Hundreds of bishops from around the world will gather this month to participate in the 15th Ordinary Synod of Bishops. The Synod will examine ‘Young People, The Faith and Vocational Discernment’; a topic that, as a young Catholic, has prompted me to reflect on what faith and discernment means to me.
My own faith came alive through an experience that made me realise for the first time that Jesus Christ was not merely a character in the Gospel stories I heard each Sunday, but my loving Saviour who wanted to have a personal relationship with me. The experience prompted a realisation that all I had been told as a child was true; I am loved and called by God.
This love and calling brought with it its own demands. When Christ called his disciples he made it clear that He would change their lives forever, and this would ask a lot of them. I knew that the same would be true for me. Faith helped me appreciate that my life had been given to me as a gift and, for it to be lived to its fullest, it would need to be gifted to others. This is a notion expressed beautifully by the preparatory document given to bishops participating in the Synod:
“the fullness of joy can only be experienced when we discover that we are loved and, consequently, when we are personally called to love others in turn, in the concrete circumstances in which we live”
Attempting to love in the concrete circumstances has shown me time and again my reliance on God. It has become increasingly clear to me that in order to answer a call made on my life, I need to engage in dialogue with the One who is doing the calling. This precisely the sort of discernment that the Church is focusing on in this Synod.
Discernment has helped me understand that my enthusiasm for social justice is an invitation from God for me to try and love those in need in a concrete way; something I am so fortunate to be able to do through my work with the Jesuit Refugee Service. It has helped me see that my passion for meeting and engaging with new people could be channelled into conducting outreach to the Catholic community on behalf of those refugees we accompany, serve and advocate for at JRS.
However, the biggest lesson I am learning is the need to implement this practical discernment in even the smallest of actions and decisions. Trying to be open to the Holy Spirit and its promptings is at the heart of Ignatian spirituality, and points to a more active approach to responding to the call of God by loving others through my relationships, my work and my day to day encounters.
I hope and pray that this Synod allows the Church to develop and commit to a more effective ministry to young people, one that helps us in the difficult task of making practical vocational discernment a reality in our daily lives and, in doing so, help us to live in the manner that St Paul encouraged Timothy to:
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
Nick is the Community Outreach Officer for JRS UK, a role in which he engages with the local community, parishes and schools to share the work of JRS UK and encourage others to get involved.
Interested in learning more about JRS UK? If you’d like to organise a talk for your parish or community then do get in touch.