this section of the IL. The evocation of Samuel, Joshua, Jeremiah, and Solomon brought a real spiritual uplift to the document. But a number of the young women in our group felt that the inclusion of more Biblical examples of females who cooperated mightily with the Lord would considerably broaden the appeal of this section. They suggested that, alongside stories of Mary herself, mention could be made of the narratives concerning Ruth, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, and Tabitha.
If I might close on the familiar Augustinian note, mentors ought, of course, to guide and direct the restless heart, but perhaps today, when so many have lost a sense of the transcendent, the greatest task of the spiritual guide is to stir up that holy longing, to make young people more rather than less uncomfortable.
[01614-EN.01] [Original text: English]