We got back to the main synod hall by 4:30 pm, and soon thereafter we start the process once again of verbally presenting the written reports to the members of the Synod. Again, I had this duty, but this time I was much more comfortable with the task. Part of the challenge, mind you, was orally presenting a report that I knew would later be shared in print with the world. The oral word and the written word constitute two very different literary genres, so I adapted my written presentation with a few side comments (and even a few jokes). The synod members seemed pleased, and more importantly, they seemed to "get it". That was the most important part of the presentation for me, as I wanted to make sure I was faithfully communicating the consensus of our group to the broader audience.
One original element of our presentation is that we had a diagram to illustrate how certain different vocations relate to each other. While the Vatican Press Office did publish the presentation (along with several others) they left out the diagram! So that you can see the whole thing as it was presented, feel free to keep reading below.
I'll admit that I was pretty wired after the presentation. I don't mind speaking in public but obviously I want to be true to our small group, so I want to get it right. Of course, there are remedies for stress, including exercise, and here in Rome, gelato! A brother bishop and I headed out for some "limone et pistacchio", my two favorites in one cup... mmmm good!
Moderator: Em.mo Card. COUTTS Joseph
Relator: S.E. Mons. DOWD Thomas
In looking at Part II, our group looked to the overall structure in #3 to inform our work. We saw that part I looked at the concrete situation of youth today, while part II was meant to cause us to reflect on how to interpret that data (while part III will be the phase where we examine concrete suggestions for action).
Our goal as a group, therefore, was to develop a hermeneutical model (i.e. an interpretive framework) for that evaluation of part I, which will then help us eventually offer suggestions for concrete pastoral action (that will be done in part III).
Our various modi should be considered as concrete applications of the overall approach to this part as well as to the specific hermeneutical approaches appropriate to each chapter. To avoid presenting them as individual modi, we have also prepared a separate document with suggestions for clarification of terminology, editorial suggestions, etc.
A Christian interpretive framework must be rooted in a Christian worldview, which is essentially rooted in Scripture. With its many examples from Scripture, we saw the essential function of Chapter 1 as an attempt to provide concrete Biblical reference points for this overall hermeneutic.
Among the Biblical examples the Instrumentum laboris provided, we saw certain ones as out of place:
#77: Joshua succeeds Moses, but then he leads an army of conquest
#81: The call of Samuel is actually a poor example of the dynamics of a young person seeking his vocation.
#83: The prayer of Solomon is beautiful, but his later life is not an example for young people!
#83: The Esther example is also full of violence and trickery.
We think the call of Jeremiah (#78) as a core hermeneutical key in Chapter 1. It should be retained. The encounter between Jesus and the rich young man is also important.
To these we would add Paul's relationship with Timothy. He advises him to “let no one despise your youth” -- Timothy has real responsibility in the Church, given to him by a gift of the Holy Spirit but also by the laying on of hands, and is also being guided by his “elder friend” Paul.
With regards to the process of accompanying, we also see the sending of the disciples two by two (Luke 10:1-11). Jesus accompanies them, and then entrusts them with real responsibility -- but with them accompanying each other. He also listens to them when they return, and prays for them.
With regards to the fear that some feel when they are facing their call, we would add the passage of Peter walking on water. He is called by Christ to come and walk, and he does. He only begins to sink when he takes his eyes off Jesus, but Jesus rescues him.
Other Biblical examples will be found in other modi.
Chapter 2 provides an overview of different vocations, beginning with the very broad (“the mystery of vocation that illuminates creation”) to vocations very specific to the Church (ordained ministry, consecrated life). We saw the description of the various types of vocations as “pearls on a string”, each description having its own value, but being even more valuable when properly related to each other.
We would therefore propose a restructuring of the presentation of chapter 2 (“vocations in the light of faith”) to better illustrate the relationships between the various layers of vocation. One could call this a “vocational pyramid”.
The base layer: Being loved for love's sake
Our group saw this basic dimension of human existence as important to highlight. It is alluded to in #88 when reference is made to vocation being characteristic of all creation. In short, there are people -- especially the weakest and most vulnerable -- whose vocation might not be to action, but to a more passive reception of the love of others. This is a great gift to the overall community, and we thought of Jean Vanier as a modern prophet to demonstrates that those with intellectual handicaps are not to be thought of as human failures -- they are gifts that help all develop their humanity by calling us to a love that is greater than efficiency.
The call to holiness
The next layer in the vocational “pyramid” is the call to holiness, which by its very nature is universal. However, we recognized that the expression “call to holiness” can conjure images that obscure this universal meaning. For example, we felt that in many people's minds, the “call to holiness” sounds like a mere “call to piety” or worse, a call to mere pious practices.
