Pope Francis chose "Young people, faith and vocational discernment" as the theme for the synod gathering, which will be held in October 2018. Young people will have an opportunity to contribute to the working document by submitting reflections "on their expectations and their lives" through a dedicated website www.sinodogiovani.va launched on March 1, said Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops.
In his letter to young people, Pope Francis referred to God's call to Abraham. The Old Testament patriarch, he said, "received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this 'new land' for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?"
"A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity," Pope Francis told young people. "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 Synod preparatory document offered three chapters for reflection by bishops and youths, which it defines as people roughly between the ages of 16 and 29: young people in today's world; faith, discernment and vocation; and pastoral activity. Through the synod, the document said, "The Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognise and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today."
The Church, it said, needs to evaluate its pastoral approach to young people living in a rapidly changing world where globalisation, technological dominance, as well as economic and social hardships pose significant challenges to discovering their vocational path. "From the vantage point of faith, the situation is seen as a sign of our times, requiring greater listening, respect and dialogue," the document said.
A special focus of the synod, it said, will be "on vocational discernment, that is, the process by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the choice of one's state in life."
Specifically for Christians, it said, the question is: "How does a person live the good news of the Gospel and respond to the call which the Lord addresses to all those He encounters, whether through marriage, the ordained ministry or the consecrated life?"
One of the major challenges for young people in defining their personal identity and finding their path in life is the countless options available - particularly when it comes to their careers - that may impede them from making a definitive life choice. Many young people today, it said, "refuse to continue on a personal journey of life, if it means giving up taking different paths in the future: 'Today I choose this, tomorrow we'll see.'"
Lack of employment and social and economic hardships, it added, also contribute to "their inability to continue in one career. Generally speaking, these obstacles are even more difficult for young women to overcome," it added.
Gender inequality and discrimination against ethnic or religious minorities, which can force people to emigrate, are other detrimental factors that the Church is called to address to help young people become "agents of change."
"If society or the Christian community wants to make something new happen again, they have to leave room for new people to take action," the document said.
By accompanying young people in their personal discernment, it said, "the Church accepts her call to collaborate in the joy of young people, rather than be tempted to take control of their faith." (Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service)
Wow! Pope Francis! You complete four years as our Pope on March 19. What a simply amazing period it has been for the Church, for the world, for millions of admirers, for the Society, and well, also for me! You have been able to touch all, in such fascinating, yet deeply spiritual ways. You have been instrumental in bringing about the much-needed renewal; you have set the course for a new pilgrimage of trust with God! Your words are inspirational; your deeds are exemplary—motivating us all to do much more.
Wow, Pope Francis! Four years ago when a friend called me from far away, in the middle of the night, to tell me that it was a Jesuit who was elected Pope, my immediate response was "Impossible! A Jesuit cannot become a Pope!" A few minutes later, as I browsed the internet, I realised I was very wrong; above all, I also felt elated! Ever since, the joy of being a Jesuit has only deepened. You do not try to hide the fact that you are a Jesuit. I too take genuine pride (not arrogance!) that a brother Jesuit is the Pope today!
Wow, Pope Francis! Our Jesuit magazine, America, has put out a fantastic video clipping highlighting POPE FRANCIS' TOP TEN MOMENTS to celebrate your fourth anniversary. No one can indeed quarrel with those chosen moments! Personally, I vibe with that selection. But I also have a problem: in these past four years, there are tens of hundreds of "Pope Francis' Moments". Putting the spotlight on just ten must have been a herculean task. However, we need those special moments to remind us what Christianity is all about!
Wow, Pope Francis! From Lampedusa to Lesbos and until today, you have not stopped focusing on the plight of the refugees, the displaced, the migrants, the homeless and the others excluded from society. You have asked the parishes in Europe to take in at least one family. You have set us concrete examples to reinforce your position... Your constant reminder is, "How can we not see the face of the Lord in the face of the millions of exiles, refugees and displaced persons who are fleeing in desperation from the horror of war, persecution and dictatorship?"
Populorum progressio is the encyclical written by Pope Paul VI on the topic of "the development of peoples" and that the economy of the world should serve mankind, and not just the few. It was released on March 26, 1967.
In the first section, Pope Paul repeatedly acknowledged that progress is a "two-edged sword." He explains that colonialism has led to technological advances, but has often entailed self-seeking activities. Missionary work has spread the Gospel through charitable activity, but has also engaged in cultural imposition, and industrialisation has led to economic growth, but has encouraged the evils of unbridled liberalism, as well as the neglect of moral and spiritual goods. To avoid the negative effects of progress, he proposed that social activity should seek to address the whole person, and provided a list of conditions important for human development. He described these conditions on three levels: first, material necessities, social peace, education, and refinement and culture; second, awareness of human dignity, spirit of poverty, interest in the common good, and desire for peace; and third, sharing in God's life. Pope Paul wrote that every person has certain aptitudes and tasks to contribute to society and the building of God's kingdom.
March 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the encyclical. As most of our Community Centres in the diocese are established to organise the people for community development, the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), along with the staff of Centres for Community Organisation (CCOs) revisited the teachings from this document on 'Development'. Thereafter, in preparation for International Women's Day commemoration in March 2017, we planned to reflect with our groups in each CCO, using some common guidelines to monitor the progress made on "development" and refocus on what more needs to be done.
The JPC enlisted some areas that we could examine, looking back at the condition from the time each CCO was set up till date in the present scenario. While every CCO may not have concentrated on all the indicators mentioned below, this was a general list put together, endeavouring to cover the issues that various CCOs across the diocese attempted to address.
