Young People, Faith and Discernment: The 2018 Synod and indications of an incomplete document


Diego Fares SJ / Church Life / Published Date:14 December 2017/Last Updated Date:22 February 2021

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On January 13, 2017, the preparatory document for the next Synod of Bishops was presented. The synod will discuss “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment” and will take place in October 2018. The document is innovative and could be useful during the period of consultation with the People of God. The simplicity of its structure – an introduction, three parts that apply the method “see-judge-act” and a questionnaire – is the fruit of a mature discernment and not the development of an abstract or idealistic model. The document admits to being “incomplete” from its very opening, and it is proposed as a “map” for the synodal journey.

In this “reader’s guide” we will indicate some key points on which it would be helpful to take some time to benefit from reflection, and others – as indicated by the document itself – where it is possible to make some contribution.

In the text, the attitude and tone of the Church when it dialogues with young people are those of one who accompanies another in discerning his or her vocation. The role of “spiritual guidance re-orientates a person toward the Lord and prepares the ground for an encounter with him (cf. Jn 3:29-30)” (Doc. II, 4). As an institution, the Church adopts the attitude of one who reflects on how best to accompany the young. It seeks to encourage them to be protagonists of their own vocation and their own destiny, taking up responsibility for the very Church they are called to serve.

Different tones and accents are used in this search aimed at discerning the will of God. The exhortatory tone, which comes from the challenge of the Lord, is for all. The document reserves to itself, on the other hand, the instructive tone, asking critically constructive questions of the Church as “pastor” and teacher (cf. Doc. III, 1); and when it speaks directly to young people, the tone is primarily one of recognition and appreciation, of encouragement and consolation, of invitation and of the desire to listen to them.

The author is on the college of writers for La Civiltà Cattolica.