By John Waters
On the Feast of the Annunciation, Pope Francis signed his Apostolic Exhortation for the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.
“Christus vivit – Christ lives” is a letter to the world’s young people that represents the fruit of the October Synod. The Vatican will release the full text in the near future.
The Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto contains the walls of what tradition holds to be the house in which the Virgin Mary lived when the Angel Gabriel announced that she was to give birth to Jesus.
During his visit to Loreto, Pope Francis spoke about the Exhortation and explained that there are 3 sections to the document, which mirror 3 phases of the Synod process. To explain this further, he outlined this process whilst referencing the story of the Annunciation.
“The first moment, that of listening, is manifested by the words of the angel: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.’ It is always God who takes the initiative in calling people to follow Him”, said the Pope.
He went on to explain that young people need to find moments of quiet and stillness to listen to God’s call and that God’s voice will not be heard amongst noise and agitation.
Instead, quiet and stillness will help young people discover that “His plan for our personal and social life is not perceived by remaining on the surface, but by descending to a deeper level, where moral and spiritual forces act. It is there that Mary invites young people to come down and tune in to God’s action.”
Then comes the phase of discernment, which is “expressed in Mary’s words: ‘How will this happen?’ Mary does not doubt; her question is not a lack of faith; on the contrary, she expresses her own desire to discover God’s ‘surprises’. In her there is attention to grasping all the demands of God’s plan for her life, to knowing it in its facets, to make one’s collaboration more responsible and complete.”
Pope Francis said this is the proper attitude with which to follow God’s call in our lives, since this attitude allows people to discover not only what God’s plan is for their lives, but also how God’s grace will help them to develop the skills and abilities needed to live out his call for them.
“Decision is the third step that characterizes every Christian vocation, and it is made explicit by Mary’s response to the angel: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word.’ Her ‘yes’ to God’s plan of salvation, implemented by means of the Incarnation, is the handing over to Him of her whole life. It is the ‘yes’ of full trust and total openness to God’s will,” said the Pope.
He highlighted the Virgin Mary as the model Christian disciple and suggested that today’s young people try to imitate her example as they search for God’s plan for their lives.
The Pope pointed out that Mary had lived a multitude of family relationships.
She was a daughter, a fiancée, a bride and a mother, so all young people, no matter what their role in life and calling from God, can find an example and inspiration in her.