1. Infant mortality rate (then and now)
2. Life Expectancy rate (then and now)
Come for water, all who are thirsty,
though you have no money, come,
buy wine and milk, not for money, not for a price.
Why spend your money on what is not food,
your earnings on what fails to satisfy?"(Isaiah 55:1-2)
The seeker is always one who hungers and thirsts
for depth and meaning.
But just when we think we have discovered
the meaning of life,
we often find that they have changed its definition.
What we have spent our money on, fails to satisfy.
To varying degrees and in diverse ways,
we are all seekers;
the invitation is extended to all,
without any preconditions required,
except that one must hunger and thirst
in sincerity of heart…
… like the Woman at the well in Samaria.
Sincerity of heart brings with it an inner restlessness,
often causing one to stumble.
To most who knew her, she was far from perfect,
having had five husbands,
and presently living with one who was not her own.
There was a certain hardness of heart
that made her cynical of every rule,
thinking that throwing caution to the winds
would bring her inner freedom.
We have all heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, as it is more commonly known. Over the years, thousands have been helped through their interaction with this group. The members consist of persons who have gone through the struggle to achieve sobriety, or are still in the process. They do not say they are ex-alcoholics, but recovering alcoholics, as the danger of “slipping” back always exists.
Not much is heard of Al-Anon. This is a worldwide fellowship of men, women and children from all walks of life who have been affected by the family disease of alcoholism. Some were born into an alcoholic family, and lived in that situation their entire lives, while others came into contact with alcoholism later in life. Through Al-Anon, they learn that serenity, and even happiness, is possible, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not, and helps bring about changes in their lives. By its very name, members of both these groups are anonymous.
I am sharing the story of one family that was affected by alcoholism, and who rose above it. I do hope that this sharing will encourage others facing similar problems to reach out for help. Details of meetings are given at the end of this article. This is a first person account
“I was 16, and my husband 20, when we first met. I got married at 24, and had a baby a year later. I came from an upper middle class family where social drinking was accepted. Where people drank to enjoy and have a good time, and not get drunk.
We are now in the last term of the academic school year. The highlight of this term is definitely the Final Exams. You have parents on tenterhooks, teachers in a hurry to complete the syllabus in a given subject, and pupils with their parents on the lookout for tutors, if they have not already got one, who will guarantee success in the examinations. The anxiety, the headaches are palpable. Indeed, it is a sad state of affairs that exists in the school year, and a question by the discerning, in the educational world, as to why this should be so.
The problem, of course, is that our schools function in a system that is primarily geared to success in a competitive, market-oriented world. The Report Card issued to a student is, therefore, measured against the norms of a consumerist culture, in which the economy is focused on the selling of consumer goods (marks in a subject) and the spending of consumer money (tuition fees). The more the marks, the better the chances of "making it" in the dog-eat-dog societal ethos.
If you do not agree with what is stated above, let us look at the set-up in most of the classrooms. In the traditional arrangement, desks are in straight rows, facing the front of the classroom, where the teacher typically stands or sits. This customary layout suits very well the lecture method with its emphasis on listening, rote-learning and a near complete absorption of the facts put out by the teacher. Despite a unanimous condemnation of this method of teaching, the actual pupil-teacher-parent mental and emotional state at the final examination stage will confirm what method of teaching still carries on in our schools.
The question therefore is: what kind of student should one expect at the end of an academic year? Must the student be one whose head is bursting at the seams with knowledge acquired in the classroom during the academic year? Should we have a student who has advanced in social and moral behaviour? Must we evolve students who have learned to develop their intellectual curiosity and critical thinking by browsing through matter other than provided by the teacher and the textbook?
In spite of over six decades of Independence, in spite of India making rapid progress in science, technology and other fields, the picture that we see of India as of now is not one that can be appreciated, especially in terms of its treatment to the fairer sex. Discrimination against girl children, parents' neglect of the girl child, illegal abortions and female infanticide are clear instances of this. Female foeticide is one such grave social problem arising out of strong traditional thoughts and patriarchal society that has translated into an obsessive preference for sons and discrimination against girls. Through the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, abortion in India became legal up to twenty weeks, and under specific conditions. Gender-based abortions have been illegal since 1994 with the Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act. On May 16, 2016, the Times of India reported that the BMC data collated from registered medical termination of pregnancies (MTP) centres showed that 34,790 women underwent medical abortion in 2015-16.
Every two hours in India, a woman dies from an unsafe abortion. Each year, 19 million to 20 million women risk their lives to undergo unsafe abortions, conducted in unsanitary conditions by unqualified practitioners or practitioners who resort to traditional but rudimentary means. (Anjani Trivedi, July 19, 2013)
The girl is regarded as an economic disaster to the family; they need an expensive dowry for the groom's family. Though the payment of dowry has been illegal in India since 1961 (Dowry Prohibition Act), the practice of accepting dowry remains widespread across castes, religions, even among the educated. The understanding of parents is that the girl won't continue the family name, and to bring up a daughter is like watering a neighbour's plant. A total of 24,771 dowry deaths have been reported in the country in the past three years. (PTI, New Delhi. Published: July 31, 2015)
Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 provides a remedy for neglected wives to seek maintenance from their husbands. Maintenance cases go on for years, and the amount decided in favour of women can be as low as Rs 500/-. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code deals with domestic violence and cruelty towards women by the husband or his family. It is recorded that between 2007 to 2013, the number of cases registered under this section has consistently gone up, while the conviction rate of cases has come down.