The Courage to Listen to Young People

Some reflections by Father João Chagas, head of the Youth Section of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life.



I have a strong impression that the thread linking the texts presented at the press conference, starting with the Pope’s letter, is the desire to listen to young people, to make them into protagonists, not just recipients, of the Church’s pastoral action. Msgr. Fabene effectively recalled this: “Listening to young people is part of the authentic tradition of the Church. In fact, as the Pope evoked in his Letter to Young People, St Benedict, in his monastic Rule, invites the abbot to consult the youngest before every important choice (cf. Rule of St. Benedict III, 3).” Very often it is to the youngest that the Lord reveals new and better solutions. This fact about the necessity of stimulating true and fruitful leadership of young people is emphasized several times in the preparatory document of the next Synod.

I have engraved in my mind a recent meeting with youth ministry workers in central Europe; a facilitating priest, in his homily on the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, spoke about how this great reformer saint had received the highest positions while he was very young: at 22, he was fully engaged in managing the Pope’s estates, made a cardinal deacon, Administrator of Milan, papal legate in Bologna, and Secretary of State. At 25, he opened the Council of Trent. Times have certainly changed, but we have perhaps lost the courage to give responsibilities to young people, to allow them space, to listen to them seriously. In this regard, St. John Paul II’s words are indelible: “What I am going to say to you is not as important as what you are going to say to me. You will not necessarily say it to me in words; you will say it to me by your presence, by your song, perhaps by your dancing, by your skits, and finally by your enthusiasm.”

Pope Francis too wants the Church to listen to the voices of the young, to their faith, even to their criticism and doubts, inviting them to take part in the entire synodal process as of now, in groups, associations and movements, in the dioceses.

Finally, there is one aspect and theme that is certainly not minor: the Marian dimension. The sequence of the themes of the next three World Youth Days (2017-2018-2019) insists on this, starting with the closing lines of Pope Francis’ letter: “I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: ‘Here I am’ (cf. Lk 1:38). ”

The preparatory document says this: “Recalling the ‘great things’ which the Almighty accomplished in her (cf. Lk 1:49), the Virgin did not feel alone, but fully loved and supported by the ‘Fear not’ of the Angel (cf. Lk 1:30). Knowing that God is with her, Mary opened her heart to ‘Here I am’, and thus began the Gospel journey (cf. Lk 1:38).” Now, these are precisely the themes of the upcoming World Youth Days!







16 January 2017