By Fr. Ugochukwu Stophynus Anyanwu
Introduction: Why Keep Diary with the Youths?
In Krakow Poland, at the opening of the 2016 World Youth Day, Pope Francis asked the youths several times: “Can you change things?” And they shouted: “yes! ” That shout came from young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. That chorus came from enthusiastic youths who are willing to make sacrifices to secure their future from bloodbath leaders. Reflecting on this papal query that is at the same time a charge to the young people of our generation, I feel impelled by the wise counsel of the fathers of Vatican II council when they stated: “We can justly consider that the future of humanity lies in the hands of those who are strong enough to provide coming generations with reasons for living and hoping” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 31). The present moment of the youths which appears to be laden with struggles, problems and burdens make it imperative that the youths are to be provided with reasons for living and hoping.
Situations in the world nay Nigeria are bequeathing to our generation and posterity a club of distraught and frustrated youths; a class of young people who see the immoral as the norm of life; a school of young minds whose curriculum of formation has as its core mediocrity and disdain for great values. Meditating on the bedeviling trends of the moment that are dramatically unfolding every day, I am touched to offer some pastoral accompaniment to my brothers and sisters – the youths to enable them navigate through the turbulence of real life today. Each time I spare some thoughts for the country called Nigeria that is daily going up in flames, and becoming a reflections of its own shadows, I have great sympathy for the youths who have been robbed and denied access to a secure future. Our youths being at crossroads and dilemma have many scandalizing and derailing elements that fill their worlds as landmines. Many are perplexed and despairing. They are to be guided and provided a moral compass for charting new courses.
Hence the need for this Pastoral diary with the youth.
By the discussions that will follow in this series, I wish to fraternally remind the youths that a better world can be built also as a result of their efforts, their desire to change and their generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.” (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).
I want to keep a diary with you, dear young people to urge you not to let yourselves be tempted, by the “prophets of doom” and apostles of false hope; to tell you not to spend your energy on “keeping scores of failures and holding on to reproaches”, to advise you to insulate yourself from the current conditions of human society not capable of seeing anything except ruin and woe; those who go around saying that in our times, compared to the past, everything is worse; and they even go as far as to behave as if they had nothing to learn from history, which is our teacher; to keep your gaze fixed on the good that “often makes no sound; it is neither a topic for blogs on Facebook, Twitter Instagram, nor front page news”, and do not be afraid “before the wounds of Christ’s flesh, always inflicted by sin and often by the children of the Church” (cf. Pope Francis Address to Bishops participating in the course promoted by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Oriental Churches, 13 September 2018)
Let us therefore work to “spend time with the future”, to take from this pastoral diary not merely a document – that generally is only read by a few and criticized by many – but above all concrete pastoral proposals capable of fulfilling the moral charge of waking you up from your slumber: In other words, to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another, and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands, and inspire in young people – all young people, with no one excluded – a vision of the future filled with the joy of the Gospel.
Dear youth, your trusted guardians and mentors are familiar with your inner searching, the joys and hopes, the pain and anguish that make up your longings. Now we want you to hear a word from us: we wish to be sharers in your joy, so that your expectations may come to life. We are certain that with your enthusiasm for life, you will be ready to get involved so that your dreams may be realized and take shape in your history.
The ideas that will follow in this diary will be attempts at opening up a dialogue of life that accompanies the young people on the new roads, on higher paths where the winds of the Spirit blow stronger – sweeping away the mists of indifference, superficiality and discouragement. Let the weaknesses of your elders and suppose mentors not deter you, let their frailties and sins not be an obstacle for your trust.
As our world, focuses on material things, on short-term successes, on pleasures, and crushing of the weakest, you must help it to rise up again and to turn its gaze towards love, beauty, truth and justice once more. Dear youth, you are the present; be a brighter future. The Church and the world urgently need your enthusiasm for redirection.
To be continued…