However, it also notes that youth can be “cautious by nature” when it comes to those outside their realm of relationships, leading them to “nourish mistrust, indifference or anger toward institutions,” including the Church.
The skills of youth are needed in order to overcome these challenges, the document says, explaining that “it is significant that young people — often withdrawn into a stereotype of passivity and inexperience — propose and practice alternatives which show how the world or the Church could be.”
“If society or the Christian community want to make something new happen again, they have to leave room for new people to take action.”
“Faith, Discernment and Vocation”
The second section of the text begins by saying that to respond to the challenges faced by today’s youth, “the Church, beginning with her Pastors, is called to make a self- examination and to rediscover her vocation of caring for others.”
It offered different ideas for accompanying youth, “beginning with the faith and listening to the tradition of the Church.” The ultimate goal is to support youth in their vocational discernment and in making “fundamental choices in life, starting from an awareness that some of these choices are permanent.”
It then posed the question: “how does a person live the good news of the Gospel and respond to the call which the Lord addresses to all those he encounters, whether through marriage, the ordained ministry or the consecrated life? Where can a person’s talents be put to good use: a professional life, volunteer work, service to the needy or involvement in civil and political life?”
Proper discernment is needed if these questions are to be answered, the text said, providing a three-step plan to discernment outlined by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “to recognize” one’s thoughts and feelings, “to interpret” them and then “to choose.”
As with all important things in life, “vocational discernment is a long process unfolding over time,” during which the different signs given by the Lord “to indicate and specify a vocation that is very personal and unique” must be monitored.
The document’s third section begins with a 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?”
A broad overview of pastoral activity is then given focusing on the different roles of those involved in the caring for the vocational discernment of young people.
When it comes to walking with youth, the document offers three tips for adopting a pastoral style similar to that of Jesus: “going out,” “seeing” and “calling.”
Pope Francis has often voiced his desire for “a Church that goes out,” but when it comes to vocational discernment, the synod’s preparatory document says that accepting this invitation from the Pope first of all means “abandoning the rigid attitudes which make the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel less credible” and tossing out a way of “acting as Church which at times is out-dated.”
When it comes to accompanying youth on the path of discernment, the text emphasizes that parents, educators and priests all have primary roles in forming youth and walking with them as they discover what God wants for their lives, beginning with how they are called to serve him.
It also distinguishes between spiritual accompaniment and psychological support, which often “has a basic importance.”
In a letter from Pope Francis coinciding with the document’s publication, the Pope told youth that “I wanted you to be the center of attention, because you are in my heart.”
He recalled how when he was in Krakow for World Youth Day over the summer, he had asked the youth on several occasions “Can we change things?” to which they responded with a loud, resounding “yes!”
“That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a throw-away culture nor give in to the globalization of indifference,” Francis said, urging young people to “listen to the cry arising from your inner selves!”
“A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity,” he said, telling them not to be afraid of the “bold choices” proposed to them by the Holy Spirit and to not delay “when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master.”
“The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism,” he said, telling youth not to be shy in making their voices heard, even to their priests.
Pointing to the example of how St. Benedict urged his abbots “to consult, even the young, before any important decision” since “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best,” Francis said that this is also the case for the upcoming synod.
“My brother bishops and I want even more to work with you for your joy,” he said, and prayed that Mary would “take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: ‘Here I am.’”