An open letter to young Catholics

A response to a letter from Filipino youth to the Philippine Church for the 2019 Year of the Youth celebration
An open letter to young Catholics

Young Filipino Catholics attend the launch of the Year of the Youth 2019 in the Diocese of Balanga, north of Manila, in November 2018. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

My dear "mga anak” (children), 

As a Catholic parent, an elder, a Filipina, your sister in Christ, I am responding to your "Open Letter of the Filipino Youth to the Catholic Church in the Philippines."

I have read, reread and reflected on your letter. It did not surprise me when I read it for the first time, that there was so much depth and wisdom accurately expressed in an organized and reflective manner. I have nine grandchildren from one to 26 years old, and I have experienced, by God's grace, snippets of this wisdom beyond their age.

As a mother and grandmother, I can only assure you that most other parents would want only the best for their children. This sounds archaic, "Yup, we know," I can imagine your eyes rolling. But it seems as if we are not able to impress on you that truly and truly, we, parents are motivated by this and this alone — to help you be the best at what you can be.

If we err and you resent some of our "dictates" as you have pointed out, it is not because of a lack of sincerity, but more in the language by which we relay our intentions. But far from keeping you "out-of-the-loop," we so desire for you to be with us adults in everything we do, most especially in the visioning and planning. Often, it frustrates us when we invite you to join us and you do not have the time to be "bored."

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I am in awe of your goals: "To grow and mature through youthful formation; To be involved in the life of the Church and society as a family-oriented youth; A youth who courageously shares Christ's message of joy and hope modeled after the missionary spirit of the Church; and a preferential ministry for the young animated by youth ministers, ably responding to youth issues."

It especially touches me that you are inclusive, desiring to reach out to those who have drifted from the Church, those in difficult situations and those in different faiths.

Your start at self-knowledge is commendable. "Self knowledge is so important that, even if you were raised right up to the heavens, I should like you never to relax your cultivation of it; so long as we are on this earth, nothing matters more to us than humility." (St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle)

Even mature adults striving to be holy must start with self-knowledge. Thank you for sharing with us this knowledge of your selves, your personal traits, your spiritual life, your relationships, your socio-cultural concerns particularly on health, education, environment, economic challenges, politics, other cultures — all these from your perspective.

Insights on what you value: the need to construct your identity, for a "greater sense of belonging" to be developed through regular interaction with friends, peers, and others both in online and offline modes; your continuing search for "meaning in the reality of the family, dreams of prospering the family without laying aside the need to discern your own vocation;" your plea for "role models who give witness to the goodness of life," role models "whose integrity and credibility" can provide "guidance and accompaniment" with the "sense that we are all equal," enlighten us.

You have assured us that you are listening as the two disciples did on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35) "through the Scriptures, through the Church, through Mary's example, and you are now" excited to be witness to Jesus and respond to Him." And you presented a concrete, ambitious, plan for the Year of the Youth.

From a 75-year-old grandmother, animated with a young heart, I can safely assume, that there are many of us who assure you of prayers as you embark in accomplishing the plan set forth for the year.  

But more than just a praying elder on the "periphery" of the path you seek to take, I do not want to be a bystander, cheering you on with prayers and praises. I would like to join your journey. I can still walk, arthritic knees notwithstanding, I can still talk, trembling aged voice even so, I promise I shall listen to you as we travel. I shall ask you if I do not understand completely and take your explanations seriously.

I see you as "the life-giving present" of the Church. When my husband was very sick of cancer, a close friend visiting him a few days before he died and asked him where he was getting his disposition — cheerfully resigned to leaving the world but still believing that living is grace. All according to God's will, he said as he pointed at his grandchildren and said, "from them I draw life." 

I am near tears in thanking God that the dreams for our children in our families we started with when we were young ourselves, that is to be witness to Jesus, are the same dreams the young people today would like to share.

Your mother, grandmother, sister, fellow Filipino, I remain.

Edita Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites.

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