I – Let us analyze our reality
Blessed be the Church that believes in the youth!
With this conviction we begin our preparation for the International Meeting of the Vincentian Youth. We don’t want to begin looking only at the challenges and difficulties faced by the youth, especially that who follow the Christ, in our world. We know them very well. Everyday we see how challenging is living our faith in a world where the Gospel’s values are ignored and sometimes, despised; where the youth is seen as lacking experience, maturity and commitment.
However, blessed be the Church that believes in the youth! Not because we are the future, like many people like to repeat, but because in the TODAY of God, we express the vitality and the actuality of the Gospel. We reveal to the world a joyful, enthusiastic and companion face of religion. We challenge the society to find the God who fills our heart with hope and a desire to do something for a better world, and to find the God who waits for us in those who are more vulnerable and weak to transform our lives.
It is because of that, and much more, that it is good being together! One twig alone is easy to break. Many twigs bound together can’t be easily broken. The Vincentian Family gathers a large number of young people, especially of the Vincentian Marian Youth and of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul spread worldwide. The International Meeting of the Vincentian Youth, in Belo Horizonte, will be an opportunity not only to renew the commitment of following Christ
present in those who are Poor, but also to renew our conviction that being a Christian and a Vincentian is meaningful in today’s world, in the midst of the challenges of relativism, unemployment, drugs, indifference, individualism, etc.
When we are young, it is especially important “being together”, belonging to a group. However, we see many young people discouraged with the progress of their groups: lack of attendance, few committed members, lack of clear and concrete objectives, tiring pace of the meetings, very small groups, lack of Vincentian identity, etc. And there is more, we see rivalries, fight for power, centralization of the decisions, etc. Evidently, the reality is not only this one! There are enthusiastic groups, committed to the service of Poor, seeking to deepen their knowledge of the Vincentian charism and fortify their faith. Finally, there are many good things out there and we count on that to enrich further the walk of the Vincentian Youth who will gather together in Belo Horizonte! But, to be good being together as Vincentian Family, it is necessary that it be good being together in our groups.
We are not an island! If we want to make a difference in the world, we need to learn to live well together, to enjoy being together and to organize our efforts together because only then will we give testimony/witness and offer an alternative to the prevailing individualism that leads to the indifference, selfishness and relativism which have destroyed the life of so many people and to some extent, the planet.
Some people would ask: why organize a big meeting like this one? One of the answers would be: to remind us that we belong to something much bigger. All the richness and beauty of the young who are living the Vincentian charism need to be shared and renewed. Let’s begin in our group; let’s begin together, now, to renew our joy of being together as Vincentian Family!
Thus, let us consider:
- Do we like to be together? Let’s identify the positive and negative aspects of the life of the group at this time.
- Is the time we spend together well used: spiritual deepening, growth of friendship with Jesus, studying of the Bible and of the Vincentian charism, organization of our practice in everyday life?
- Do we have fun together, saving some time for healthy moments of relaxation, sports and leisure where the bonds of friendship can be deepened?
II – Let us illuminate our reality with the Word of God
When Jesus began his mission, he decided not to stay alone. He called the disciples to live with him
to share his life and mission. The Gospels tell us much of how they lived together: joys, challenges, difficult situations, conflicts, fraternity times, etc. The Gospel of Mark can help us to pray and reflect, Mk 3: 13-19; 6: 30-32.
He went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: (he appointed the twelve) Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.(…)
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
After a reflection time, let’s share:
- What are the goals of Jesus’ group?
- How does Jesus takes care of his group?
- In light of Jesus ‘attitudes, what are the dynamics and interaction within our group?
Saint Vincent de Paul: “May God be pleased to unite all of you so closely by an indissoluble bond of charity that you may be recognized by this mutual friendship as true children of Our Lord, who, by word and example, desire to attract others to His love! I ask the Holy Spirit, in union with the Father and the Son, to grant you this grace. (Coste V, 70)
Saint Louise de Marillac: “Recreation should be regarded as a time allowed by the goodness of God to unite ourselves by means of a sincere communication of thoughts, words and actions. This time should be used to honor the true union of the three distinct Persons of the Blessed Trinity and the admirable union of the blessed in heaven”. (M.69)
Blessed Frédéric Ozanam: “I belong to the number of those who need to feel themselves accompanied, supported and God never let me be without these supports.”
