YOUTH, A TIME OF GOD’S BLESSING AND PERSONAL MATURATION

By Christián Kasema CMF

 

Introduction

Youth! This is a decisive, determining and well-suited stage for deepening intimacy with God and becoming useful to oneself and to others. But what can we do to achieve this? How to cement and furnish this time usefully, intelligently, wisely and unquestionably? This modest sharing, nourished by a very personal experience and convictions, has no pretension of suggesting extraordinary things. It is simply an exhortation to our youth, who need concrete proposals in order to realize their potential.

Indeed, starting from the facts lived and observed, from the behaviors displayed and encountered, from the documents of the Church and others exploited, from the testimonies attested by other adult models, I would like, through these few lines, to draw the attention of our youth to vigilance, they who, today, are growing up in a context of anti-values marked by superficiality and duplicity. To do this, this sharing will be divided into two essential points: Youth is a time of God’s blessing and a time of personal maturation.

  1. Youth, a time par excellence of God’s blessing

1.1.       Youth of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 2:48-52

Some words of the evangelist Luke allow us to be convinced that the young Jesus of Nazareth is and remains, without any doubt, the model par excellence of a successful stage of youth: In a very interesting article entitled What do we know about the youth of Jesus? José LONCKE (member of the editorial staff of the magazine Croire et Vivre) makes a very beautiful reading of the childhood, the profession, the daily life and the formation of the young Jesus in Nazareth. Indeed, in his time, people generally lived between their village and the fields. Craftsmen made and sold their wares in the market place. The blacksmith and the carpenter were usually side by side or face to face in a street lined with stores. And, we know that Joseph, his adoptive father, was a carpenter. So it was in a carpenter’s workshop that Jesus had to learn the trade that was passed on from father to son. He was nicknamed the “carpenter”. Still on the subject of Jesus’ daily life, Loncke discovers that at the time of Jesus, the school was set up in the village synagogue. At the age of five, they began to read the Torah; at the age of ten, they studied the tradition and the commentaries of the sages. As will be seen, these often inspired the illustrations of his discourses.

The gospels tell us of only one incident from this period; surprised at his parents’ concern, he asked them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-52) Clearly, Jesus had begun to realize his identity as a son of God. And, as the Gospel makes clear, he was subject to them, and it is clear that he had already set himself apart from the other young people in his group at an early age (this is the attitude to be imitated as a young person at the crossroads of countless paths). One can understand that these years forged his character and prepared him to go to the end of his mission: to offer his life for humanity and thus become the Savior of the world. This is why, for several decades, the Church’s Magisterium has been working to encourage and form people in this age group, so that, like the young Jesus of Nazareth, they may serve the Church and society with dignity through their lives.

1.2 Youth, a blessed time according to Pope Francis Christus Vivit

In fact, more than one Pope before Pope Francis, not only obeyed the tradition of WYD (World Youth Day), but also wrote treatises with the aim of educating and forming young people. This is the importance of the writing of Christus Vivit by Pope Francis. In this document, dense in content and broad in scope, the Pope affirms that “Being young is a grace, an opportunity” (Christus Vivit, no. 71). Youth is a blessed time for the young person and a blessing for the Church and the world. It is a joy, a song of hope and a beatitude, a time of dreams and choices (Christus Vivit, 135). Youth, the Pope continues, is a phase in the development of the personality; it is marked by dreams that gradually take shape, by relationships that acquire ever greater consistency and balance, by attempts and experiences, by choices that gradually build a life project. At this time of life, young people are called to project themselves forward, without cutting their roots, to build their autonomy, but not in solitude (Christus Vivit, no. 137). Pope Francis states in #138 of Christus Vivit that the love of God and our relationship with the living Christ do not prevent us from dreaming, nor do they require us to narrow our horizons. On the contrary, this love pushes us forward, stimulates us, propels us towards a better and more beautiful life. This requires the young person to make decisive and healthy choices, to take options and follow directions.

When I was still taking my first steps in Claretian life, just a few months after my first religious profession, one of my formators said to me: “Christian, I am deeply convinced that one never suddenly becomes a good religious or a bad religious; the orientation that you give to your life now will determine the rest of your existence in religious life”. And shortly before him, another formator kept repeating it to us: “My friends, each one of you will become the religious that you want to be”.  These two statements, among so many others, have been the leitmotif of my vocational journey to follow Christ in the style of Saint Anthony Mary Claret.

