30 Jan Invitation of the Minister General for the 2018 Synod of Bishops
Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment
My dear Brothers of the Order of Friars Minor,
May the Lord give you all His peace!
The recently announced 15th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2018 promises to be an extraordinary event in the life of the Church. As the recently released Preparatory Document describes it,
In keeping with this mission and introducing a new approach through a Synod with the topic, Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, the Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today. By listening to young people, the Church will once again hear the Lord speaking in today’s world. As in the days of Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 3: 1-21) and Jeremiah (cf. Jer 1: 4-10), young people know how to discern the signs of our times, indicated by the Spirit. Listening to their aspirations, the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called to follow.
“By listening…” I believe these words are the key to understanding what it is that Pope Francis is asking of the Church by means of this Synod: to enter into a dynamic of mutual listening to the Lord’s voice as He speaks to us today, though one another as members of His Body, particularly His youngest members. As the Holy Father himself said, in a letter introducing the Synod to the Church’s young faithful,
I wanted you to be the center of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document, which I am also entrusting to you as your ‘compass’ on this synodal journey. … Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult even the young before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.” (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).
As Lesser Brothers called by the Lord “to listen reverently to others with unfeigned charity [and] learn willingly from the people among whom they live (GC 93, §1),” Pope Francis’ invitation should resonate deeply in our hearts and minds, and find us ready to respond by humbly and reverently listening to the young people we are privileged to serve, and by creating spaces from which their voices may be heard as together we prepare for the 2018 Synod.
Therefore, Brother, I invite you, to share the Holy Father’s letter and the synodal Preparatory Document with the young people you serve. This material is available, in multiple languages, on the website of the Holy See, “www.vatican.va.” In a manner appropriate to the peoples and places in which you serve, and with the guidance of your Ministers Provincial and Custodes, create forums wherein our young sisters and brothers in Christ may listen deeply to the Lord’s voice speaking to them and speak freely to you from the heart of their faith. Then, compile what they have shared and, through your Provinces and Custodies, send it to us at the General Curia, care of the General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization, so that we might share it with the Holy Father and the Synodal Council. The due date for that material is September 1, 2017.
Please note that in May 2017, the Synodal Council will launch a website specifically for young people, so they may send their contributions directly to the Holy See. The address for this website will be “www.sinodogiovani.va.” Perhaps the space you create for our younger sisters and brothers could include time for them to respond to the Holy Father via this website. This would certainly be one creative way in which to demonstrate both the Holy Father’s love for them and our own.
Thank you, Brothers, for all that you do in the service of the Gospel, joyfully announcing the Good News of the Lord to all people – especially our young sisters and brothers – so that they may share in His joy and their joy may be complete. May the Lord bring to completion this good work that He has begun in us (cf. Phil 1:6).
Pax et bonum,
Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
General Minister and Servant