Towards the Youth Synod – “Pope Francis wants to hear you” •
I’m a young woman, originally from Durban, studying physiotherapy in the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa. I come from a very small family consisting of my Mom, Gran and Grandad and we’re a very tight-knit family, so leaving home to come and study was very difficult for me. Thankfully I moved into a residence for female students run by the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary and after living here for the last 3 years, it has become my home. My life has largely been influenced by my mother who raised me by herself, sacrificing so much to give me everything and surrounding me with so much love that she has made it easy for me to love others.
Being a young person today is difficult; we live in a fast paced world where everything needs to happen instantly. We’re bombarded with information constantly through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, television, radio and so on and so on and I enjoy this but it sure makes it hard to find silence. It is also extremely difficult to live out my faith, we live in such a secularised world that our Catholic views are often not popular, I find this even more difficult because I’m studying a medical degree where abortion, euthanasia and many other moral issues are constantly fed to us in a positive light. It’s challenging to stand up to these views when your opinion is a minority and you’re going against highly educated, older people.
What I’ve found is that many people look at the young people of today and complain, they compare us to the youth of the ‘good old days’ and complain that we don’t have the same respect, we’re ruder than they were, we seek immediate pleasure and have no self-discipline, however; they forget we live in a very different world to the ‘good old days’. I am surrounded by young people, in my residence, at university and in the Church and I’m constantly amazed at their goodness. We are all striving to be good people according to our conscience; regardless of beliefs, the young people I know want to make the world a better place, they want to help people, they’re full of compassion and empathy and are constantly seeking to understand those in situations different to theirs.
My concern as a young person is that the older generation give up on us, that they see what’s on the surface and don’t delve deeper. Yes maybe some of the ways we live our lives are different, but how can we better ourselves if there is no one to guide us?
My experience of faith
I was baptised Methodist and can probably count the number of times I went to church, or should I say slept through church! I was never really raised in faith; my Mom would describe herself as more spiritual than religious. I would never fault her on this in my upbringing though, she raised me in the best way that she knew how and I do believe it’s because of the way she raised me that I wanted to look deeper into myself and went looking for Truth. My personal experience with faith started when I moved into the student residence at Schoenstatt, I was struggling being away from home and something happened that made me turn to prayer, something I don’t think I would’ve done if I hadn’t been living at Schoenstatt. I remember asking God if He was really there, to help me. I bargained with Him (never bargain with God!), telling him if He answered my prayers I would start going to church every Sunday. He didn’t answer my prayers in the way I wanted but here I am, a convert to the Catholic faith, on the path to making my Covenant of Love with Our Lady, convinced that He really was ‘there’ when I prayed that first little prayer. I came across a saying a while ago that said there is no such thing as coincidences, only God-incidences. My first Mass was one of these God-incidences, one of the Schoenstatt sisters offered to go with me because I didn’t want to go alone. I remember being overwhelmed by the beauty of the Mass and reverence of the people and I knew I wanted to go back, even though these people were a little weird and knelt down before entering the pews and did strange hand movements and stuff. Little did I know that that day, the first time I had ever entered a Catholic Church, the first time I ever attended the sacrifice of the Mass was the day of Pentecost. It was only a few months later that I realised the significance of this, the day that changed my life was the birthday of the Church, the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and their followers, the day that I was filled with the Holy Spirit. My experience of faith has been a whirlwind experience, one that has not been easy or pain-free, it has been a struggle but a joy-filled struggle and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My commitment to the Church and the world
The Church has given me so much, I want to be of service to the Church in any way I can. What the world needs are people that live out their Christian faith visibly because we are the hands, mouth and heart of Christ; He works through us to bring others to Him. I found this to be so evident in the Schoenstatt sisters; I saw such a visible sign of God in them. All my life I had known Christians that said they believed in Jesus but didn’t live out their faith at all. They weren’t perfect, none of us are, but I never saw anything in them that made me question truth, until I met the sisters. They had given up so much of what society had told me I needed to be happy, the way they lived out their lives made me question everything I had ever known, I wanted to know what they knew that I didn’t. Their visible commitment to God changed my life; this is what the world needs, and not only in religious life but in every vocation, people committed to God, no matter how difficult it is. I hope that my life will point people to Jesus, like others did for me.
My doubts and questions
When I entered the Church, one of the things that really appealed to me was the unity. Set beliefs and teachings on moral issues. I had to address many of my own beliefs on key issues and I was able to accept the Church teachings because I believe the Church ultimately cares about us and our salvation. Our society has become very tolerant of many things, and while this tolerance has allowed many to feel accepted and included it has also allowed moral decay and given freedom to people to not only harm themselves but also harm others. The dignity of human life has become questionable to many people and from what I’ve seen this has started to influence many people in our Church, just a few months ago I saw a poster on our university campus ”Catholics for Choice”. I stand firm with the Catholic Church on its traditional teachings but I am beginning to question and doubt if the Church will stand up for itself or if it will cave to our secular society. These are just my doubts though, we must trust in God and pray that our Church, the true Church founded by Jesus may be always guided by the Holy Spirit and remain open to the signs of the times. A lovely quote by Theology of the Body speaker Christopher West has stayed with me ever since I heard it; he says, “The Holy Spirit grants the Church what she needs when she needs it”.
My dream for myself is the same as almost every person, to make a difference, to have some impact on the lives of those around me. To live a happy, fulfilled life. I hope to do that by loving God and serving His people.
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
– St. Catherine of Siena