#Synod2018 #PreSynodYouth #PreSynod2018
Sometime in the latter part of 2017 there was an online survey carried out by the Australian Bishops Conference in preparation for the youth synod. Other episcopal conferences would have done their own. You can read the report from that survey here. If the questions in blue were the same as the survey questions, then the questions weren't framed for young people to answer, eg 4. What kinds and places of group gatherings of youth, institutionalized or otherwise, have a major success outside the Church, and why? 9. How do schools and universities or other educational institutions (civil or ecclesial) contribute to young people’s formation in vocational discernment?
Our son did his best to answer them. But as you can see these questions were formulated for parish priests and those in the upper reaches of youth ministry administration to answer. It would take a special kind of patient youngster to persevere in answering them and not just giving it the flick because it wasn't on their wavelength.
The next step in the process was to sign on to the pre-Synod Facebook private group. For this you had to jump through a few hoops to get approved as a member.
There were 15 questions that members were invited to answer. Here are 2 of them, together with one of the many answers that were given. This is not endorsing those answers, just showing you the type of prose being used for the answers.
(Please persevere through this bit.)
Q:(11) The Church’s manner of acting.
What should be the characteristics of a Church which is enlightening, attractive and credible to younger generations, one which has the ability to engender respect and attractiveness in them?
A:The Church needs to end with corruption and to have more transparency. The means - priests should have college education always when possible. We need to communicate better the means the church has already taken to fight against the sexual scandals of the latter years. Some news are available, but maybe each dioceses should make a local press realize to communicate about this. People do not know that measures are being taken. It would also be good to try to have like "Representatives", normal people (young married couples, young priests, students) of the parish who live their Christian vocation to the fullest, have deep education and who are willing to explain in public the teachings of the church. That will give people a model to look up to. It would be amazing if these representatives show up every time someone types on google "how to be catholic?" or "how good Catholics are?"
Q:(15) Instruments to be used.
Which approaches appear to be the most accessible and what are the most effective ways of generating among young people a sense of vocation, attentiveness to one’s neighbour and a grace-filled life?
A:The most accessible approach in generating a sense of vocation in young people in the United States continues to be the Catholic school system. Faculty members and clergy at Catholic grade schools, high schools, and universities, welcome their students and challenge them to think critically and prayerfully of their unique purpose in life. Students who experience Catholic education realize that good guidance is not forceful or imposed but is true and direct. Good guidance at Catholic schools helps students to see the innate goodness of the actions they take in their lives and the impact of their decisions made in conscience. When all other supports fall away, many people look back on their education in Catholic schools as something that was true and good and which continues to serve them in their decision-making. #Synod2018 #WaysAndMeans
Have your eyes glazed over yet?
Mine did, and I've read a lot of church-speak in my time. My son's did, and he felt very alienated by it. We agreed, which 17 year old, or 22 year old, would have the patience to try and decode this stuff? He was incensed enough to write something to that effect. That was late evening 16 March. He'd write something the next day. When we got home from morning Mass on 17 March, some young lassie had beaten him to it. So he added a bit of prose in the comments to support her.
The first comment she received was someone asking how old she was. Firstly that was a bit rude, and secondly it was condescending. My son added his prose next. The gist of the next comment was that he had had an opportunity to contribute in the diocesan pre-Synod survey. Too bad if these questions weren't to his taste. Angst and agony ensued from both of us.
These questions on the pre-Synod Facebook group felt like they were written by lawyers or by people from other professions that use lots of jargon (eg teachers, psychologists). They weren't written in a way that engaged the interest of any young adult who hadn't completed a bachelor's degree.
I had so hoped to provide the full transcript of that comment thread (minus names), but after spending hours searching I am forced to conclude that they have been deleted. They don't even appear on my son's Facebook activity list anymore. Are you angry? Are you feeling the agony?
In the meantime Pope Francis had dropped a few zingers on 19 March 2018:
“I invite you all this week to express yourselves frankly, with complete freedom. I have said it before, and I'll repeat it – with a tough face. You all are the stakeholders, and it's important you speak openly. 'But I'm embarrassed, the cardinal is going to hear me.' Whatever he might hear, he's prepared. I assure you whatever you say will be taken seriously.”
“A man, a woman who doesn't take risks, doesn't mature. An institution that makes decisions without taking risks, will remain a little girl, it won't grow. Take risks while guided by prudence and advice, but go forward. Without taking a risk, do you know what happens to a young person? He or she gets old. He or she retires in 20 years. A young person gets old, and the Church gets old.”
