Summary of Christus Vivit by Pope Francis

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Christus vivit" of Pope 
Francis, with the results of the Synod of Bishops last October (2008)
on the topic "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment."

Here are some insights:

“Jesus, himself eternally young, wants to give us hearts that are ever young” (13). 

  • Jesus is the model for all young people. He spent His youthful years sharing fully in the life of His family and His people. He began His ministry in the prime of life and was a young man when he gave up his life for us.

Tip: Meditate on the young Jesus in the Gospels. Ask Jesus to teach you how to live your youth to the full. Learn from His example. 

  • “Jesus does not teach you, young people, from afar or from without, but from within your very youth, a youth he shares with you. It is very important for you to contemplate the young Jesus as presented in the Gospels, for he was truly one of you, and shares many of the features of your young hearts” (31).
  • Since Jesus “is the true youthfulness of a world grown old” (32), we must, as the Church, continually draw youthfulness from Him in order to keep the Church young: “The Church is young when she is herself” (35).

The Challenge: Are we going to squander meaninglessly the gift of our youth? Or will we receive it with gratitude and live our youth to the full? 

  • “We should never repent of spending our youth being good, opening our heart to the Lord, and living differently. None of this takes away from our youth but instead strengthens and renews it: “Your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Ps 103:5). For this reason, Saint Augustine could lament: “Late have I loved you, beauty ever ancient, ever new! Late have I loved you!” (17).
  • “You need to realize one basic truth: being young is not only about pursuing fleeting pleasures and superficial achievements. If the years of your youth are to serve their purpose in life, they must be a time of generous commitment, whole-hearted dedication, and sacrifices that are difficult but ultimately fruitful” (108).
  • The youth are the ‘now’ of the Church. They enrich the Church in invaluable ways and we must support them: financially (fund their initiatives), pastorally (allow the youth to voice their visions and criticisms of the Church, get them involved in decision making – let them be “agents of youth ministry” through new mediums, give them freedom to evangelize other young people wherever they are to be found), emotionally (weep for all those young people who are less fortunate than ourselves – “some realities in life are only seen with eyes cleansed by tears” – ask the Lord for this grace), and spiritually (listen to their real questions, journey with them, teach them how to pray, etc).

The Challenge: Are we going to complain about all the problems and failings of today’s young people? Or are we going to cherish and nurture the seeds of goodness sown in the hearts of the young? 

  • “Today, we adults can often be tempted to list all the problems and failings of today’s young people… But what would be the result of such an attitude? Greater distance, less closeness, less mutual assistance” (66). Whoever is called to be a father, pastor and youth guide should have the ability “to discern pathways where others only see walls, to recognize potential where others see only peril. That is how God the Father sees things; He knows how to cherish and nurture the seeds of goodness sown in the hearts of the young. Each young person’s heart should thus be considered “holy ground”“ (67).
  • “Young friends, don’t wait until tomorrow to contribute your energy, your audacity and your creativity to changing our world. Your youth is not an “in-between time”. You are the now of God, and he wants you to bear fruit… The best way to prepare a bright future is to experience the present as best we can, with commitment and generosity” (178).
  • “Ulysses, in order not to give in to the siren song that bewitched his sailors and made them crash against the rocks, tied himself to the mast of the ship and had his companions plug their ears. Orpheus, on the other hand, did something else to counter the siren song: he intoned an even more beautiful melody, which enchanted the sirens. This, then, is your great challenge: to respond to the crippling refrains of cultural consumerism with thoughtful and firm decisions, with research, knowledge and sharing” (223).

“Christ is alive (‘Christus vivit’) and he wants you to be alive!” (1).

  • Jesus Christ is alive! He is present in your life at every moment. He comes to you today and every day to give you life, and “life in abundance” (Jn 10:10).

Tip: Meditate on John 10:10. Ask Jesus “What makes me fully alive? How can I live life to the full?” 

  • With “him at our side, we can drink from the true wellspring that keeps alive all our dreams, our projects, our great ideals, while impelling us to proclaim what makes life truly worthwhile” (32).
  • Youth ministry must constantly develop the kerygma, the foundational experience of encounter with the living God through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The Challenge: Does your youth ministry program provide dynamic ways to have a real encounter with the living God? In what ways can you make your youth ministry program more alive? 

  • “If you have lost your inner vitality, your dreams, your enthusiasm, your optimism and your generosity, Jesus stands before you as once he stood before the dead son of the widow, and with all the power of his resurrection he urges you: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Lk 7:14)” (20).
  • Being fully alive involves both a healthy restless discontent and an exhilaration before the opening up of new horizons. This “generates a boldness that leads you to stand up and take responsibility for a mission” (138). We must “avoid the paralysis of the living dead, who are afraid to take chances or make mistakes or to persevere in their commitments” (142).

The Challenge: Fight for the common good, serve the poor, be protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumerism and superficial individualism. 

  • “I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, incapable of true love” (264).

“The first thing we need to discern and discover is this: Jesus wants to be a friend to every young person. This discernment is the basis of all else” (250).

  • Discernment is a calling from a friend – Jesus. This friend has a special gift perfectly fit for you, “a gift that will bring you more joy and excitement than anything else in this world” (288).

Tip: Invite Jesus into everything you do on a daily basis. Chose a specific time each day, even if it is just for 5 minutes, for just 1-on-1 time with Jesus. 

  • “You must encounter your best friend, Jesus, every day to live life to the full… Do not deprive your youth of this friendship… Try to look for him, and you will have the beautiful experience of seeing that he is always at your side… ask Him: “Jesus, what would you do in my place?” (156).
  • Fraternal love should be at the heart of your discernment. It is “the “new commandment” (Jn 13:34), “the fullness of the Law” (Rom 13:10) and our best way of showing our love for God” (215).

The Challenge: Allow the youth to help others, especially children and the poor. 

  • “Often this service is the first step to a discovery or rediscovery of life in Christ and the Church” (225).
  • “In the end, good discernment is a path of freedom that brings to full fruit what is unique in each person, something so personal that only God knows it” (295).

Tip: When discerning your vocation, ask God in prayer, “For whom am I?”

  • Although it’s important in discernment to ask “Who am I?” it is even more important to ask “For whom am I?” You belong to God, to Him who has given you “many qualities, inclinations, gifts and charisms that are not for you, but to share with those around you.” (286)
  • “Allow the saints to inspire you but don’t necessarily copy them… You have to discover who you are and develop your own way of being holy, whatever others may say or think. Becoming a saint means becoming more fully yourself, becoming what the Lord wished to dream and create, and not a photocopy” (162).

Tip: Read the lives of the saints. 

  • “Imitating the Saints does not mean copying their lifestyle and their way of living holiness: “there are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us”” (162).
In conclusion, I am struck by Pope Francis’ desire and passion to see the young people of the Church become fully alive. Here is a great quote that captures his zeal:
  • “Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. Don’t observe life from a balcony. Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live your life behind a screen… take risks… make a ruckus!… live! give yourselves over to the best of life!.. please, don’t take an early retirement” (143).

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