‘Christus Vivit’: Guiding the young toward God

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YOUNG people are living in a “world of crisis, violence, addiction and abuse.” Pope Francis’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Christus Vivit” offers them ways to preserve their faith and take part in the ministry of the Church.

Christus Vivit, or “Christ is alive,” is the Pontiff’s response to the Synod on Youth held from Oct. 3 to 28 in 2018.

Chito Sawit, professor of theology in UST, said the Filipino youth also encounter the crisis addressed by the Pope.

“[They] are not indifferent to what is happening in the society. The Filipino youth also live a life filled with crisis. [J]ust like the youth described by Pope Francis, they live in a world affected by globalization, mediatization, migration, poverty, exploitation, affected by war and conflict – in Southern Mindanao – to name a few,” Sawit told the Varsitarian.

Sawit stressed that the youth are “full of hope, enthusiasm, and filled with great potential for growth and development.”

For Leo-Martin Ocampo, who also teaches theology in the University, young people should not be regarded as a mere demographic group.

“[T]he real challenge for us is not only to analyze demographical trends but to establish personal contact with young people, each of them with a unique face and a unique story,” Ocampo said.

Faith, vocation in the digital spaces
Pope Francis also warned against “digital spaces” that hinder young people from seeing the vulnerability of others and prevent them from doing self-reflection.

Warren Maneja, theology professor in UST, said the youth have become more dependent on social media, which makes it difficult for them to disconnect online and reconnect to reality.

“Technology, with its promise of connecting people, is seen by the youth as a means to fill this void in their life. It becomes their new refuge and to some, their escape from the realities of life…the likes that they receive are their new means of self-approval and self-worth,” Maneja said in an interview.

Technology ushered a throwaway culture, where things have become obsolete and commitments and relationships are easily disregarded, Maneja added, quoting Pope Francis.

Elijor Rodil, coordinator of the International Dominican Youth Movement, said social media affects the faith of young people positively and negatively.

“Social media breed anxiety and instant gratification that dishearten the young whenever things do not go their way, when, in fact, they can reach to Christ in times of distress. [I]t weakens the Christian faith of the Filipino youth as it opens them to false realities and misinformation,” Rodil said.

But social media have also been a way for young to express their faith and enrich their spiritual formation, Rodil added.

Nathan Agustin, national coordinator of Dominican Network Youth Group, said young people are driven away from the Scriptures because of the influence of social media.

“Some young people have started to seek validation neither from themselves nor from moral principles written in the scriptures, but from the number of reactions to their posts and the affirmation they receive from publicity,” Agustin said.

According to the papal document, there are two major concerns of young people today – forming a new family and work.

Young people should not be afraid of responding to the vocation of married life for it is a calling of God to preserve life, Sawit explained.

“Family life is a lifetime commitment which should not be a cause for fear. Work, on the other hand, fulfills and gives meaning to one’s life. Work is important for self-preservation and in extending one’s help to others who are in need. Family life is sustained by work,” Sawit said.

Adults, guide for the young people
Pope Francis highlighted the role of adults in the lives of young people. He emphasized that adults should address the changes brought by the young generation and not put barriers to their ideas.

Adults should approach young people with moral certitude and guide them whenever they are lost in their path of life, according to Rodil.

“It is the role of the older generations to be the strong roots that will hold and pull the young ones back to the ground whenever they’re lost at present and uncertain of future. And they should do this in a language and approach that is grounded with freedom, wisdom and enthusiasm, rather than being authoritative,” he said.

Sawit called on adults to “know how to enter the culture of young people” and to be their life witness, providing guidance and wisdom.

Ocampo said criticism of young people is not a bad thing as it will give them room for improvement and growth.

Young people of the Church
Pope Francis cited “three great truths” in the document: “God loves you,” ” Christ, out of love, sacrificed himself completely in order to save you,” and “Christ is alive!”

The Pope said young people are not just the future of the Church but are also present in the Church.

“Young people are no longer children. They are at a time of life when they begin to assume a number of responsibilities, sharing alongside adults in the growth of the family, society and the Church,” Pope Francis wrote.

In the Philippines, young people should preserve and nurture the Church, Sawit and Ocampo stressed.

“[T]he hope of the Church is alive that the seeds of truth planted in the hearts of the Filipino Catholic students will live in their hearts and minds manifested in their actions,” Sawit said.

Ocampo said: “Young people can sometimes present new problems and new challenges, yes, but they also bring new energy and vitality to the Church with their ideas and enthusiasm.”

The Social Weather Stations survey found a 24-point decline in church weekly attendance from 1991 to 2017. It added that among major religions in the country, the Catholic Church’s weekly attendance has been the lowest at 41 percent.

Agustin and Rodil said that through the youth ministry and active participation in the Church, the Filipino youth should be able to help spread the teachings of Christ.

“Through this active participation in praise and worship and dedication to service and missions, the young ones are brought back to the ideals and ways of Christ and in the long run, grounded back to the Church of Christ,” Rodil said. Joselle Czarina S. de la Cruz

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