Both of those missives stung my son into action, especially the 'getting old fast if you don't take risks' bit. He worked out that he had until 7pm Wednesday our time to post his thoughts on the Pre-Synod Facebook page. So he sat down on the Tuesday and poured his heart out on the digital pages. We then spent a few hours editing and polishing it up, until he was satisfied that this was what he wanted to say. When we printed out a copy for dad to read, it covered 2 A4 pages. We posted it on Tuesday night, and then waited, and waited, and waited, and waited for the moderators to approve it. It is still pending. (Cue more agony).
Here it is if you want to read it in PDF version:
He then followed the pre-Snod events online, and eagerly awaited the pre-Synod document.
While we were waiting for both the white paper and the Facebook post-approval, Pope Francis rubbed a bit more salt into the wounds with these words at his homily on Palm Sunday:
"The temptation to silence young people has always existed. The Pharisees themselves rebuke Jesus and ask Him to silence them.
There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anaesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. “Keep quiet, you!” There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive.
On this Palm Sunday, as we celebrate World Youth Day, we do well to hear Jesus’ answer to all those Pharisees past and present, even the ones of today: “If these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk 19:40).
Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you to opt for Sunday’s “Hosanna!”, so as not to fall into Friday’s “Crucify him!”... It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders – so often corrupt – keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?"
Here's the Final Document of the Pre Synodal Meeting of Young People, if you want to read it:
My son read it, and he could easily see that it didn't reflect the Facebook Pre-Synod discussions he had been reading. So could I. Like many other young people he wants to see truly reverent liturgy and the full truth both preached and lived. While he's not one of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) brigade, he could see that their input did not make it into the final document at all.
So I had to read the white paper (agony) and many of the articles he found (more agony) and even watch a video clip (arrgh). Here they are if you don't want to miss out (with his introductions):
Not too certain about the title of the web-page, but at least uses snapshots.
This one seems a bit more sincere and less possibly on-the-attack.
Interesting EWTN Perspective on Pre Synodal Meeting for Youth.
The EWTN perspective corresponds with mine. It was spooky hearing my own thoughts come out of someone else's mouth.
This was the best article by Issac Withers, explaining how the disconnect from the pre-Synod group and the online Facebook Pre-Synod group happened
Do you want my personal take on the white paper? Probably not, but here it is anyway. It came across to me as a modern example of Matthew 11:17, 'We played the pipes for you and you wouldn't dance, we sang a dirges and you wouldn't mourn'. 'Hey Church, show us your dance moves, and if you measure up we might, just might, give you a second glance'. I read a lot about 'give us this' and 'give us that', and I didn't read anything (or don't recall reading anything) about a desire to serve. Yes, I could discern the fingerprints of people far older than the 16-30 age group, and lots of whiskered lobby groups. That was sad. That was additional agony.
Otherwise as these documents go, it is a starting point and par for this type of course/synod.
But the synod process is still ongoing. As Archbishop Coleridge taught us through his regular blog during the second sitting of the Synod on Marriage, things have to go through the messy process. We have to pray and trust that the Holy Spirit will work through the mess and the personalities and the agendas and get us to what He wants to be said.
So please, commit to praying each day from now until the end of the Synod process that the Holy Spirit gets His way.
You have been so patient. Here's what our son wrote (below). We realise now that because it was over 200 words and not linked to any specific one of the 15 questions that it was probably never going to be approved.
But his roar deserves to be heard.
I’m taking a risk writing this because I have no idea if it will be heard, or shot down in a maelstrom of opposing comments. So here goes:
I feel as though I am part of a hidden group within my own generation who by default and circumstance take a (somewhat) conservative view of the world around them.
I am writing this at risk of ridicule, and of being told to yet again sit down and keep quiet, because 'you're not one of the majority'.
I feel as though I am part of a generational group who do not exist; in the eyes of the parish, diocese, country, media and government. I don't have the confident articulate ability and athletic physique that makes people sit up and take notice. Yet I am at Mass every day, pray, read the Catholic press and papal documents, serve as a Senior Server at Mass at least twice a week, and am familiar with the inside of a confessional.
I am concerned that the government of my country is only interested in getting my vote and has no will to actually tackle issues like youth unemployment. There are others like me who are frightened out of their wits about whether or not they will be employed anywhere! When all employers in the job listings are ONLY looking for 3+ years of previous experience and who would not even consider someone with less, let alone actually help someone new to learn and earn that experience. The government employment agencies put young people through so many hoops before they even begin to offer any real help.
