27 October 2018
Youth Synod: pearls on the family
We have chosen some ‘pearls’ on the three parts of the Instrumentum laboris from the “small groups” which show the unique connection between the family pastoral mission and that of young people. Above all awareness that the family is a strategic resource not only for the youth pastoral mission but also for Church evangelisation.
The First Part
Often the crisis in the world of young people reflects above all that of the adult world, from families to the community at large which should welcome and accompany the young. At times we have the perception we are walking in the dark, but the glimmers of dawn are not less and this encourages faith and hope. The weaknesses experienced by young people must be taken into account, from those related to fragile family environments or families with financial difficulties, to those of fear and uncertainty about the future.
On the theme of spiritual maternity and paternity. Many thought that this image lyrically expresses what young people want and expect from the Church. They desire mentors, guides, spiritual friends willing to walk with them. Especially at a time, at least in the West, when the family is in crisis, this trusting relationship between young people and mothers and fathers n the spiritual order is of crucial importance. One of the African members of our community has reminded us that in many African languages there are no words for cousin, uncle or aunt, because everyone in the family is considered brother or sister. This is the same sort of unity and connectedness ought to mark the life of the Church.
One challenge we must face is the number of young people from single-parent families (in some societies it is quite high) with the consequent lack of knowledge of motherhood or fatherhood. For a young person family centrality is fundamental, but we need a village to raise a child. If we can create communities that support families, then families do a better job of providing good lives for their children. The Church has to be a family.
We have highlighted the fundamental role played by the family in the life of young people and the identity crisis of maternal and paternal roles, while recognizing that very often the Church offers young people experiences of family, motherhood and fatherhood.
The Instrumentum laboris mentions the connection between this synod and the two previous ones on the family (n. 11). However, we would like that connection to be better illustrated and the importance of the family reaffirmed as a stable union between a man and a woman, both open to the gift of life, because the way in which young people are built depends, for a large part, on what they receive or don’t receive from their families. In the same way it is necessary to foster the family ideal, showing that life as a couple and as a family like the Church proposes is possible and that it is a path towards realization of its vocation. Likewise, given that the family is not an abstract concept, we need to remember that if families allow themselves to be absorbed by the prevalent individualistic model, they run large risks. Families that remain faithful to their mission are those that, patiently, over time, learn to accept themselves, both parents and children, and to welcome life in all its forms and to give witness to their love, striving to foster justice and dignity for all human beings above all the most fragile ones. It is indubitably for these reasons that most young people remain attached to the family tradition.
Ordinary accompaniment happens initially in the family. Usually, parents are the people who know their own children best and are the ones children trust. The root of the word accompany is ‘cum-pane’ , or to ‘share bread’. It is about sharing daily life and parents, siblings and friends are in this privileged position. The family is the place of ordinary accompaniment and other forms of accompaniment, such as the spiritual and psychological accompaniment and accompaniment in the Sacrament of Reconciliation can follow from this. There is a wide demand for a specific accompaniment for engaged or newly married couples, similar to that which or, similar that for priests and for those who are being prepared for the ordained ministry. For most young people in the Church their vocational path will lead them to marriage and family life. These young people need to be accompanied as they discern the vocation to marriage. They likewise need be an accompaniment as they prepare for and then live the joys and struggles of married life.
Young people crave the holiness of life and desire a practical training to help them walk the path of sanctity. The classical virtues, both cardinal and theological, must be taught and the habits which are needed to inculcate them should be encouraged. This is a theme very close to the heart of Pope Francis, as he developed it at some length in the seventh chapter of Amoris laetitia. There, the Holy Father also specifies that the family is a privileged place where this fundamental training in holiness occurs.
Among the desires for pastoral action we wish to highlight practical resources and guidance for parents and grandparents who are the «first teachers» of the young and for the family, which is the «little Church», «the school of love and humanity»; likewise a greater contribution from women, families and young lay leaders in seminary formation.
When we accompany young people to help them discover God’s will in their lives, it would be beneficial if they have the opportunity to implement the “founding” vocation to love which they received with an adequate accompaniment by the Church. Youth pastoral ministry proposes a project of life to them starting from Christ: to build a house, a domestic hearth built on the Rock (see Matthew, 7). This house, this project for many of them will become a concrete reality in marriage and conjugal charity. Therefore it is necessary that both youth and family pastoral care have a natural continuity, operating in a coordinated and integrated manner with each other and with the other similar pastoral ministries (vocational and catechesis), in order to accompany the vocational process in an adequate manner.
The family is the starting point of the path leading to the encounter with Christ. Therefore, Youth Pastoral Care cannot be considered independently from Family Pastoral Care. Depending on the countries, all families encounter difficulties. These are not all alike and are often the consequence of the political and social environment, but we think that this is a major challenge for the human and spiritual growth of children and young people. Therefore, it would have been interesting if some of the Synod families (parents and children) and young couples had been invited so they could have shared with us the way in which they try to live the sacrament of marriage and the education of their children.