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Youth participation in the life of the Church

By Kaelanne Jordan

“You ever went to church, and after the Mass… everybody… people just jump in their car and buss out?”

Catholic Commission for Social Justice’s (CCSJ) Acting Chair and Programme Manager, Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR) Darrion Narine posed this question to participants on night four (Thursday, August 4) of virtual Liturgy School 2022 during his talk ‘Youth Participation in the life of the Church: Lights and shadows today; dreaming of a new Synodal way.’

This year’s liturgy school had as its theme: Liturgy and the Synodal Way.

Night four saw participants from the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica; Toronto, Canada and Dominica.

Responding to his question, Narine opined, “It have no set of community there. That is what we are seeing….That is the shadows we are battling with. And that’s a dangerous movement. Hopefully we could shine some light, and the light is community.”

Highlighting that faithful are called to be community on a synodal journey, Narine brought the significance of youth participation to the fore.

Youth participation, he explained, refers to numerous ways of involving young people as an integral part in the process of planning, identifying needs, finding solutions to problems, and implementing decision making within organisations and communities.

Narine spoke of a “movement” towards the inclusion of youth perspective and youth voice by global communities with the aim of “pushing forward” certain ideologies.

“… people see that the power that you need, the legs, the energy that you need will come from the young people as well. The Church itself has to move up to the times especially as we move towards this new synodal journey where all of us are moving towards a more collaborative model … and to continue the operations of the Church has to come from our young people as well,” Narine said.

Before delving further, Narine explored the many variations of youth, adding that “the one thing that we have been able to confirm and understand is youth age range between childhood and adult.”

He highlighted that the United Nations defines ‘youth’ as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, the Commonwealth sees young people aged 15 to 29 and in the Catholic Church, 16 to 35 years.

Narine saw that within the Catholic Church, this age bracket can be applicable to a 35-year-old who is a parent to a 15-year-old (both youths).

“…So it’s very important for us to understand all of this. Because the way in which we approach youth within the Church depends on circumstances, settings, arrangements, dynamics and all those various things.”

Narine observed there is not a “direct movement” towards the inclusion of young people in church groupings.

“So what does that do?” he questioned. He responded that it provides “a very serious challenge” because you’re dealing “with only one set of people there present …making the immediate and most important decisions. That means that you have perspectives that are being lost in the conversation. When you have a loss of perspective, the way in which certain things are executed within the parish will be either hit or miss and you will miss most of the times because you not getting fresh innovation from young people.”

Narine recommended a revision of policies at varying levels across the Archdiocese to allow greater youth participation. He disagreed with the concept of a unidimensional approach to youth, adding that there are various levels of youth in terms of maturity and experiences.

“…One of the issues we seem to have is a lot of our programmes sort of focus on young people being fun-loving individuals…. But one of the things we miss is that a lot of young professionals fall within youth and therefore you have a lot of skillset and skills training that is missed and skills training opportunities that is missed with our parish as well.”

Narine credited the importance of listening and patience as critical factors in moving towards the synodal journey. He clarified listening, not only with the ears but also with the spirit, the heart, mind, soul.

“You have to listen comprehensively with all different parts of you. Because we are spiritual beings connected to Jesus Christ. From there the call from God might come and it is something that might be said by someone who is young [that] can resonate in ways we didn’t even predict…”

Commenting on some of the “shadows” young people experience today, Narine listed individualism and the movement away from community, relativism, a movement away from natural law, a lack of progression, unemployment, student debt and spiritual turmoil, to name a few.

Referring to individualism, Narine observed youth are desiring attention. This, he emphasised is not a sustainable model.

“Whereas community, an understanding of support systems surrounding you in very meaningful ways, is the real essence of happiness, togetherness, being able to work in teams.”

Ultimately, he underscored these shadows are all interconnected and when combined, leads to spiritual turmoil.

“How do we reach out to them?” The solution is moving outward with evangelisation as part of the journey, Narine said.

Narine identified some positives, mentioning technological advancements which support ease of communication and innovation. Of the latter, there is room for innovation to take place “but we need to harness the power of youth in our Church and then push them to higher levels”.

