Moderator: Em.mo Card. DiNARDO Daniel N.
Relator: S.E. Mons. BARRON Robert Emmet
Relator: S.E. Mons. BARRON Robert Emmet
It has been a great joy to participate in the lively and illuminating conversations of English group “D,” and it is a privilege to convey to the Synod the fruit of our reflections on the third major part of the IL.
We feel that it would be wise once again to reference the narrative of the disciples on the road to Emmaus as we commence the final section. Having walked with friends and having taught them, Jesus breaks open the bread and then, as Balthasar beautifully put it, “disappears into the mission of the Church.” With all of their gifts, energy, and enthusiasm, young people today are sent to bear Christ to the world, to be, in the words of Teresa of Avila, the Lord’s hands, feet, eyes, and ears. They go as envoys of the crucified and risen Messiah and hence as bearers of a message of self-emptying love.
A second and related theme that deeply interested our group is the call to holiness. Both on the Synod floor and in our conversations, it became eminently clear that young people crave holiness of life and desire practical training that will help them walk the path of sanctity. In this regard, we felt that a section on the virtues would be useful addition to our document. The classical virtues, both cardinal and theological, should be taught and the habits that inculcate them should be encouraged. This is a theme close to the heart of Pope Francis, for he develops it at some length in chapter seven of Amoris Laetitia. The Holy Father also specifies, in that same chapter, that the family is the privileged place where this fundamental training in holiness occurs. We believe that this motif should be developed in our document as well. Finally, we hold that young people ought, in an intentional manner, to be given instruction in prayer, the meditative reading of Scripture, and the active participation in the sacraments.
A third theme follows directly upon this, for holiness, as Vatican II so clearly taught, shows up in the world; it manifests itself in a commitment to sanctify the secular arena. Young people especially ought to hear the summons to become great Catholic lawyers, great Catholic physicians, great Catholic journalists, great Catholic business leaders, etc. They should be encouraged to stand against corrupt and oppressive governments, to address the societal dysfunction that compels many to migrate from their native countries, to oppose ideological colonization, to find the paths of peace, to foster business practices that empower and lift up the poor. None of this should be seen as a burden, but as a call to spiritual adventure.
Fourthly, the issue of the liturgy found a good deal of resonance with our group. On the one hand, we acknowledge that for many young people, in various parts of the world, the liturgy can seem tedious and distant from life. In some cultural contexts, this has led the young to abandon the Catholic Church and to embrace the livelier worship offered in the Pentecostal churches. On the other hand, many younger Catholics witness to the extraordinary power of the liturgy to draw them into a sense of the transcendent. We strongly affirm those sections of the IL that reference Taize prayer, devotional practices, and music both classical and contemporary that brings people to God and evangelizes them. Some in our group insisted that we have to improve our catechesis in regard to liturgy, teaching young people what the Mass is and how precisely to participate in it. Others said that we have, perhaps, put too strong a stress on the horizontal dimension of the liturgy at the expense of the vertical. The result is that many youths appreciate the Mass as a sort of religiously-themed jamboree and not an encounter with the living God.
Fifthly, we feel that the section of the digital media as a means of evangelization ought to be particularly emphasized and expanded upon. In most of the Western countries, the fastest-growing religious group are the “nones,” that is to say, those who claim no religious affiliation. In the United States, fully 25 percent self-identify in this way, and among those under the age of thirty, the percentage rises to 40. For armies of our young people, Jesus is a fictional figure from an ancient myth, God is a superstitious holdover from a pre-scientific time, and religion simply a source of conflict and violence. Most of the “nones” are, at best, indifferent to the faith and at worst hostile to it. But by a kind of miracle of divine providence, we have, through the social media, a tool to reach these young unaffiliated who would never darken the doors of our churches or participate in any of our catechetical or spiritual programs. A video posted on YouTube or Facebook is permanently available 24 hours a day, seven days a week—and it can find its way into the most remote and even hostile corners of the contemporary world. We feel that a particularly fruitful method is to create materials that identify semina verbi (seeds of the Word) within both the popular and the high culture. It would be wise for bishops to equip both clergy and laity to engage the social media world for evangelical purposes. Especially young people, who have digital skills in their blood and their fingers, ought to be lifted up for this ministry.
A sixth motif that garnered our attention is that of the practical instantiation of the work of this Synod. Fully realizing that the resources of the Church, both financial and personal, are limited, we feel that local bishops’ conferences and bishops of dioceses ought to prioritize the evangelization and empowerment of young people. In some parts of the world, this might mean that the catechesis of the young is paramount, while in other parts of the world, it might translate into the providing of economic opportunities. It would be wise, we think, to sponsor local Synods for youth in various dioceses, regions, or nations. In any case, we simply cannot allow our work these last weeks to remain an abstraction.
Finally, we spent a good deal of time reflecting on the motif of the Church’s stance of welcome and inclusivity. We fully and enthusiastically acknowledge that the Church of Jesus Christ reaches out in love to absolutely everyone. Like the Lord on the road to Emmaus, faithful disciples of Jesus accompany even with those who are walking the wrong way. The arms of the Bernini colonnade in St. Peter’s Square, beckoning to the whole world, beautifully symbolize this desire to gather everyone in. This is why no one, on account of gender, lifestyle, or sexual orientation, should ever be made to feel unloved, uncared for. However, as St. Thomas Aquinas specifies, love means “willing the good of the other.” And this is why authentic love by no means excludes the call to conversion, to change of life. Indeed, in St. Mark’s Gospel, practically the first word out of the mouth of Jesus is metanoiete (convert, turn your life around). Jesus finds people where they are, but he never leaves them where they are; rather, he calls them into the deep, into fullness of friendship with him. Part of the pastoral genius of Catholicism is precisely the maintaining of this delicate balance between welcome and challenge.
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