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Empowering the Youth

The gospel scene of the disciples who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) is an icon for the accompaniment of the youth and in particular for vocational discernment.

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n a recent encounter with participants at a Congress for the Pastoral Care of Vocations in Europe, Pope Francis said in impromptu remarks that the work for vocations must not be proselytism, or in other words, simply looking for vocations or new members for the congregations or the dioceses. The promotion of vocations must be, the Pope added, “by attraction, not by proselytism.”

As the Catholic Church is celebrating the Year of the Youth in the Philippines under the theme “Beloved, Gifted, Empowered” in the wake of last year’s Synod of Bishops in Rome devoted to “Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment,” the relevant question of vocation and vocations should be addressed. 

It is a central issue that the Church’s existence hinges upon. If there are not sufficient and capable ordained ministries and consecrated men and women, the people of God will feel abandoned and the Church will fall into crisis.   

The pastoral care of vocations must be seen in the wider context of the ministry to the youth. A Church imbued with youthful dynamism that works for and with young people will naturally yield vibrant vocations.  

At last year’s Synod of Bishops on the youth, accompaniment was proposed as a necessary approach to the young generations. To effectively work with the youth, consecrated people and clergy must meet the young people where they are, know their deepest longings and journey with them. A tiresome and demanding challenge, indeed!

In the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit (Christ Lives) addressed to young people and the entire people of God that followed the Synod on young people, Pope Francis suggests the gospel scene of the disciples who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) as an icon for accompaniment of the youth and in particular for vocational discernment.

Jesus walked with the two disheartened disciples who were going back home after having witnessed the terrible death of their Master. Jesus’s appearance in their midst without being recognized and His explanation of the tragic events in the light of the Scriptures opened up their horizons, rekindling their hope. By being with them and sharing His Word and Bread, the disciples were finally able to recognize the Lord among them. 

The ability to listen unconditionally is at the heart of accompanying the youth. This accompaniment requires sensitivity to the young person, the offer of our time and walking together along the vicissitudes of life. If he/she accepts to embark on a journey of vocational discernment the Lord will guide him/her in the search of his/her vocation.  


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