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2018 Lenten Reflections | “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”

February 8, 2018


2018 Lenten Reflection

Our 2018 Lenten Reflection draws on the preparatory document for Synod of Bishops (October 2018). We invite to pray and reflect with the church as the bishops and the church prepare for this synod. 

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6



“Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” the preparatory document for the Synod of Bishops is the basis of our reflections for Lent 2018. Each week Catholics on Call would like to take an excerpt from the document and invite you to reflect on it meaning for you and the church today.

“Catholics on Call,” a vocation discernment program at Catholic Theological Union, is intended to help young people understand the various possibilities of a life of ministry in the church. One of the things that the young people who attend our annual Young Adult Conference say is that it is only here that they have found a group of like-minded peers who don’t think they are crazy to be considering a life of celibacy, or a life of simple living that a choice of lay ministry would offer.

Reflection Questions:

1.       While we enjoy the thought that Catholics on Call has been able to create this space and community for young people of the church, where in your experience have you also found this space and community to discern your call to ministry?

2.       In this week’s Gospel (Mk 1:12-15) the Spirit leads Jesus into the desert and he is tempted by Satan. What are the temptations you confront in your own discernment?

3.       The Gospel of Mark continues explaining after John is arrested that Jesus returns to proclaim the Gospel of God. Can you declare an event in your life that opened your heart to hear God’s voice?


Week 2


Part II of the preparatory document, Faith, Discernment, Vocation, describes the church’s commitment to accompany the young people to discover God and their faith. The power of faith employs our hearing and sight in extraordinary ways. Faith enables each of us to hear the whispers of the Spirit in our hearts and see where the Spirit is gently guiding us toward God’s call. When we listen to in faith and dialogue with God, we enter discernment within which we recognize, interpret, and choose.

Reflection Questions:

1.       To recognize is to perceive. What is or what are the people, the activities, the words we hear and/or read that affect our interior life?

2.       Interpretation is twofold. It is explanation and understanding. How do we sort through all of this information using our intellectual, emotional and physical gifts? 

3.       To choose is to decide. Using all the information that is available to us, we decide. To use Pope Francis’s words: “how can we reawaken the greatness and the courage of comprehensive choices, of the impulses of the heart in order to face academic and emotional challenges?” The phrase I use very often is: take a risk! Take a risk. Whoever does not risk does not walk. ‘But what if I make a mistake?” Blessed be the Lord! You will make more mistakes if you remain still.” (Discourse at Villa Nazareth, 18 June 2016). Are you ready to take your first step?



Week 3


Jesus left the desert to begin the journey to Jerusalem. Jesus’ path is to offer his life for us. By example, Jesus opens our hearts and minds to God’s plan for us in family life, the ordained ministry, or consecrated life to fully engage and seek the common good. Film, literature, and scripture use terms like ‘quest,’ ‘adventure,’ and ‘mission’ each reflect how we are called to act, speak, and encounter one another to experience how the Spirit acts within each of us.

Reflection Questions:

1.       We look to Jesus when we take these steps. For example, have you acted as the Good Samaritan? How are you a true neighbor? Have you been with a discouraged friend as on the Road to Emmaus?

2.       In this week’s Gospel (John 2:13-25) Jesus turns over the tables of the moneychangers driving them from the temple. It has been said ‘not to decide is to decide’ and ‘to say nothing speaks volumes.” When or where did you possess the zeal of Jesus to stand up and take a stand?

3.       Vocational discernment is not “one and done." It is a life-long task. Nelson Mandela said “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you have altered.” After you taken the first steps or taken a stand or two how have or do you change in the process?


Week 4


“How does the Church help young people accept their call to the joy of the Gospel, especially in these times of uncertainty, volatility and insecurity?” This first sentence of Part III of the preparatory document represents challenge, invitation, and opportunity for the church. Pope Francis said: “Vocational pastoral ministry is learning the style of Jesus, who passes through the places of daily life, stops without being hurried and, by looking at our brothers with mercy, leads them to encounter God the Father” (Address to Participants in the International Conference on Pastoral Work for Vocations, 21 October 2016). Pope Francis is confronting our tendency to say “we have always done it this way,” suggesting we should “be bold,” to “be creative,” and “re-think” the goals, the structures, and style we use to be church to one another.

Reflection Questions:

1.       Francis invites us to “go out,” to step away from our comfort zone and to free ourselves from our routine and concerns. Have you felt the freedom to minister like Jesus, stopping without being hurried?

2.       Francis invites us to “see” our younger brothers and sisters and spend time with them, to listen their story, and to be attentive to where they find themselves. Who have you come ‘to see’ as Jesus did?

3.       Jesus’s look of love is transforming. This look then is “call” reminding us that love is a verb. When have we found Jesus looking to us and then been transformed?


Week 5


Again in Part III of the preparatory document, Faith, Discernment, Vocation, the document calls young people not only to be subjects of the pastoral work of the church but also its ‘agents.’ To do this requires education, formation, and experience of the service and ministry of the church. The witness of the community of faith, parents and family, clergy and religious, and teachers are all examples of how our young people better understand how they can contribute to the life of the church. It begins with invitation, welcome, and acceptance of the gifts young people bring when they are included in the life church.

Reflection Questions:

1.       What activities or places has the church provided for young adults to meet and experience the Church’s presence among them?

2.       As a young adult, how have you entered into the larger church community?

3.       Acceptance and invitation are challenging for young adults, who often are indifferent to the institutional church or have learned to adapt to alternative forms of religion and spirituality. How can the church overcome these obstacles in reaching young adults?


Week 6


This week’s drama of the Lord’s Passion brings us to a discovery in Part III of the preparatory document, Faith, Discernment, Vocation: “Finally and most importantly, no discernment is possible without cultivating a familiarity with the Lord and a dialogue with his Word. In particular, Lectio divina is a valuable method, which Church tradition has always followed. In an increasingly noisy society, which offers a plethora of stimuli, one fundamental objective in the pastoral care of young people is to provide the young with opportunities to enjoy the value of silence and contemplation and to receive formation in understanding one’s experiences and to listen to one’s conscience.” We find this paragraph under Silence, Contemplation and Prayer.  The document refers to the ‘plethora of stimuli’ within our ‘noisy society.’ The impact of this is on a person’s ability and capacity to find quiet both internally and externally to pray, listen, and understand our experiences is an obstacle we must overcome to hear God’s call.

Reflection Questions:

1.       The classic real world vs. virtual world struggle begins here. How has technology intruded into our prayer life? Are we more likely or less likely to stop and pray?

2.       Can technology assist the young adult faithful in overall knowledge, and can it help us begin to practice prayer more?

3.       The document explains how the synodal process is entrusted to Mary. As we contemplate the Lord’s Passion this week and Mary at the foot of the cross, how can the church help young people to experience tenderness and intimacy of God’s love for us and gain the courage to be witnesses in her mission?

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