In order to express this concept more completely and in plain language that can speak to young people, we felt that any explanation of this universal call could use applications such as:
- The call to holiness is ultimately a call to happiness and joy, not an external imposition
- The call to holiness means a call to become the best possible version of oneself
- The call to holiness includes a call to find one's best possible path in life -- it includes one's internal call, but also how to respond to the concrete situations of life around us
- Drawing on an insight from the Eastern church, the call to holiness is about incarnating attributes of God in our life, e.g. joy, mercy, justice, care for creation, etc.
For the next two layers, we wanted to distinguish “vocations of being” (calls to particular states of life) from “vocations of doing” (calls to a particular profession, career, apostolate, etc.).
The “vocations of being”
The discussions of ordained ministry, consecrated life, marriage, and the single life led us to contemplate how these states of life are related to each other. We used this model as a visual aid:
- For example, a Latin-rite diocesan priest is generally both “clergy” and “celibate”, while a permanent deacon is often both "clergy" and "married". A lay religious would be "
- The vocation of a religious priest includes three callings: “clergy”, “consecrated life”, and “celibate”.
- The existence of third orders, as well as new forms of consecrated life, often allow married persons to participate in a charism of consecration. If lived by a married cleric, it is also a way to combine three “states of life”.
The “vocations of doing”
In our discussions it became clear that, for many young people, a key aspect of discernment is the attempt to find an answer to a very practical question: “What am I going to do with my life?” Many would prefer a profession that gives them meaning and responds to their talents rather than one which merely provided sustenance.
We recognized that for many people (and for many past generations) the idea of “fulfillment” was not found in work. Work was/is a matter of survival, not of career choice, and meaning/fulfillment was generally found in family life outside of the actual job. Still, this distinction is emerging more and more, and must be addressed.
Our general consensus is that finding ones “vocation of doing” generally means following one's talents. We recognized that in some cases what appears to be a secular career is actually a deeper calling (for example, even in the secular world being a teacher is often described as a “calling” rather than a mere job or career). Saint Paul takes the image of the Body of Christ, in which each member has a specific part to play, and then expands it into lists of specific “roles” that can serve as guidelines for finding the specific calling (see 1 Cor 12 and Eph 4).
Our group found chapter 3 of part II to be very wordy. Keeping in mind that the purpose of Part II is to provide an “interpretive framework” or “hermeneutic of vocation”, our group analyzed chapter 3 to see what key concepts it provided within all the verbiage.
We want to highlight the following insights/concepts which we feel should be retained:
- Discernment, in plain language, is the process of finding your best path in life, according to the internal gifts/talents one has, as well as the external environment/opportunities one lives in.
- Following one's “emotions” seems too superficial as a criteria of finding one's vocation. What we really should be looking to do is find and follow one's deepest desire, one's truest joys, one's inner peace.
- True discernment recognizes that a vocation is an invitation, not an imposition. It does not include the idea that if you've missed your “only” calling you've somehow missed the boat. All genuine vocations possess true good and God can bless them regardless of our specific choice of vocation.
- Following one's vocation does include an ascetic component, in that finally making a choice can mean renouncing other choices. People who want to keep all their options open can never really discern.
Our group found chapter 4 of part II to be very important. We recognize that accompaniment can come in many forms. Keeping in mind that the purpose of Part II is to provide an “interpretive framework” or “hermeneutic of vocation”, we sought to discern what are the elements of “true” accompaniment.
- As a first point, we wanted to highlight that true accompaniment respects that the discernment being made does not belong to the mentor, but to the person being accompanied. Manipulation can never be part of a true accompaniment. Members of our group, unfortunately, shared stories of this form of pseudo-accompaniment, some of which even seemed well-meaning (as opposed to predatory) but which was still inappropriate.
- With this in mind, we appreciated the emphasis in the document on the respect for the freedom and conscience of the person being accompanied. We would like these concepts to be more fully developed (see our modi related to this point).
- Accompaniment should be done in a climate of friendliness, trust and warmth. However, it should not be so friendly that objectivity is lost. The Irish notion of anim cara (“soul friend”) is a good image here. The mentor should also be free to offer "fraternal correction" when necessary, without losing the respect for freedom and conscience as mentioned before.
- We contributed a modus suggesting that the relationship between “spiritual” and “psychological” accompaniment be more completely addressed so as to show the unity between them while at the same time respecting the specific contributions of each.
- The role of the community in accompaniment is very important, in that a “calling” is often initiated and verified in the context of a community. It is not just the individual doing an individual discernment.
- It is important to emphasize that mentors should pray for those they are accompanying. They must carry them in their heart before God.
Our group wanted to highlight the centrality of the Eucharist in the process of discernment.
- The Eucharist is not just the offering of the consecrated species, but includes the offering of oneself to the Father. This is a fundamentally vocational dimension to the Eucharist.
- The Eucharist is what gathers the community that does the discerning alongside the young person.
- In the Emmaus story, it is in the Eucharist that the “eyes of the disciples are opened”.
- Many people do the prayerful element of their discernment in the context of the Eucharist.
A modus has been offered in this regard.