File photo of Pope Francis with young Canadian's in Iqaluit File photo of Pope Francis with young Canadian's in Iqaluit 

Canadian Bishops urge young people to strive for holiness

The Bishops of Canada express their spiritual support for young people in a pastoral letter, and urge young Catholics to live their faith in the pursuit of holiness.

By Devin Watkins

“God’s love and Christ’s example empower you to challenge and change the world! What a difference you make to those who love you, and how valuable you are to our community of faith. You are the young Church of today and the Church of tomorrow.”

The Bishops of Canada offered that expression of support to young Canadian Catholics in a new pastoral letter, signed by Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

The letter was released on Wednesday, 12 October, to coincide with the liturgical feast and death anniversary of Blessed Carlo Acutis, an English-born Italian who died of leukemia in 2006 and is now the first millennial to be beatified by the Church.

The document comes as a result of the CCCB’s conversations with more than 200 young Canadians between the ages of 12 and 25 in the fall of 2020, and is meant for personal or group reflection and as a resource for local pastoral leaders.

Prophetic voices in society

In the pastoral letter, Canada’s Bishops explore various aspects of contemporary life and culture and their impact on the faith-life of young people.

They begin by affirming God’s unconditional love for young people, which is shown in Christ’s offer of salvation and the Holy Spirit’s guidance of our lives.

Reflecting on Jesus’ conversation with teachers in the Temple at the age of 12, the Bishops noted that young people today—like the adolescent Jesus—can be prophetic voices, while they also learn to listen and ask good questions.

“Be courageous and compassionate with your families, friends, and faith communities. Be respectful and honest with others about your faith and what the Church means to you.”

Possibilities and pitfalls of digital platforms

The Bishops then noted the interplay between technology and faith, something they said the Covid-19 pandemic taught the Church as Masses were live-streamed and prayer and group meetings moved online.

Yet, even as digital platforms offer spiritual opportunities, they also present temptations and issues when used without discretion.

“While technological knowledge and skills are avenues to connect with others in meaningful ways, Pope Francis reminds us that virtual spaces cannot replace human relationships.”

Canada’s Bishops therefore urged young Catholics to strike a balance between online and in-person interactions with their friends and peers.

Stressed but striving

In their conversations with Church leaders in Canada in 2020, young people shared their experiences of “stress, anxiety, and depression”, as well as peer pressure, family tensions, and school concerns. The climate crisis also weighs more heavily on the young as a group than on older generations.

The Church is eager to help young Canadians deal with their stress, and urged them to reach out to their local priest, youth minister, guidance counselor, or family for guidance.

“Together, we want to help you find balance in your lives through the care of your mind, body, heart, and soul,” said the Bishops. “We want to help you flourish.”

The Bishops promised to improve pastoral planning and spiritual formation to include the period of life which follows the Sacrament of Confirmation and preparation for Matrimony. Young people had lamented feeling like the Church forgets about them during this crucial stage of development.

Helping build a more just and compassionate Church

The final section of the Bishops’ pastoral letter held up the Christian witness of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and Blessed Carlo Acutis

In conclusion, the Bishops of Canada reaffirmed that young people are important for the Church, as well as for their families and the entire world.

“Your faith, hope, and love are needed to bring about a more just and compassionate Church and world. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and help you to understand how to use your unique gifts and talents for good.”

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13 October 2022, 12:07