By Lazar Arasu SDB
(Synod of Bishops for Youth, October 2018)
The word ‘Vocation’ can be explained as a calling, inclination, aptitude and an ability. It is an urge to do something; a passion towards something that you want to achieve and find fulfilment in. Vocation is therefore all about listening, following, training and committing oneself into a particular mission that one feels attracted to. It is something heard as an inner voice, sometimes seen as a mental image, sometimes felt as a push and sometimes experienced as the voice of God. It is a call that urges one to go past the surface and do something that has lasting value. It is a mystery… because no one really knows what it is. No one can know and define it like defining what love is and what grace is, as the definition often eludes people.
Vocation is innate or revealed at different points in life and situations. It is vital for the young adolescence and young adults who are often in a precarious stage in life to discern and make a choice on what they want to do in the future. This task can be baffling, confusing and even mystifying. At this point in life, Listening and Accompanying becomes a necessity. Here, intermediaries such as parents, pastors and spiritual guides also help the young to listen better and discern according to the call of God. Our God is a God of Accompanying. He journeys with us as He journeyed with the people of Israel and their leaders. God accompanied Jesus, His Son in His ministry of redemption. In turn, Jesus accompanied the Apostles and other disciples in their way to the Gospel and ministry.
Listening and Accompaniment seem weak and negligent in this modern age of media and technology. Though young people are initially taken up by the modern trends and gadgets, they feel the need for guidance and directions. Models and examples to follow rather than rhetoric bombardments come in handy.Listening in relation to teenagers means encouraging openness and paying attention to what one communicates. It is listening to their struggles and weaknesses, joys, sufferings and expectations. It also requires a certain inner silence, which has, as its starting point, the acceptance of people as they are and in the situation they find themselves in: Listening with ‘true’ concern and with ‘true’ empathy. In the process of guiding young people, two elements essential in today’s world are, ‘listening and personal accompaniment.’ It is recognition that thousands of young people are in search for meaning. Accompanying teenagers and young people involves: knowing their needs to walk together as Jesus walked with His apostles and disciples along the road to Emmaus.
Following her master, the Church is our mother and guide. The organisation of the forthcoming Synod of Bishops for Youth in October 2018 takes the theme: “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” as an “expression of pastoral concern of the Church for the young” and is “in continuity with the findings from the recent synodal assemblies on the family and with the contents of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.” The synod “wishes to accompany young people along their existential journey towards maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they can discover their life plan and achieve it joyfully, opening themselves up to an encounter with God and humanity and actively taking part in the building of the Church and society.” With this Synod, “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.”
In the words of Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, the Superior General of the Salesians of Don Bosco, “…the Church is asking the pastors, youth leaders, teachers and animators: what are we waiting for? Why do we not decide to be much more available to accompany all our young people in what is most important to their lives? What is holding us back? Why “being busy” or “spending time” in other things when this is a real priority for education and evangelization?” Are we ready to take up this challenge on behalf of the youth?
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