Listening is the basic attitude which will allow the Church to put all the youth – Catholic and non-Catholic – into its heart. Yet, the Synod of Bishops on the Youth last October admits the place where we listen determines what we hear.
I read the final document of the Synod while staying in Macau, a city which, before the casinos were built, was mainly defined by two architectural structures: the fortresses and the border gate.
On the higher hills dominating the city you could still see the ramparts and cannons meant to defend its political, economic and even religious interests. The beautiful churches of Macau were well protected by these cannons, and Macau has been the missionary hub for East Asia for a long period of time.
However, the border gate with mainland China is where you feel the vitality of the city. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people cross this border for work, trade, or tourism. In the past this border gate was one of the few points of contact between China and the outside world. The district around the border is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
Fortresses are designed to protect from the enemies and to define the boundaries of one’s identity. In a similar way, the Synod on the Youth felt the need to shield our youth from the dangers of this “liquid society” by strengthening their sense of belonging and their faith.
However, this is not enough. Mont Fortress in Macau center has been completely surrounded by even taller buildings: this strategic place has now merely become a tourist attraction.
So it is with faith. A renewed relationship with Jesus within the Christian community combined with a deeper discernment about one’s vocation, lead us to life’s border gates: the missionary dimension of faith.
The border gate is a meeting area and an exchanging point, where everybody is quickly “passing by.” It’s a messy, busy and noisy place, a kaleidoscope through which the complexity of reality and the diversity of humanity can be perceived. Border gates are exactly the symbols of where the Church should stand in order to listen to the youth, especially non-Catholics. Medias are border gates too, so are universities.
I pray God that we may better comprehend how to be present in those borders without being carried away by the uninterrupted flux of ideas and without becoming irrelevant in the midst of uncommitted youth who just “pass by.”