“How can this be?” was Mary’s initial response to God’s call. What transformed her response to “Here am I, let it be done with me”? How can Mary be a model for young people today discerning their vocation? How can you as an adult of faith walk with young people on their journey of faith?
Mary as a Model
As her story is told in scripture, Mary has key qualities that allowed her to say Yes! to God’s call throughout her life. For the encounter with the angel to happen, Mary had to be open to something that was beyond her current reality. She went a step further and was willing to listen to what the angel had to say and let it change her. Then she had the courage to act on what she heard. Mary was present in times of celebration as at the wedding feast at Cana and in times of sorrow as at the foot of the cross. Scripture also tells us she pondered her experiences. This process of reflection is what allows us to grow and change. Deep trust in God was at the heart of her life. We have a lot to learn from Mary’s example of openness, listening, courage, presence, pondering, and trust in God.
Walking with Young People
“Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” is the theme of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to be held in October of 2018. The preparatory document for this synod offers some sound advice taking the lead from Pope Francis, who suggests that the church needs to use Jesus as a model for how to encounter young people today by “going out, seeing, and calling.”
The first step for Jesus and for us is to go out. We are invited to meet people where they are both in the sense of their outer physical location and inner spiritual attitudes. This means re-evaluating how and where things have been done and a willingness to change. “The young will find the Church more attractive, when they see that their unique contribution is welcomed by the Christian community.”
The next step for Jesus and for us is seeing, which begins with suspending my way of looking at the world and being open to experience and value how each young person sees the world. “This is the true look of discernment, which does not want to take possession of another’s conscience nor pre-determine the path of God’s grace, but begins by setting aside one’s own mental framework.”
Finally, Jesus called people to something more and so can we. “Above all, calling means awakening a desire and jarring people from what blocks them or from the complacency which slows them down. Calling means asking questions which have no ready-made answers.”
As adults of faith who are interesting in supporting young people in their life’s discernment, it’s important to remember “accompanying young people requires going beyond a preconceived framework, encountering young people where they are, adapting to their times and pace of life and taking them seriously.”
Author: Sister Jessi Beck accompanies young people in their vocation discernment through her work in vocation ministry for the Sisters of the Presentation of Dubuque and in teaching at Our Lady of Tepeyac in Chicago.