Pope Francis recently released the Post-Synodal Exhortation Christus Vivit from the synod on the Youth. It is rather long document consisting of nine chapter which are made up of around 300 paragraphs and took me awhile to get through it all. This is a long post and I hope that it breaks down this monumental text as it is something that needs to be read by everyone.
It starts with Pope Francis giving an overview of whats to come he addresses not only young people but all people and that he is going to sort of summarize the proposal the final Document from the Synod that he considers most significant. The first chapter just goes through the Bible and points out like every time youth or young is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. Pointing out some of the many young in the Bible from Joseph, David and others. This continues by puling some of the many great quotes from the classic like the humble oneself like the little children. In the second chapter the focus is put on Jesus noting that we hardly get anything from when Jesus was a youngster, we go from the Presentation in the Temple to the escape to Egypt to the finding in the Temple then time passes and it’s the Baptism. It also goes on to talk about Mary and “young Saints” from Saint Sebastian to Blessed Chiara Badano. Sure, the Church has had it problems with trying to address the young along with the problems with the sexual and financial scandals that have plagued the church in recent years.
Turning to the third chapter the Pope points out that the young are not just the future of the world but also today. So many in the world tend to ignore what the youth are saying, just look at the US and gun control after two decades of school shooting and nearly nothing has changed. Pope Francis goes on to say that the concept of youth doesn’t exist and there are “only young people, each with the reality of his or her own life.” From here it shifts and looks at the various difficulties that these young people face including the digital world; a glance at sex even mentioning homosexuality and gender identity; Migrants and their upheaval; finally a mention of the sex abuse crisis and the goal of ending all forms of abuse. Subsequently, Pope Francis issued a Motu Proprio/Apostolic Letter on abuse which basically says report the crime when it happens and puts in provision for what to do with bishops as well. This section end with a bit about how there is a way out, pointing to the Venerable Carlo Acutis who said “everyone is born as an original, but many people end up dying as photocopies”. Francis hopes that we don’t let that happen to ourselves as we need to live in community.
The fourth chapter Pope Francis pulls out three great truths to keep in mind. First off God loves you “Never doubt this, whatever may happen to you in life. At every moment, you are infinitely loved.” This even means that even if/when we argue with God we are still loved. The second thing is that Christ has saved us because he loves us. The Cross and Crucifixion are the biggest signs of love that we have and there need to be more mention of this, it’s like the footprints in the sand poem. Finally that Christ is Alive. Christ is alive and still in the world seeking us all out we just need to be open to be able to find him. Here, Pope Francis mentions the Holy Spirit who is always there with God and Jesus, and who according to John Paul II is what keeps the Church forever young. The Fifth Chapter is about the myriad paths of how the young people can experience the world, take it by the horns and run with it. However we need to remember that God is there for one to turn to in the sorrow and disappointments in our lives but also in the joys. Friendship and community engagement are also key aspect in the section. Our faith life isn’t supposed to be a once a week thing but we are tasked each week to go and proclaim the good news to the world.
In the Sixth Chapter we look at roots. This starts with the simple request Don’t become shallow. As Francis said in Panama at World Youth Day “care for your roots, because from the roots comes the strength that is going to make you grow, flourish and bear fruit.” Now what are these roots it’s your parents and grandparents, and even more so others as well as wisdom is passed down from generation to generation. At the Synod “one of the young auditors from the Samoan Islands spoke of the Church as a canoe, in which the elderly help to keep on course by judging the position of the stars, while the young keep rowing, imagining what waits for them ahead.” This is what Society needs for the young and old to come together and become the change that we want to see in the world.
In the seventh chapter we turn to Youth Ministry, it starts with the general notion that it isn’t the adults who are the ministers but the young people themselves. Youth ministry needs to address the problems that they face but not solve them and be flexible in the world today. There are two things that are needed outreach and growth, we need to be more open to whoever want to come to whatever type of event and hopefully they will enjoy it and join. In college I was involved in Campus Ministry and we’d have a dinner after the 5pm Mass on Sunday that was open to whomever wanted to come and there’d be a wide variety of events throughout the week from just hanging out and having lunch with friends to intramural sports or going out to laser tag along with the more religious events like a weekly rosary night or a Bible Study or small group faith sharing. This is something parishes need to do offering a variety of events at times when people can attend them. A couple of parishes around me over the summer put on musicals with kids from high school open to all those in the area. These are examples of things that seem to work. You know “Preach the Gospel at all times use words sparingly.”
The eighth chapter focuses on Vocations, now this isn’t about becoming a priest or a religious of some sort although it does come up at the end but the general sense of Vocation we all have to do something from the simple friendship to the more complex in love and family but also that of a job itself we all need something to do in out lives and shouldn’t be sponges off others. I enjoy that Pope Francis understands where the world is today and that “sometimes you have to accept whatever is available, but I ask you never to give up on your dreams, never completely bury a calling, and never accept defeat. Keep seeking at least partial or imperfect ways to live what you have discerned to be your real calling.” In the final chapter we look at discernment as we need to take some time to make decisions and it is only through discernment when we as the Holy Spirit to help us to figure it out in solitude and silence. Pope Francis end this Exhortation with a request “Dear young people, my joyful hope is to see you keep running the race before you, outstripping all those who are slow or fearful. Keep running, “attracted by the face of Christ, whom we love so much, whom we adore in the Holy Eucharist and acknowledge in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters. May the Holy Spirit urge you on as you run this race. The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them! And when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us.””