“To encounter, accompany and care for every young person, without exception.” It is the prospect of the Preparatory Document of the Synod for young people planned to take place in October 2018 on the theme: “Young people, the faith and vocational discernment.” On the occasion of the official presentation of the document at the Vatican’s Press Office, Pope Francis wrote a letter to young people in which he assures: “A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts.” The Church, starting with her shepherds, “is called to self-examination” to overcome “rigid attitudes” and “out-dated” ways of acting. The Synod is “in continuity” with two polar stars: Evangelii Gaudium and l’Amoris Laetitia. In the final paragraphs the document presents a questionnaire addressed to Bishops’ Conferences worldwide, to be compiled and submitted by the end of October. In addition to the traditional 15 questions, for the fist time three specific questions are customised for each Continent. Furthermore, “the consultation will include all young people through a website with questions on their expectations and their lives”: as of March 1st, announced Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general Secretary of the Synod of Bishops in a meeting with the press, on the website sinodogiovani2018.va youths from world countries – including non-believers – will have the opportunity to answer questions specifically conceived for them, currently being developed. The answers to both set of questions will be the basis for drafting the “work-document” or Instrumentum laboris.
There are many “differences” between the youths of the five Continents –notably according to gender, masculine and feminine– but youths aged 16-23 all share the same situation marked by “unprecedented fluidity and uncertainty.” “Compared to a privileged few”, “many people live in a precarious and insecure situation, which has an impact on the course and choices taken in life.”
Challenges include “multiculturalism.” In many parts of the world young people experience “extremely harsh” living conditions. Despite the many sombre scenarios “many wish to be an active part in the process of change taking place at this present time”; on the opposite front, lies the phenomenon of NEET (“not in education, employment or training).
A Church “that is closer to people and more attentive to social issues”: that’s how young people would like the Church to be, in a context where “confessional adherence and religious practice are increasingly becoming minority traits, and although young people are not in open “opposition”, they learn to live “without” the God presented by the Gospel and “without” the Church, choosing alternative and minimally-institutionalized forms of religion and spirituality or seeking refuge in sects or religious experiences with strong identitarian connotations.”
The reality of young people is ever-more “hyper-connected”: its “opportunities” and “risks” need to be closely examined. That’s why “it is very important to focus on how the experience of technologically mediated relations might structure the conception of the world, of reality and interpersonal relationships. On this basis, the Church is called to evaluate her pastoral activity, which needs to develop an appropriate culture.”
“Today I choose this, tomorrow we’ll see.” This is the prevailing axiom that makes young people’s choices increasingly difficult, consisting in “options which can always be reversed rather than definitive choices.” In this respect, “the old approaches no longer work and the experience passed on by previous generations quickly becomes obsolete.”
“To recognize”, “to interpret”, and “to choose.” These three verbs from Evangelii Gaudium encompass the essence of “vocational discernment.” “Every way of life imposes a choice, because a person cannot remain indefinitely in an undetermined state.” Hence the importance of personal accompaniment, which is not confined to “the theory of discernment.” Rather, “it is a question of fostering a person’s relationship with God and helping to remove what might hinder it.”
“Herein lies the difference between accompaniment in discerning and psychological support.”
“Going out; Seeing; Calling.” These three verbs from Evangelii Gaudium are at the centre of the third and last section of the document, which answers the focal question:
“How does the Church help young people accept their call to the joy of the Gospel, especially in these times of uncertainty, volatility and insecurity?”
The suggested remedy is “a joint response to the challenge of pastoral care and the pastoral care of vocations, mindful of the differences.”
“Going out” mans “leaving behind a framework which makes people feel hemmed-in; “seeing” requires the willingness “to spend time with them, to listen to the story of their lives; “calling” means rekindling desire; jarring people from what blocks them, asking questions which have no ready-made answers.”
Finally, pastoral vocational care “means to accept the invitation of Pope Francis: “going out”, primarily, by abandoning the rigid attitudes which make the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel less credible, leaving behind a framework which makes people feel hemmed-in and giving up a way of acting as Church which at times is out-dated.”
“The entire Christian community should feel the responsibility of educating new generations”, states the final part of the document, that invites “to give major importance to young people’s involvement in the structures of participation in diocesan and parish communities, starting with pastoral councils.” This leaves no room for “unpreparedness and a lack of skill”: it requires authoritative believers, with a clear human identity, a strong sense of belonging to the Church.” Parents and other family members play an “irreplaceable role.”