It is no wonder youth are taking a conservative stance when they have NO idea about the future of their own lives let alone anyone else’s. It feels like only the extroverts and the successful-looking have any hope of being employed, it’s hard cheese for the rest of us.
I live in a parish that has been in care-taker mode for nearly ALL my life, and the vast majority of the people I see at church are in their 70s, 80s and 90s -which makes it an uphill struggle to attract interest in doing something new for the young and for the needy.
Our local youth group is just— well… just. Just limping along enough to look like something is happening so that the bishop can show a good report card. The youth group is concerned (yet again from my perspective) with keeping pre-teens and adolescents in the church and away from the evangelical churches. I'm not in the target market.
So often I feel like a fraud when listening to the 'all or nothing' evangelistic preaching happening in youth gatherings. Certainly it needs to be preached, but at the same time no one is taking time to explain that most of these things happen at God’s time, not ours. We CAN’T force faith, we can't force an experience of God, we can't force a response to God.
I have NO desire to leave the church or join an evangelical church (thank you EWTN, Mother Angelica and Marcus Grodi).
There are many times at local youth group and deanery youth gatherings that I feel like the proverbial spectre at the feast. Only I don’t know if the feast is actually wholesome and lasting or not. Feasts are the current vogue for the deanery 'over 18' gatherings that consist of about 30-40+ people that are so huge that previously built relationships are the only things being strengthened. Heaven help anyone wanting to build new relationships. Diocesan 'Praisefests' seem to be an excuse to put a rock band inside a church, and jump around and scream your head off in some kind of preparation for the next World Youth Day. Loud music and crowds are not my thing, so I come away feeling alienated rather than connected and not uplifted at all.
I personally cannot see value in this current trend of youth events ALL trying to be an attractive alternative to what is on offer at the evangelical churches and in the process forgetting about all the rich traditions and sacramental experiences of the Catholic Church.
At Confirmation time our previous bishop gave the SAME homily to the mostly 8 year olds and their families, WORD FOR WORD. We have rarely seen those children since. It feels like families become Catholic in name only as a means to access Catholic Education and are willing to put up with a few archaic hoops to jump through to attain that goal, and then join the people with no religious affiliation whatsoever. From time to time there is a 'School Mass' at the regular Saturday vigil Mass, and really they are just a 'school extravaganza' with a cameo by the priest for the Eucharistic prayer. I lose count of the number of times I wince at such 'school extravaganzas' due to inappropriate music and disregard for the rubrics of the Mass.
While it is true that 'The Youth are the Future of the Church' and many of you would have a whole thesis ready to explain why this is so, but for me these are amongst some of the most frightening words you can hear as a young person. Who wants to be reminded of such a heavy responsibility when things are so bleak? The next most frightening words are a catechist or parish member saying that they will 'only talk for a little while' before the final blessing and then after a lengthy time (garbed as a senior server) you have to poke Father awake to say the final blessing while in the meantime everyone else has scurried away.
Can the youth be the future of the church if they themselves know nothing about the church, about its history, about the bible, about Jesus?
Where do the Youth gather? Either they are at reasonably-sized SMALL retreats that have a true sense of community and selfless love or at a giant over-blown Rock Concerts centred around Cathedrals with shake your arms, jump all around, and somehow pray (how?) amongst all the young Catholic school girls screaming their heads off. I get claustrophobic easily and would rather not have to get hearing aids before I HAVE to.
I’m amazed at what Fr Mallon has been doing in Canada with the Alpha program and the outspokenness of Dr Jordan Peterson receiving so many views (channel 4). I'd so like to see something positive happening locally.
I had so hoped that what Emma Sullivan from New Zealand wrote on the Facebook group (c.17 March 2018) would have been listened to: about how all the questions and answers on the Pre-Synodal Facebook group were going over the heads of the young people who are supposed to be taking part. The questions are framed in legalistic language, and most of the answers are in the same incomprehensible jargon. It was so sad to see that in the replies that we weren't being listened to or taken seriously.
I have great fear that this synod’s outcomes won’t actually reflect the TRUE common problems facing ALL the Youth from 17-18 to 29-30+, only those problems that the highly favoured and popular youth are able to identify.
Vincent Cavanagh, 20,
Broken Bay Diocese, NSW Australia 21 March 2018