Emilie Callan, one of your Canadian delegates at the pre-synodal meeting, talks about her first day in Rome with 300 other youths from around the world.
“Young people never won the Nobel prize for being cautious!” It’s not unusual to hear memorable nuggets such as this one come from the mouth of Pope Francis. He told young people this morning, opening the week-long meeting, to take risks even if that means making mistakes. The Church is the first to suffer from a young person who refuses to takes risk, he added. The Church needs their boldness to be renewed.
He also told us (the participants) to be courageous in our discussions this week. The results of our small group meetings will help the Bishops in the world better prepare for the upcoming 2018 Synod. As a representative of the francophones in Canada, I am part of the French “Groupe 2”. There are four French-language groups. There are also English, Italian and Spanish groups. We began our meetings officially this afternoon and focused on Part 1 of the Preparatory Document, on the challenges and opportunities of young people in the world today. Although this was the part I was looking forward to the most, it’s a challenge to collect everyone’s thoughts within the allotted time for each section. Thankfully, there are moderators in each group to assure we stay focused.
As the Holy Father reminded us this morning, the Church desired to include young people in this synodal process. He has been clear about that from the moment the Synod of Bishops on Young people, the faith and vocational discernment was announced. This is a unique opportunity for all young people. It’s the first time a pre-synodal meeting takes place in this way. The Pope wants us to be protagonists so we’re showing up.
Catholics aren’t the only ones present. There is a small portion of participants from various rites and faith traditions. One young man from France, who shared his testimony this morning, declared himself an atheist. Having these voices at this meeting shows the Church is serious about listening to all young people and confronting hard truths about where young people are at.
The realities we face in Canada, or in any Western country, are going to be very different than the realities of young people in developing countries, for example. While religion is not outright rejected in our own country, government policies seem to be proving us otherwise and you risk being ostracized for holding any view contrary to the their own on major issues. On the other hand, how do we talk about these issues (ex: assisted suicide, abortion, gender theory, homosexuality, etc.) not only in the public sphere but also in our private conversations, in our encounters with friends and family? We shouldn’t be afraid to enter the public forum or different kinds of social settings. More importantly, many young people are still searching for meaning. In this we see that the Gospel can still have relevance today. But they want and need clarity when it comes to presenting what the Church has to offer. In what ways are we doing this now and can we do it better?
At the end of his speech this morning, the Holy Father concluded by saying that the Church needs young prophets for today. We are praying for greater docility to the Holy Spirit this week, so that we can speak freely and with clarity.
I will be posting more updates about our week in Rome here. Keep checking our blog and don’t forget to pray for all of us!