A Church that ‘spends time with the future’: The Synod of Bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment

Antonio Spadaro, SJ

 Antonio Spadaro, SJ / Issue 1901 / Published Date:14 January 2019/Last Updated Date:9 July 2020

A rainy day in Krakow…

On July 30, 2016, rain was falling in Krakow as the World Youth Day was taking place. The pope, as he often does on his travels, met with a group of 28 Jesuits at the archbishop’s residence. He concluded the conversation, saying: “Today the Church needs to grow in its ability to discern spiritually.”[1] Two months later, on October 6, 2016, he announced that in Rome, October 3-28, 2018, the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops would be held on the theme “young people, faith and vocational discernment.”

It is important to note that the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) opens by speaking of discernment. This document, on which the synod discussions were based, states: “We recognize a way of life, a style, a fundamental attitude and also a working method; it is a path to walk together, whereby we look at the social and cultural dynamics we are steeped in, through the eyes of the disciple.” Discernment “provides guidance and suggestions for the mission that are not ready-made, but are the fruit of a journey that enables us to follow the Spirit” (IL 2). For Francis, these two themes of young people and discernment always come together: the one illuminates the other. We need to know this in order to understand the significance of the choice of theme for the meeting of bishops.

Who are the young people?

In a book-length interview called God is Young,[2] Francis was keen to note that “youth does not exist. When we speak of youth, we often refer unwittingly to the myths of youth. I like to think that youth does not exist, and instead we should talk in its place of the young people.”[3] The young people cannot be categorized as a separate caste.

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