170. The Synod recognized that “albeit in a different way from earlier generations, social commitment is a specific feature of today’s young people. Alongside some who are indifferent, there are many others who are ready to commit themselves to initiatives of volunteer work, active citizenship and social solidarity.
While I sense making and keeping commitments is difficult for young people I’ve encountered in parishes and universities, I also think a solid and notable minority are prepared to throw themselves completely into a cause. What do young people need then?
They need to be accompanied and encouraged to use their talents and skills creatively, and to be encouraged to take up their responsibilities. Social engagement and direct contact with the poor remain fundamental ways of finding or deepening one’s faith and the discernment of one’s vocation… It was also noted that the young are prepared to enter political life so as to build the common good”.[FD 46]
Focusing on others–it does help. Vocation, be it religious, family, or work, can be strengthened when one knows the effort is on behalf of another person.
Pope Francis mentions service opportunities, and these abound more in the US than when I was a teen or young adult. There is opportunity:
171. Today, thank God, many young people in parishes, schools, movements and university groups often go out to spend time with the elderly and the infirm, or to visit poor neighborhoods, or to meet people’s needs through “nights of charity”. Very often, they come to realize that there they receive much more than what they give. We grow in wisdom and maturity when we take the time to touch the suffering of others. The poor have a hidden wisdom and, with a few simple words, they can help us discover unexpected values.
Some order and discipline is needed …
172. Other young people take part in social programs that build houses for the homeless, or reclaim contaminated areas or offer various kinds of assistance to the needy. It would be helpful if this shared energy could be channeled and organized in a more stable way and with clear goals, so as to be even more effective. University students can apply their knowledge in an interdisciplinary way, together with young people of other churches or religions, in order to propose solutions to social problems.
I think of the common notion that “well-off” people go to help those not so. There’s a certain spiritual colonialism–maybe mostly well-intentioned–but that fails to realize the mutuality in human relationships. People who need shelter, food, and company are not served by charity alone. They also seek justice. And interpersonally, relationships–real friendships–are vital.
The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on this link at the Vatican site.
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