14 May 2020

Christian hope and youth ministry in an uncertain time

Publication of the videos of the presentations of Fr. João Chagas for the Formation Day of the Dioceses of Coimbra

In his address to the participants in the International Youth Forum on 22 June 2019, Pope Frances invited them to live their lives in harmony with the World Youth Day pilgrimage to Lisbon (which will be held August 2023) and the path towards the full realization of the proposals of the 2018 Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment.

Further, the Holy Father, in his message for World Youth Day 2020—which is celebrated on a diocesan level—has written to young people: “You like to take trips, to discover new places and people, and to have new experiences. And so I chose, as the destination for your next intercontinental pilgrimage in 2022, the city of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. It was from here in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that so many young people, including numerous missionaries, also left for unknown lands, to share their experience of Jesus with other peoples and nations. The theme of World Youth Day in Lisbon will be: Mary arose and went in haste.” (Lk. 1:39)

“When difficulties seem to obscure the prospect of a better future, when we experience emptiness and failure all around us, this is the moment of Christian hope, founded upon the risen Lord and accompanied by a great charitable effort in favor of those most in need.” These words of the Pope, pronounced in an address to the Portuguese bishops on their ad limina visit on 7 September 2015, are especially timely in today’s circumstances.

Many times we can be discouraged, even in the context of youth ministry. Pope Francis challenged the Portuguese bishops to discover the reasons why young people distance themselves from the experience of faith, and he recalled the promise of Jesus in the Gospel: “I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20) Later he added: “There is no doubt that He is; but where do we hide Him? In fact, if the proposal is that Jesus Christ crucified and redeemed in the catechist and in the community, if this Jesus sets out on a journey with the young person and speaks to his heart, surely his heart will be burning within him. (cf. Lk. 22:15-32).

The passage from Luke 22, referenced above, is that of the meeting between Jesus and his disciples on the road to Emmaus. This text inspired the beginnings of World Youth Day (it is enough to recall the hymn for the world meeting of 1984—Resta qui con noi [“Remain here with us”]) as well as the whole course of the 2018 Synod.

Jesus wants to walk with each young person, encountering them personally, tapping into their open spirits which always search for new horizons and great challenges. (Cf. Christus Vivit, 18). It is the certainty of being loved by the Lord in all circumstances (cf. ChV 112) which sustains young people in a time filled with uncertainty. And so the Holy Father all but shouts to young people: “Young people beloved by the Lord, how much you are worth if you have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ! You are priceless! You are not parts to be sold to the highest bidder! […] You are priceless, you must always repeat it: I’m not for sale, I have no price. I am free, I am free! Fall in love with this freedom, which is what Jesus offers” (ChV 122).

The certainty of this love pushes young people to become protagonists themselves in the evangelization of their contemporaries. When they are well-accompanied, and when they are trusted, they know how to “develop new approaches, with creativity and a certain audacity. [...] I am more concerned with helping young people to use their insight, ingenuity and knowledge to address the issues and concerns of other young people in their own language” (ChV 203).

The area of accompaniment can also include the participation of young people as active participants. As the Pope well calls to mind, “the young are able to guide other young people and to exercise a genuine apostolate among their friends” (ChV 219).

All the potential for good inherent in the hearts of young people must bring them to ask themselves: “How can I serve people better and prove most helpful to our world and to the Church? What is my real place in this world? What can I offer to society?” (ChV 285). Here we enter the sphere of voction, of the discerment of one’s life’s work.

All of these themes (and many others!) were discussed in a series of presentations held at Coimbra (Portugal) this past January. Recently videos of these presentations has been made available.