In case you are saying to yourself, "Boy that looks a lot like Bishop Robert Barron", there is a reason for that: it *is* Bishop Robert Barron. He was the first of the English-group rapporteurs to give a report. As it happens, I was scheduled to go last -- not just from the English groups, but from all of them.
As I mentioned in a previous post, our report this time departed from the usual approach by proposing an overall "paradigm of action", which was Jesus himself. The key insight that motivated this approach was that Jesus was a young man when he undertook his ministry. Following the insight from the Byzantine tradition, that growth in holiness means learning to incarnate attributes of Jesus in our lives, we approached the various "action items" not as objectives, but as means of living that incarnational principle. This was our first major recommendation, a "mega-modus" if you will.
Our other two major suggestions were related to the first. Our group would like to see the whole Church get involved in a follow-up process to the Synod. The dynamism we have experienced is a blessing to be shared, and that is what we are hoping for, for our countries, dioceses, parishes and families.
You can read the various small group reports here. Mine was Anglicus C, and I have reproduced it below.
Relatio – Circulus Anglicus C
Moderator: Em.mo Card. COUTTS Joseph
Relator: S.E. Mons. DOWD Thomas
In looking at Part III, we saw that it was supposed to be a phase for "choosing", but we saw very little in the way of concrete suggestions for action.
Another weakness is that it flits between an inclusive approach that emphasizes that youth are part of the Church, and an approach that seems to wonder what the Church can do for youth. The approaches are inconsistent.
Another point is that part II was supposed to help us interpret the data of part I, but we are not really seeing an easy application of that principle to the text of part III.
How to move forward?
A brainstorming session led us to recognize three "major modi" that need to be the foundation of any individual action items.
- Ultimately, Jesus himself, in his person and life, is our overall "paradigm for action". All individual action items need to connect to Him.
- While we provide suggestions, particular churches will have to identify the concrete action items to follow based on their circumstances. We suggest that episcopal conferences be strongly invited to take up the results of the Synod and engage in a similar process of reflection in their own milieus, even including non-bishops in the deliberations, as this Synod has done.
- This Synod and its resulting document not the end of a process, but a beginning. We have felt a special anointing in the Synod, a renewed "flame". As episcopal conferences take up the next stage of reflection, we suggest that they in turn do so in a way that encourages regional groups, dioceses, parishes and families to undertake a discernment process in turn, so that the "flame" spreads.
We brainstormed many other action items, but rather than propose them as modi they can be found here as examples of how our modus #1 ("Jesus as a paradigm for action") can be implemented in a concrete way.
Placing Jesus at the centre
Following upon the principle that Christ "reveals man (homo) to himself", we use Jesus himself as our hermeneutic for this third part.
- Jesus is the protagonist of our salvation. He in turn invites us into a personal relationship with him. We accept him as Lord (Biblical image: John 13), and this opens us up to receiving the Holy Spirit. He in turns calls us his friends. (Biblical image: John 15.)
- The kerygma must be announced in such a way that the work Christ accomplished is understood so as to also understand the greatness of the invitation he makes us. The Gospel must be proclaimed not as a burden but as a call to the fullness of freedom, joy and peace. The conversion that comes from this initial call is continuous: we want to keep our eyes fixed on Christ to avoid sinking beneath the waves (Biblical image: Peter walking on water).
- Kerygmatic proclamation should be welcoming, even (and especially) to those who might feel excluded -- communities themselves should demonstrate warmth, friendliness, places of relationship
- Expressing the more difficult teachings (e.g. around sexuality) not just as rules but showing the values underpinning those teachings.
- Kerygmatic catechesis, based on "start from the questions" concept
- Religious leaders should be specially formed in building bridges and forming relationships
- For many people, the personal relationship with Christ is mediated through the Church. Scandals and pastoral attitudes and approaches that lead to a counter-witness need to purified. The Church can and must reform so that it is truly a safe and trustworthy environment.
- We need tools of good governance in our institutions to make them be (and seen as) trustworthy.
- We must be visibly proactive in dealing with these scandals (and future ones)
- Jesus is our model. With the Holy Spirit, we are called to incarnate his attributes in our life of discipleship. This is the principle behind the call to holiness. This "process of incarnation" is necessarily gradual, and requires spiritual formation and accompaniment.
