During the conference from ‘Krakow 2 Panama’ held in Rome in April 2017, Fr Fabio Attard SDB was asked to share his thoughts on the third part of the Preparatory Document For The 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops “Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment”. We seriously encourage those involved in youth ministry to read his sharing as it is full of insight. The article will be split into 4 parts and we will upload two parts a week. For those who have not yet had the chance to read the preparatory document please click the following links: Maltese – English
Here’s Part 4 of Fr Fabio reflections on the Preparatory Document: Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. If you haven’t read part 1, 2 & 3, please click here.
Taking up this last point – the means of expression in pastoral work, educative care and the path of evangelization, silence, contemplation and prayer – here we have a challenge that Pope Francis deals with in EG:
Youth ministry, as traditionally organized, has also suffered the impact of social changes. Young people often fail to find responses to their concerns, needs, problems and hurts in the usual structures. As adults, we find it hard to listen patiently to them, to appreciate their concerns and demands, and to speak to them in a language they can understand. For the same reason, our efforts in the field of education do not produce the results expected (EG 105).
With this reflection, we close the circle that we started commenting on the first point: walking with young people. Being part of the journey of the young means understanding their language which is much more than pure vocabulary. The language of ministry on the one hand demands from us to inhabit and get in tune with the world of young people, but even more so it asks us also to tune with their searching hearts. If we are called to understand the language of young people, we must first be able to understand and decipher their silence, their loneliness, the sense of their research. To live with the humility of the pilgrim and the patience of being a true companion is the greatest and the most appreciated gift young people are looking for.
From this humble incarnation in their world that we propose paths of evangelization that can educate towards the sense of the sacred, an evangelization which offers a pedagogy that leads to the discovery of the divine. The sacred and the transcendent are rooted in the hearts of young people. It is up to us educators to promote the right conditions for this desire not to be overtaken by shallowness, suffocated by banality or betrayed by proposals that are only seemingly spiritual.
In a dialogue with young people during his apostolic visit to the United Kingdom, in 2010, Pope Benedetto XVI comments how the hearts of young people are already predisposed towards the goodness and beauty:
Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend. God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue (17th September 2010).
In this sense, and with this in mind, we must reflect on the following challenge: how to propose to young people, gradually and with respect to their rhythms, experiences of silence and contemplation, prayer and adoration? It would be helpful for us to ask ourselves where do fear and resistance, that sometimes we encounter at this stage, originate from?
I conclude with the same invitation that leaves us the Blessed Paul VI at the end of EN with a very simple and direct language:
May the world of our time, trying, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received in the joy of Christ, and who are willing to stake their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the heart of the world
May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world (EN n.80).
Fr Fabio Attard SDB