Updated: September 08, 2021 06:10 AM GMT
Catholic youths attend a thanksgiving Mass ending their voluntary service at a healthcare center for Covid-19 patients on Sept. 7 in Bien Hoa. (Photo courtesy of giaophanxuanloc.net)
Many young Catholics who are interested in evangelization ask what ways the Church has to spread the faith among non-Christian youths. This good question reflects youths' concerns and interest in the Church. They must be so ecstatic about their faith to think about spreading it among other youths.
Catholics are only a small minority in Vietnam, Catholic youths work with most people who do not share their religion in their work environment. Therefore, it is eminently desirable to share faith with others. In his 2019 message to Vietnamese Catholic youths, Pope Francis reminded them of the mission of bearing witness and evangelizing young pagans who have the right to hear the Good News.
When asking about the Church's ways of evangelization, many people will probably picture the image of a structured and hierarchical Church in which clergy and religious map directions. That way of thinking needs to be broadened and more balanced. In reality, clergy and religious are, after all, just a minority in the heart of the Church. Most of the members that make up the Church are the community of God's people — laypeople living their vocation in society.
Youths who have been baptized and educated in the Catholic faith have a duty to evangelize and preach the faith to those who do not yet know God. Those in charge in the Church can create many programs, activities, directions, plans and strategies, but it is the young people who carry out those programs who are the first-hand witnesses converting the minds and hearts of other youths around them.
The Church relies on young Catholics to spread the faith in God to pagan youths.
Who are young Catholics? They are full members of the Church. In daily life, they directly interact with followers of other faiths. Therefore, any young Catholic can be the face of the Church. Whether people of other faiths gain a favorable or negative impression of the Catholic faith, and want to embrace Catholicism or not, entirely depends on their impression of young Catholics.
The Church requires young Catholics who dare live out their faith in the heart of the world
People could not love the Church because of its good teachings but because of its inspiring examples of life. A hundred good teachings are not necessarily as effective as a good example of life. Many youths are interested in the Church simply because they admire other young people in the Church, finding beauty, attraction and personalities that they long to be.
The Church requires young Catholics who dare live out their faith in the heart of the world. The Church needs Catholics' jovial personalities to speak to non-Catholics about the practical value of the Catholic faith and moral convictions in modern society.
While Vietnam sees the decline and fall of morality because of fostering economic development, nothing is more precious than faith in young people's preparations for life. In the treasury of the Catholic faith, countless moral lessons teach youths how to live well and humanely. It must take faith to have a spiritual outlook on life. Having strong faith as a pillar can help youths overcome tumultuous times in their lives. Faith, when shared properly, can be received well and certainly encourages young people to live more peacefully and happily.
So, this question is really for young Catholics. The Church is theirs, and it is they who make it. Whether youths of other faiths want to enter the Church depends on how Catholic youths live their religion and practice their faith as there is no type of theoretical evangelism, especially for young people, nor is there a magic tactic to spread faith. If they want to invite other people to join the Church and share their faith, they should live so that others can see the value and beauty of the Church, of the faith they hold, and of the moral values that have formed their person and personality.
In this regard, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI once warned that young people are not the future but the present of the Church. It is the young Catholics who are mainly responsible for conquering pagan youths with their good witness, not seduction as Pope Francis said in his message to Vietnamese youths in 2019.
How can young Catholics truly become compelling witnesses to non-Catholic youths? The answer should probably be viewed from many different sides.
Firstly, those in charge in the Church and parents bear responsibility for furnishing their children with firm foundations of morality and faith so that they can grow up as authentic young Catholics. The common practice of family prayers, community prayer gatherings and parish-based activities should be focused on youths. There needs to be faith formation that is open-minded and dialogue-oriented with those who do not share the same faith. It is necessary to avoid pointless arguments in the direction of right and wrong, comparisons based on good and evil, and criticism that comes from prejudice rather than mutual understanding.
Young Catholics should be afforded the opportunity to develop the ability to express their faith in everyday language that is as clear as a bell so that even followers of other faiths can understand. It is critically important to educate youths to live a life of witness as bright, bubbly personalities are far more able to attract people and spread the faith than good words.
They should be courageous and strong to set off to bring God's faith to others
Secondly, young Catholics must live a life showing how valuable their faith really is in their life if they long to introduce Catholic values to youths of other faiths. Therefore, full responsibility for deepening their understanding of faith that they have been taught since childhood, putting good moral lessons into practice, and setting a shining example of a good life in an environment full of social evils and temptations, all lie with Catholic youths. The more they train themselves in the pattern of the faith, the more they become gentle, kind persons to attract and tell others about their faith.
The Church urgently requires and trusts in its youths as they are the ways and means for the Church to reach out to other young people.
They should remember that whenever they seek practical help and guidelines, many people in the Church are ready to listen, accompany and advise them. They should be courageous and strong to set off to bring God's faith to others.
Joseph Cao Gia An is a Jesuit in Vietnam. This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published on hdgmvietnam.com here. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.