- Training in spiritual direction, making it available, keeping in mind spiritual guides should be icons of the living Christ
- Christ was young when he accomplished his mission on earth. He needed to "grow in wisdom" over the course of his life (Luke 2:52). This is not some sort of defect in the incarnation, but a demonstration that "growing in wisdom" is actually a blessed part of being human. Accompanying young people is not about "getting more ministers". It is a sacred task, part of the ongoing process of incarnating Christ in the Church. As a corollary, we must avoid confusing physical age with maturity. Christ was young but not immature. (Biblical image: we can think of Paul and Timothy here.)
- Draw up a formation road map, highlighting ways we can nurture the blossoming of youth in leadership, and the development of qualities. The aim should be to inculcate virtues, habits, skills and qualities that will enhance their intellectual, human, spiritual and affective maturity
- Youth should be given opportunities to lead based on actual maturity and ability, not stereotyped maturity based on age alone
- Considered spiritually, the most perfect encounter with Jesus is in the Eucharist. It calls us to continuous conversion of our lives, both individually and as a community. It is also a “divine service”, in that that Christ is coming to serve, heal and strengthen us. This is a form of mystagogia -- on an ongoing basis, we are being "initiated" more deeply into the mystery of Christ and discover the fullness of life.
- A call to improve the actual celebration (ars celebrandi) especially in preaching and music, so that the participants feel the action of Christ in the liturgy -- a bigger dose of joy!
- We should not forget the disabled in our liturgies -- being sure they are included shows forth the unity of the Body of Christ!
- The grace of the Eucharist extends beyond the end of the celebration. As he did with his disciples when he sent them out two by two, Jesus sends us on mission (Luke 10:1-11). The transition from recipients of pastoral care to collaborators in pastoral care is part of the process of maturation. We do not need to wait for young people to magically “be ready” to join the “grown-ups” before they start being active. They possess the Holy Spirit, and engaging in mission - with accompaniment from a partner in mission - is part of the growth process.
- Training needs to be given to accompaniers, and those being accompanied need to be trained in it as part of their training.
- Use of volunteer years as formation opportunities
- Part of "incarnating Christ" is the acceptance of the cross. He took it up, and he specifically called us to "take up our cross and follow him" (Mark 8:34). The word "martyr" originally means "witness". As disciples who are sent we must "witness" in part by the renunciation of self we are called to (i.e. to carry our cross), even if it doesn't lead to the martyrdom of blood (or even if it does).
- The use of testimonies is a powerful part of proclamation and formation.
- The mission to which Jesus sends us is expressed in our specific vocation. Living our vocation will always involve some level of self-renunciation, as otherwise we are trying to keep "all vocational doors open". This renunciation is part of growth in maturity (Biblical image: the call of Jeremiah).
- Making sure we present a complete picture of vocation, which does not discount specifically religious vocations but which does not discount other vocations either
- Help people discover their talents, give them platforms to use them
- Help to foster hope for the married vocation (cf Amoris laetitia)
- Connect vocation to the notion of work, as that is where many are looking for their vocation
- We recognize that Jesus identifies himself with the poorest and most vulnerable (Biblical image: Matthew 25). Therefore, our service is not just a form of "Christian humanitarianism", it is service to Christ himself. And many of those who are poor and vulnerable (with whom Christ identifies most strongly) are themselves young people.
- Care for creation
- Service to migrants, refugees, IDP
- Human trafficking
- Service on the political scene, for justice and peace
- Counselling to those who are wounded
- Care for the sick, incarcerated persons
- Assistance to families in difficult circumstances, young pregnancies and single mothers
- Education -- expanding access (e.g. via financial support)
- This "incarnating of Christ" must also be lived by intermediate communities such as small groups, religious communities, movements, parishes, dioceses, episcopal conferences, and so on. We cannot consider just the individual or universal levels of the Church -- the levels in between are often where this "incarnation" really happens.
- Networking -- inside and outside the church
- Giving ourselves institutional tools to live and work as one body:
- Presence of youth in pastoral councils/forums (parish, diocesan, episcopal conference)
- Youth councils/hubs
- Dicastery for youth that would coordinate youth-related themes that are found already in dicasteries but not in a networked way.
- All discussion bodies to be trained in methods of discernment, not just decision making
- Working ecumenically
- Our intermediate church bodies could use a Year for Youth to help them along in this process of conversion.
- Spiritual leaders in the Church need to be formed in this new approach to youth formation, inclusion and leadership
- The place of women in leadership: is it currently allowing women to make their fullest possible contribution of service as members of the body?
- Multiculturalism, diversity in the church
- Regional Youth Days with international participation