The apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, which followed the Synod on the Youth was released today. The world of young people has enemies that renders them "slaves": advertising, physical appearances, division with the adult world, a globalization that "homogenizes". The Christian announcement is the most effective way to lay the foundations for a profound renewal of society. A "popular youth ministry" that welcomes and accompanies those who do not live the faith.
Rome (AsiaNews) - The apostolic exhortation "Christ is alive", made public today by Pope Francis, at the end of last October's Synod on Youth is a strong and decisive announcement that the response to the anxieties, perplexities and desire for happiness that young people are immersed in today is found only in Jesus Christ.
And it is also clearly stated that since young people are "the now of God", paying attention to them is the most effective way to lay the foundations for a profound renewal of society.
The very long document (53 pages; 299 paragraphs) ranges from observations on the condition of young people today in the contemporary world to the way in which an "old" and "closed" Church looks at them; from the value of Christ's proclamation, to the dangers to which young people are subjected in our contemporary world that exploits them, conditions them, uses them, pits them against the adult world; to the point of reawakening in the Church the accompaniment not only of young Christians, but every young man and woman, so they can discover their vocation in the world of work, in marriage between a man and a woman, in social commitment, in a special consecration.
The text is is formed by parts written as a letter addressed to a "you", parts addressed to all; sections full of lyricism (such as those on the love of God and Christ for the person of the young) to more analytical sections (such as those on discernment).
Chapter IV, "The great announcement for all young people" seems to me to be the most important. The Pope also says that in those pages he wants to announce "the most important question of all", the one that "should never be silenced". This truth is the love of God, compared to that of a mother, a father, a lover, and the love of Christ who by giving himself for us, makes us understand that "we are priceless". Together with prayer to the Holy Spirit, this part makes a clean sweep of a certain youth ministry in which the Christian identity is hidden in an attempt to facilitate encounter with the young people reduces and drowns out every proposal. Instead - and this is another very important point - Pope Francis invites every young man and woman to be a missionary, to "go out and bring Christ into every environment" (No. 177).
Chapters 5 and 6 show that the world of young people has enemies that renders them "slaves": it is the emphasis placed in our society on young people to use them as an object of desire in advertising, in the reduction of beauty to appearance; in cultivating a perpetual adolescence without decisions and responsibilities; in a globalization that "homogenizes" each person, preventing them from being themselves; pitting the world of young people against that of adults. From this point of view we understand that this apostolic exhortation - and the related Synod - are not only a way for the Church to recover the youthful world that it seems to have lost, but to help free young people from false models that destroy their "capacity for restlessness"and aim to debase them in a "armchair" philosophy:"Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live your life behind a screen. Whatever you do, do not become the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle! Don’t be parked cars, but dream freely and make good decisions. Take risks, even if it means making mistakes. Don’t go through life anesthetized or approach the world like tourists. Make a ruckus! Cast out the fears that paralyze you, so that you don’t become young mummies. Live!."(No. 143). In this way faith becomes not an option among many, but the option to reawaken the true fruits of youth.
A final aspect that I find fundamental is the proposal of a "popular youth ministry" (nn. 230-segg). It would not only gather young Catholics, already introduced to the faith, but on the contrary it would gather and accompany young people who are searching "with their doubts and frustrations, their problems and their efforts to find themselves, their past errors, their experiences of sin and all their difficulties" (n. 234).
Finally, the emphasis on the horizon in which to promote vocational discernment is important: in the search for what the Lord calls us to (be that work, marriage or virginity), the social dimension is always highlighted, the fact that one's happiness is not detached from the good for the world: "Your vocation inspires you to bring out the best in yourself for the glory of God and the good of others." (n. 257). In short, being a Christian is not a career, but more effective than a career.