Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit (“Christ is Alive”) is the culmination of much work that took place throughout October 2018 at the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment in Rome.
While the document is worth reading in its entirety, this editorial board would like to focus on the last two chapters — those that cover vocation and discernment — as it is here that we see great potential for the renewal of the Church through the renewed engagement of its young people.
“The word ‘vocation’ can be understood in a broad sense as a calling from God, including the call to life, the call to friendship with him, the call to holiness, and so forth,” Pope Francis writes. “This is helpful, since it situates our whole life in relation to the God who loves us. It makes us realize that nothing is the result of pure chance but that everything in our lives can become a way of responding to the Lord, who has a wonderful plan for us” (No. 248).
That God has a plan for each of us is critical for young people to understand, for it is in the discernment and embracing of this plan that each is able to serve the Church, the world and, of course, God to the fullest.
“Your own personal vocation does not consist only in the work you do, though that is an expression of it,” Pope Francis writes. “Your vocation is something more: it is a path guiding your many efforts and actions towards service to others” (No. 255).
He continues: “Your vocation inspires you to bring out the best in yourself for the glory of God and the good of others. It is not simply a matter of doing things, but of doing them with meaning and direction” (No. 257).
At a time when the number of “nones” (those with no religious affiliation) continues to grow in the United States, a proper understanding of vocation and discernment could not come too soon. Christ is waiting with open arms for today’s youth to respond to his call — and whether they know it or not, young people, who so often seek happiness in all the wrong places, desperately need Christ in their lives.
“We can, in fact, spend our youth being distracted, skimming the surface of life, half-asleep, incapable of cultivating meaningful relationships or experiencing the deeper things in life. In this way, we can store up a paltry and unsubstantial future,” Pope Francis wrote. “Or we can spend our youth aspiring to beautiful and great things, and thus store up a future full of life and interior richness” (No. 19). Such actions can both inspire and rejuvenate the Church.
Those of us who perhaps find ourselves “aged out” of the young person demographic are not devoid of responsibility, however. We who know Christ, who have given our “fiat” to his call for our lives, are responsible for helping younger generations encounter him as well. We should not be afraid to introduce the topic of vocational discernment, encouraging the young people in our lives to turn to Christ in prayer to see where he is calling them.
“If we journey together, young and old, we can be firmly rooted in the present, and from here, revisit the past and look to the future,” Pope Francis writes (No. 199).
In its final chapter, Christus Vivit offers questions to help young people begin to discern God’s plan for their lives, as well as advice for those who may be listening to and accompanying young people on their journey of discernment. Both are well worth the read.
OSV Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young