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Photo: The Synod of Bishop at the Vatican, Oct. 5, 2018. Credit: Vatican Media.
A Catholic faith lived and taught with integrity is needed to help heal and renew the lives of young adults today, a group of young Catholics in Scotland have said in a letter about the Synod of Bishops on Young People.
“Young Catholics are inspired by the heroic virtue espoused by the Church, in opposition to the cynicism and pessimism of postmodern culture. A faith that merely legitimizes the habits we would otherwise have anyway is simply not worth it,” they said.
The September letter is addressed to Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, one of the bishops attending the synod in Rome. It was signed by more than 100 Catholics aged 18-35 who live in Scotland.
For these young Catholics, priests who proclaim orthodox Catholic teaching in its fullness with “joy and courage” are not “out of touch.”
Instead, they have “brought the light of Christ into our lives, and really offered us His Mercy – the remedy for a broken world, which does not pretend human brokenness is irremediable, but truly heals and gives the grace we need to live new lives of virtue.”
“To those priests, we are unendingly grateful,” they said. “Sadly, far too few young people have encountered this fullness of the faith lived out visibly and confidently.”
More than 300 participants have gathered in Rome, including clerics and religious, as well as 49 auditors, among them 36 young people from around the world. The Synod of Bishops is meeting Oct. 3-28 to discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.
The synod’s working document outlined a number of themes for discussion including vocational discernment and the transmission of the faith. It asked how the Church can better engage with young people on issues such as sexuality and gender, social justice themes including racism, migration, and economic exclusion, and the place of young people as leaders in their communities.
In their letter, the young Scots objected to suggestions that difficult aspects of Church teaching on faith and morals “need to be downplayed, or even put aside, in order to be relevant to people’s lives and sensitive to their difficulties.”
“Some even imply that priests who hold to orthodox teaching are out of touch with the lives of lay people, and of young people especially,” said the letter. “However, it is in fact this line of thought that is utterly in contradiction to our lived experience.”
In their experience, these young Catholics said, what has made them become or remain Catholic amid increasing cultural pressure are the “uniquely Catholic” aspects of the faith, compared to what is found in social clubs, NGOs or political parties.
“What matters is precisely the Church’s claim to truth; Her liturgy and Sacraments; Her transcendent doctrine, communicated in teaching but also through beauty and goodness; Her understanding of the human person, laid out so powerfully for the modern world by St John Paul II; and Her moral teaching, that while so very challenging, also offers the only path to true joy and human flourishing as we see in the lives of the saints,” the letter continued. “These are the things that convince us that here is something worth the sacrifice, something good for us and for every human being.”
Citing the God-given blessings of encounters, pastors, and religious formation that others have not had, they said, “we desperately want to share this great gift with so many lapsed and non-Catholics among our family, friends, and colleagues, who have not rejected Catholicism but a poorly-understood shadow of it.”
“If the synod is to bear fruit, it is with this task that it must help us,” they added, advocating that Catholic communities be “permeated with a Catholic worldview” and unashamed when such a view is “very different” from the prevailing culture. They advocated the extension of the sacramental life beyond Mass to help solidify Catholics’ “foundation for existence.”
“We must draw on our rich heritage to ensure the liturgy is celebrated with beauty and splendor so as to reveal and draw us into the profound mysteries taking place,” their letter said. They emphasized the need for various examples of joyful Christian vocations in parishes and dioceses to help them discern God’s will “not in isolation but in an ecclesial context.”
“Young Catholics find priests who live their vocation to celibacy faithfully and joyfully to be highly credible witnesses to the joys and challenges of life in Christ,” they said.
The challenges facing Catholic marriage today was also a topic of the letter.
“To a large extent, Catholic married life has come to be treated as little different from secular relationships,” they said. Economic and social structures presume contraceptive use and make it difficult for couples to live faithfully.
“So many of our generation are living with the consequences of broken families, and this has engendered a cynicism about marriage,” continued the letter. “However, these young people have never been shown an alternative and therefore the Church has a great opportunity and obligation to clearly, confidently, and joyfully proclaim the truth about marriage.”
They stressed the need for parishes to be “consciously supportive” of the married vocation, saying young Catholics have a right to hear the truth about marriage. The family fosters vocaions and is a foundation for an “authentic renewal” of Catholicism, they said.