Pope Francis’ recent letter to young people, Christus Vivit, reveals the Pontiff’s preparedness to listen to the needs of young Catholics while providing guidance for all on vocations.
The apostolic exhortation, released last week, covers nine chapters that provide guidance to young people and the entire people of God on vocations and how to welcome young people more fully into the life of the Church.
Its release follows last October’s Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, which three Australian bishops and a young Catholic man from western Sydney attended.
Sydney’s Ashleigh Green, who was involved in early preparatory stages of the Synod process, said being Catholic in Australia today comes with a “heaviness as we try to reconcile our faith in a loving God with current affairs and what we see in the media”.
After having read Christus Vivit, Ms Green said she couldn’t go past Pope Francis’ reminder that: “If you have lost your inner vitality, your enthusiasm, your optimism and your generosity, Jesus stands before you as once he stood before the dead son of the widow, and… urges you: Young man, I say to you, arise! (Lk 7:14)’
“After two years of listening and dialogue throughout this Synod process, I love that it all boils down to the Gospels and our relationship with Jesus who is eternally young,” Ms Green continued.
“Reading through the letter, I was reminded of how many incredible young role models we have in the saints, but also in Mary, the young woman of Nazareth.
“Throughout the Synod process, I remember hearing a lot of young people say that they feel alone as a young person in an ageing Church, so it is beautiful to be reminded of the legacy of inspiring young people who have gone before us – our saints.
“The theme of accompaniment defined the Synod process, and for me it defines the next step as we respond to Christus Vivit.
“I believe there is scope to formalise mentoring programs within the Church, and work on the formation of female role models. We are so blessed as the young Church of 2019 to have a Pope who truly listens and understands us!”
Fr Danny Meagher, rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney, said Pope Francis took a very human and holistic view of vocation in Christus Vivit, particularly in Chapter 8 where he wrote about “finding our true selves…and letting our lives flourish and bear fruit…to bring out the best in ourselves for the glory of God and the good of others”.
“The Pope recognises that we are all part of the human family with a duty to build up our society. A Christian vocation, therefore, cannot be pragmatic or individualistic or reduced to the mere material, but is a personal call from the living God to flourish in communion with others,” Fr Meagher said.
“The Pope then speaks about the vocations to marriage and family; the vocation to work, so that work is seen as something meaningful and which resounds in the depths of our being; and the vocation to priesthood and religious life.
“He concludes by affirming that Jesus is walking in our midst today, calling us to follow – an attractive and intriguing call. We need silence and space to listen and to find ourselves.”
Nathan Webb, who is training for the priesthood at Brisbane’s Holy Spirit Seminary, said Chapter 8 on vocation seemed like a clarification of the vocational theme that runs through the document as a whole.
He said Pope Francis presented vocation in terms of the call of the Christian to holiness.
“The vocation to holiness among young people discussed in this chapter and throughout the document is not just in relation to the individuals themselves or even just their fellow young people. It speaks of the young people as an important and valuable part of the Church,” Mr Webb said.
“This could be evidence of some engagement with the contributions of the pre-synodal gathering of young people. The document produced for the Synod by the young people bore testament to their wish to be a real part in the life of the Church. Pope Francis affirms this ambition and encourages it to be lived out in a very practical way through their vocation.
“Reliance on God’s providence and the work of God through the life of the young person in their family and direct surroundings is posed as the general framework for their vocation. In this way, Pope Francis appropriates the vision of Amoris Laetitia for the young people of the Church in their own lives.”
The document can be read in full on the Vatican website.