November 1, 2019

Young Church, heed our Holy Father’s call: ‘Make a ruckus!’

CNS Graphic(Editor’s note: “Make a ruckus!” That’s what Pope Francis implored young people to do in his postsynodal apostolic exhortation, “Christus Vivit” or “Christ is Alive!” which was released following the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “young people, the faith and vocational discernment.” Marian University educators Arthur D. Canales and Mark Erdosy, and Ricardo Gonzalez, a teacher at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami, have written a three-part essay based on the exhortation, which is both a letter to young people about their place in the Church and a plea to older adults to offer guidance rather than stifle the enthusiasm of the young. We offer the series as the Archdiocese of Indianapolis prepares to host an estimated 20,000 high school youths, youth ministers, adult chaperones and youth-serving organizations during the 2019 National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 21-23.)

By Arthur D. Canales, Mark Erdosy and Ricardo Gonzalez (Special to The Criterion)

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has done what none of his predecessors have done before him: He has written an apostolic exhortation to, for and about Catholic young people. He has opened the dialogue with young people around the globe with “Christus Vivit” (“Christ is Alive!”). This essay has three parts to it: (1) it will give an overview of the 15th Ordinary Synod and its preparation to the promulgation of “Christus Vivit,” (2) it will highlight some key themes within the document, and (3) it will examine the great task before us as members of the Catholic Church living here in the United States.

The background

Pope Francis announced to the world on Jan. 13, 2017, that he was calling the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to be held in October 2018. The focus of this Ordinary General Assembly was young people, the faith and vocational discernment. At the outset of his letter, Pope Francis told young people (ages 16-29), “I wanted you to be the center of attention because you are in my heart.”

Pope Francis called this Ordinary Synod because he was guided by at least three deep convictions. First, Christ is alive and active in the world today. Second, young people are precious in God’s eyes and in the Church’s eyes. Third, he wanted to move young people to action that will lead the Church’s evangelization and solving the world’s problems.

In preparation for the 15th Ordinary Synod, consultation was done worldwide. There was a multilingual questionnaire on the synod’s website for the target group. Here in the United States, 100 of the 194 dioceses participated (including the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.) From this questionnaire and reports from bishops’ conferences around the world came the instrumentum laboris, or its working document. Young people helped to co-write the instrumentum laboris that was used during the synod.

During the synod, young people participated in each session as delegates. Young people were highly involved throughout the synod. Throughout the process, they participated in small groups; they made interventions during the synod; they cheered and clapped for suggestions during voting.

Pope Francis once again reaffirmed the importance of young people to the Church and world. In his closing homily for the synod, Pope Francis used the story of Jesus healing Bartimaeus (Mk 10:46-52) as the basis for his reflection.

The pope preached, “Many of those with Jesus ordered Bartimaeus to be quiet. For such disciples, a person in need was a nuisance along the way, unexpected and unplanned. … I would like to say to the young people, in the name of all of us adults: Forgive us if often we have not listened to you; if, instead of opening our hearts, we have filled your ears.

“As Christ’s Church, we want to listen to you with love, certain of two things: that your lives are precious in God’s eyes, because God is young and loves young people, and that your lives are precious in our eyes too, and indeed necessary for moving forward.” Pope Francis demonstrated his solidarity with young people with those words.

In his opening letter, he said, “A better world can be built also as a result of your [young people’s] efforts. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticisms. Make your voice heard … let it be heard by your shepherd of souls.” These words amplify the Holy Father’s commitment to young people around the world.

Next week: Key themes in the document

(Dr. Arthur D. Canales is associate professor of pastoral theology and ministry at Marian University in Indianapolis and an expert on Catholic youth and young adult ministry. Mark Erdosy is the executive director of the San Damiano Scholars Program at Marian University, and a specialist on discernment and vocation. Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez is a theology teacher at Monsignor Edward Pace Catholic High School in Miami who has more than 20 years of Catholic teaching and youth ministry under his belt. All three have been part of the National Dialogue on Youth and Young Adults since its inception in 2017 and were part of the National Dialogue Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, this past summer.)

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