Today’s youth challenge
THE Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment just ended last October 27 and a final report has already been submitted to Pope Francis. The final report tackled a great variety of issues regarding the youth of today. The more prominent ones, of course, are those related to sexuality and gender. Other issues addressed were those of synodality, abuse, migration, the digital age, art, music and sport, violence and persecution, suffering, education, and seminary formation.
In the report a reference is made to that episode of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus whom the resurrected Christ approached without identifying himself as Christ. It is proposed as the model of the accompaniment we ought to give to young people these days.
“It is necessary,” the report says, “to propose to young people an anthropology of affectivity and sexuality capable of giving the right value to chastity, showing pedagogically the most authentic meaning for the growth of the person.” The statement is interesting because while there is already a rich faith-inspired doctrinal body about affectivity and sexuality, there is still a dearth of the finer points that would effectively address the concrete situations of young people already mired by all kinds of affective and sexual irregularities.
In other words, we already have good theories and principles, but we still lack the practical skills to apply these theories to the concrete cases of young people. In this regard, what I find important is to try our best to win the confidence of the young people by developing a true friendship with them.
We need to spend time with them, and in manner of speaking, to mix and to “mess up” with them, regardless of the differences of age, temperament, culture, etc. In other words, to be “all things to all men,” as St. Paul once said. Once this friendship is established, we can start talking to them about more serious things and offer plans and strategies to help them develop their spiritual life.
Things should be done very gradually, without overwhelming them with stiff demands. In fact, the gradient of demands should be low at the beginning. And we just have to pray and pray that what we do with them now will bear fruit someday.