In October 2018 the Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment was held in Rome, and was particularly significant as it was the first time that young people have been actively involved in the discussions throughout the Synod. Although they could not vote, their views were considered alongside the Bishops when considering the topics. Following this, Pope Francis wrote an Apostolic Exhortation called “Christus Vivit”, addressed to young people and the entire people of God. This exhortation contains many direct quotes from the young people at the Synod.
The document begins by reminding us that many of the well-known bible characters were in fact quite young – that God saw their value despite their limited years. Samuel was still a young boy, yet the Lord spoke to him. King David was chosen while still a boy. Mary, the mother of God, was only 14 when she gave her fiat. We are reminded that Jesus himself is eternally young. It is important to realize that Jesus was a young person. He gave his life when he was, in today’s terms, a young adult.
The heart of the Church is also full of young saints who devoted their lives to Christ, many of them even to dying a martyr’s death. They were precious reflections of the young Christ. The Synod pointed out that “many young saints have allowed the features of youth to shine forth in all their beauty, and in their day they have been real prophets of change. Their example shows what the young are capable of, when they open themselves up to encounter Christ”. We’ve just had St. Therese visit Scotland – she was only 15 when she entered her convent. St. Francis of Assisi, while very young and full of great dreams, heard Jesus’ call to become poor like him and to rebuild the Church by his witness. Sainthood begins at any age.
Chapter 4 of the document is a personal message for young people. The very essence of this message is culminated in three important truths: God loves you; Christ is your saviour; He is alive!
The Pope writes that a friend once asked him what he sees in a young person. His response was this; “I see someone who is searching for his or her own path, who wants to fly on their two feet, who faces the world and looks at the horizon with eyes full of the future, full of hope as well as dreams. A young person stands on two feet as adults do, but unlike adults, whose feet are parallel, he always has one foot forward, ready to set out, to spring ahead. Always racing onward. To talk about young people is to talk about promise and to talk about joy. Young people have so much strength; they are able to look ahead with hope. A young person is a promise of life that implies a certain degree of tenacity. He is foolish enough to delude himself, and resilient enough to recover from that delusion”.
He then addresses us directly. He says; “Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. Don’t observe life from a balcony. Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live your life behind a screen… Take risks, even if it means making mistakes… Make a ruckus! Live! Give yourselves over to the best of life! Open the door of the cage, go out and fly!
“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.”
You can read the full Exhortation on a pdf here:
Also available as an audiobook here