Pastoral Activity for Youth Discernment
The pastoral and vocational care of young people, though overlapping, have distinct differences.
Walking with Young People
We must encounter young people where they are, going beyond any preconceived framework. We must adapt to their times and pace of life and take them seriously. Pope Francis says that some people walk very unpredictable paths which can take them far away form ecclesial communities.
“Vocational ministry is learning the style of Jesus, who passes through the places of daily life, stops without being hurried and, by looking at our brothers with mercy, leads them to encounter God the Father.”
The message of the synod directly involves the freedom of young people, thus it is important that local communities find creative ways of addressing young people in a personal way that supports personal development. We must be “bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in our respective communities” (Evangelii gaudium, 33).
Three verbs from the Gospel can be helpful to us in this regard: going out, seeing, and calling.
We must set aside our preconditioned “mental framework” in encountering people anew. Instead, we must listen to the story of young peoples’ lives. We must therefore be attentive to their joys, hopes, sadness and anxieties, all in an effort to share them.
Seeing means spending time with them, and exchanging glances as the Lord did. Indeed, the true shepherd is able to “peer into the depths of the heart without being intrusive or threatening.”
In the Gospel accounts, Jesus transformed his look of love into a word, that is, a call to newness of life.
Young People as Agents of Action
In pastoral activity, young people are not objects but agents. Thus they are primary actors in this effort. The Church herself is called to learn from young people.
But young people, as agents, still need credible adults in their lives. These adults must have:
- Credible faith
- Clear identity
- Strong sense of belonging to the Church
- Visible spiritual character
- Strong passion for education
- A great capacity for discernment
Unprepared and immature adults can act in a possessive and manipulative manner pose a serious threat to young people. In doing this, they have the potential to create negative dependencies, and more.
The Church needs to get accustomed to the fact that the ways of approaching the faith are less standardized, and therefore she must become more attentive to the individuality of each person.