As Jesus, Vincent, Louise, Ozanam and many others in the Vincentian Family chose acting together to build up the Kingdom of God while empowering those who are dear to God, the Poor; so it must be with us. However, we are not a company with employees whose goals are success and money. We are disciples of Jesus, members of the same family where all of us are equal and important and the “stronger ones” take care and help the “weaker ones”. In order to make our efforts lasting and effective it is fundamental that the bonds that unite us be deeper than only common interests.
The bonds that keep us together in the same ideal and give us strength to act need to be cultivated in our groups and also between the branches. This is exactly why Vincent and Louise, for example, were very attentive to the atmosphere, the ambiance of the communities because they knew it could help or damage the service of the poor. A group where there are union, respect, collaboration, commitment, support and love, despite all differences, is much stronger to face the challenges of the mission, especially discouragement that can come up due to failures, few results and routine.
Good planning with time to study, pray, reflect, and evaluate the mission, along with time to have fun, be together as friends gathered by the Lord, help to revitalize our commitment and to realize that being there is meaningful. The International Meeting of the Vincentian Family will be a great opportunity to be together as Family, but it won’t make sense if our group has not been living as a family. It means that this can be a great opportunity to evaluate and strengthen our group and then arrive in Belo Horizonte ready to strengthen other bonds: our communion as an international family.
- How can the insights and experiences of Vincent, Louise and Ozanam help to revitalize your group and the bonds of friendship and collaboration in the Vincentian Family?
III – Let us commit ourselves
- After the reflection above, let’s open the floor for a fraternal sharing, where everyone has the possibility to express the reality of the group: participation, responsibility, the quality of relationships, the commitment with the specific mission of the group and how one feels being a member of it.
- After the sharing, define in common some commitments so that each member may contribute to the revitalization of the group.
- Evaluate together the planning and verify if it has time for prayer, study, planning, mission and leisure together (sports, cinema, etc.).
- Set one or two means of preparation for the Meeting of Vincentian Youth according to the reality of the group. In case some members will attend the meeting, help them in all aspects of preparation: spiritual, financial, formative (studying of the preparatory catechesis) and informative (read the disclosure information). But if the group cannot afford to send someone, set how it will support the meeting: prayer, sending messages of support, dissemination, study of the catechesis for the group, etc.
IV – Let us celebrate
This catechesis can be used for a day of meeting which would give opportunity to spend more time together and reflection. Thus, if it is possible, the day could be closed with the Eucharist, otherwise the group could say (or sing) the Psalm and the prayer below:
How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one!
Like precious ointment on the head, running down upon the beard,
upon the beard of Aaron, upon the collar of his robe.
Like dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion.
There the LORD has lavished blessings, life for evermore!
Prayer for the Vincentian Youth
Saint Vincent de Paul, missionary and evangelizer of the poor, grant us, through your intercession:
Courageous youth willing to light the fire of divine love in all beings, to continue the mission of the Son of God.
Communicative youth, who reveal to those who are poor and marginalized that the Kingdom of God is close, especially for them.
Convert youth to Jesus Christ, so they will address humanity full of love, to remove material and spiritual poverty.
Youth who treat those who are poor with understanding and cordiality, putting themselves at their service.
Youth who are interested in an inner life that manifests itself
in faith, hope and charity,
and an attitude of surrender to God.
Youth who, inspired by Louise, Frédéric, Elizabeth, John Gabriel, Rosalie, Catherine and many others,
give joyous testimony in being disciples of Jesus.
( Text inspired by the Vincentian Prayer for Vocations, written by Fr. Eugênio José Wisnienwski, CM and published in the Rule of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Brazil.)