1.3.       Following the example of Father Claret

Father Claret shares with us a challenging attitude in his Autobiography. Indeed, although he is preserved for a particular mission in the Church and in the world, what he tells us is an edifying experience. He writes: “In my presence, no one dared to speak evil words or to hold scabrous conversations. On one occasion, I happened to be in a youth meeting, which I usually avoided because I knew the language they used, and one of the older ones said to me, ‘Anthony, go away, because we are going to talk about bad things. I thanked him for warning me and never went with them again” (Aut., no. 53). The young person who would like to become a true friend of Christ, useful to himself and to the others, must be careful not to listen, to pronounce bad words and to merge with pessimistic, exhibitionist and deviant experiences. Unfortunately, these are the anti-values that are corrupting our world in full mutation and are violently attracting the youth today. Many young people do not have the sense of discernment and do not have good models to imitate.

  1. Youth, a time of personal maturation

2.1.       Youth, a time of personal maturation

It is true that one of the characteristics of balance is that it is precarious. However, in all circumstances, my modest experience reminds me that we must remain in search of balance. Experience is certainly different, just as people are different from one another. Therefore, striving to face my loneliness, to be aware of my specific mission in the midst of men and women is, to this day, an attitude that always helps me to persevere and not to fall into fatality. Addressing the young people of his archdiocese of Kinshasa, Cardinal Malula, of happy memory, had this to say about human consciousness:

“The human being differs from other beings in the world by his freedom and his conscience. That is why the true progress and greatness of man is measured not primarily by his having, but by his being freer and more conscientious. Apply yourself, therefore, to mastering your passions. For the mastery of one’s passions frees the intellectual energies and spiritual faculties of man. Purity, love of truth, and consciousness of duty elevate and ennoble man. Free from the tug of war and the bondage of passions, man acquires a keen sense of duty and responsibility. He becomes capable of making up his mind, of giving himself to his duty, of preferring, if necessary, the useful to the pleasant. The awareness of your duty will give you the love of finished work, of work well done”.

I would only like to say to our youth exposed by several social plagues that these advices have supported me a lot. This being the case, the radical deployment of one’s potentialities during youth is of paramount importance.

2.2.      The Youth, stage of the radical deployment of its potentialities

In order to deploy my own potentialities, my little experience (especially during my initial and continuing education) has shown me that the context in which one evolves is determining. In this, “being myself” while living with others is necessary. If not, there is a risk of confusing the status and the work to be done. There is a risk of forgetting the wonderful principle of selection. It is a question of affirming and confirming, of testing and proving one’s faith and reason. Whether one prays, works, eats or does anything, one should behave responsibly while being careful of blind imitations and the injunction to visibility imposed on us by the new information and communication technologies (NICT). It is much less prudent if we commit ourselves to doing what everyone else is doing. The response to God’s call to be young is personal, so salvation is personal even though it is announced and expressed within a community of life, within a given environment. Beware of “following attitudes” and “blind imitative tendencies”. I therefore draw the attention of the young person who reads me to avoid being a blind “epigone”.

2.3 Commitment to activities

In order to cultivate personal unity in the human, Christian, religious and missionary aspects, I had to dwell on the conviction that I must become a servant for and with others by sharing, in all simplicity, the lives of other Christians on a daily basis. This commitment through the different services I will have to render has helped me a lot. I have learned many things and gained experience.

Conclusion

This modest sharing has only had as finality to invite our Claretian and world youth to convert their look in front of the multiform mutations of the present world. The young person who wants to be responsible and who aspires to a life useful to himself and to others, should learn, not only to detect his specific vocation in the midst of a diversity of vocations, but also to risk, to commit himself and to serve while building his personality on solid and consequent bases. The model of the young Jesus of Nazareth, the exhortations of the Magisterium of the Church, the life of Father Claret and discernment can help him to better live the rich stage of youth, a time blessed by God and of personal maturation, relying of course on the grace of the Lord.

Roma, Italy.
June 25, 2022.

 

Translated by DeepL
Revised by Mario Kevin R. Armijo CMF

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