Innovation, Narine underscored gives purpose “and if we have purpose and we can move that innovation and purpose to our Catholic context, we can build stronger spirituality as well….”

We should be ‘amazed’ during the Liturgy

For there to be “full participation” and continued discovery of the beauty of the liturgy, Pope Francis says there must be “amazement” for the Paschal Mystery.

The rediscovery of the beauty of the liturgy is not just about careful observance of the rubrics or the opposite of this.

“Every aspect of the celebration must be carefully tended to…but even with all of that, Pope Francis says it would not be enough for us to make our participation full. What is needed is the amazement before the Paschal Mystery—the death and Resurrection of Jesus, as the central part of the liturgical act,” stated Msgr Michael de Verteuil, Chair of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.

On August 5 he gave ‘A Review of Pope Francis’ Apostolic letter Desiderio Desideravi’ at the Liturgy School, which opened Monday, August 1 and is being conducted virtually.

The Letter was released June 29 to “bishops, priests and deacons, to consecrated men and women, and to the lay faithful on the liturgical formation of the people of God”. In it, he shares “some reflections on the liturgy, a dimension fundamental for the life of the Church”.

On ‘Amazement before the Paschal Mystery: an essential part of the liturgical act’ Pope Francis states, “The astonishment or wonder is a marvelling at the fact that the salvific plan of God has been revealed in the Paschal deed of Jesus.”

Msgr de Verteuil commented, “without liturgy there is no Church and as we are trying to be a synodal Church, a journeying of people discerning together, the liturgy is what forms us. As Second Vatican Council told us ‘The source and summit of the Christian life’; it is where the people go to be refreshed, formed, fashioned, strengthened and from where the people need to continue the synodal journey.”

Desiderio Desideravi’ states three purposes: to help rekindle our wonder for the beauty of the truth of the Christian celebration; to remind us of the necessity of an authentic liturgical formation; and to recognise the importance of an art of celebrating that is at the service of the truth of the Paschal Mystery and of the participation of all of the baptised in it, each one according to his or her vocation.

Pope Francis says the liturgy guarantees the possibility of an encounter with Christ, but people need to be present. The sacraments offer the possibility of an encounter but requires a response in faith.

Msgr de Verteuil said, “We need to be present at that Supper, to be able to hear His voice, to eat His Body and to drink His Blood. We need Him. In the Eucharist and in all the sacraments, we are guaranteed the possibility of encountering the Lord Jesus and of having the power of His Paschal Mystery reach us.”

He explained, “In Reconciliation we die to sin and rise to new life; marriage, we …rise to the new life of two have become one…”

Pope Francis states there is need for a serious and vital liturgical formation. He asks: how do we recover the capacity to live completely the liturgical action? He observes that this is a demanding challenge because modern people, “not all cultures to the same degree”, have lost the capacity to engage with symbolic action which “is an essential trait of the liturgical act”.

Msgr de Verteuil, referencing the Holy Father’s words, said people are lacking values, are indifferent, there is individualism and subjectivism which militates against celebrating the liturgy well.

People are not only formed for the liturgy; they are formed by the liturgy. Msgr de Verteuil said the constant spreading of the knowledge of the scholars, as Pope Francis states, as well as forums like the liturgy school help with formation.

The Catholic is formed by participation in the liturgical celebration. “Hopefully, the celebration forms us to becoming good people, a people who are thankful,” Msgr de Verteuil said.

He continued, “knowledge of the mystery of Christ, is the decisive question for our lives, a real engagement with His person. Liturgy is not about knowledge, but about praise, about giving thanks for the Passover of the Son whose power reaches our lives.”

Formation leads to “conformation with Christ.” Msgr de Verteuil said this can be evidenced through love of God and attitude to the world. He added that if there are shortcomings people need to pray, and go to Communion, approach the Mass with a new attitude and say, ‘here I am Lord, form me’.”

Liturgy School workshops will be held this week on catechetics, lectio divina, discernment, pastoral planning, and Vatican II and the Church Today. Two-week workshops are scheduled on music and the liturgical year, music accompaniment, music administration and spiritual listening. —LPG