The Kavanaugh Battle, the Synod, and the Vocation of Public Service
These are not easy days to be an American abroad. European, African, Latin American, and Asian friends of the United States are rarely aggressive about it. But on the third or fourth turn of the conversational wheel, and in light of the vile spectacle recently conducted in the United States Senate, the question inevitably gets posed: “What is going on in the U.S.?”
The answer, at bottom, involves John Paul II’s teaching that politics is downstream of culture. If the political culture is in serious trouble, then it is virtually certain that the public moral culture—the ideas, ideals, and ethical norms that shape society’s conversation and conscience—is in serious trouble. Politics is not an independent variable. Politics is like a cash register ringing up transactions previously made outside the realm of elections and legislation. That prior realm is the realm of culture.
In recent years, more than a few Catholic commentators on the port side of the Barque of Peter have taken to deriding those who point out this basic fact as “culture warriors.” That derision is a form of denial, perhaps born of discomfort with proclaiming the truth about the human person in a society whose high culture now insists that human beings are mere bundles of twitching desires, the fulfillment of which defines “human rights.” But whatever the cause of that denial, to deny that the United States is engaged in an internal culture war, at the center of which are deep divisions over the definition of the human person and the meaning of human dignity, verges on the psychopathological.
Or as one immensely wise, deeply patriotic native-born observer of the American scene put it to me in a recent e-mail (evidently thinking back on another moment of crisis in the United States when the definition of who counted as a rights-bearing human being was a prominent issue): “The shooting in this un-civil war has begun in earnest, and there is and can be no Lincoln for what now ails us.”
I’ll return to the Lincoln image later, in a slightly less pessimistic vein than my correspondent. For the moment, though, let’s stick with the notion of an un-civil war in America and probe it a bit more deeply than was managed by a mainstream media that ought to be in sackcloth and ashes after its performance of the past month.
While very few were willing to say it publicly, the rage engendered by the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court—a rage that was fouling the political culture long before anyone outside her immediate circle had heard of Christine Blasey Ford—had to do with one thing: the abortion license first defined by Roe v. Wade in 1973 and then confirmed in a different key by Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania in 1992.
Thanks to those two misbegotten decisions—the first of which was sharply criticized for its lack of constitutional ballast by honest liberal constitutional scholars—the abortion license in America was virtually unfettered for a time. Then, over decades, dedicated pro-life activists, working primarily at the state level, began to re-erect boundaries to the practice of abortion-as-ex-post-facto-birth-control in the United States; and some minimal legal protections for women in crisis pregnancies (too often consigned to chop-shops like that run by the odious Kermit Gosnell) and their unborn children began to be established. The sonogram made an immense difference here: It was impossible for the “pro-choice” world to continue talking plausibly about blobs of tissue in light of the pictures that began to appear on expectant families’ refrigerators. A vast network of crisis pregnancy centers also helped to underscore that the pro-life movement was pro-woman, by demonstrating that women caught in the dilemma of unwanted pregnancy had options other than a techno-fix that almost always left scars of one sort or another.
The “pro-choice” forces never managed to answer the two key questions in this debate—“If the product of human conception is not a human being, what is it?” and “If the unborn child is, as elementary biology tells us, a human creature, what is owed it in justice—or has the first principle of justice which teaches us that innocent human life deserves the protection of the laws been repealed?” So the abortion issue migrated from the realm of biology and political philosophy to the fever swamps of ideology. A certain form of feminism, by no means exhausting the meaning of that term, insisted that the right to abort a pregnancy was essential to women’s “empowerment.” Too many sexually predatory men found this a convenient cover for their irresponsibility. And too many politicians were unwilling to engage in the debate, once the toxin of ideology had done its work. Thus the political party that had once prided itself on its commitment to civil rights became obsessed with defending the abortion license, to the point where it became impossible for a pro-life Democrat to seek that once-great party’s presidential nomination.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement opened the door to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, had a decidedly mixed record on the abortion issue, being one of the three justices who concocted the 1992 Casey decision. He did sustain some laws drawing in the boundaries of the abortion license but, to the end, he seemed committed to what Casey had called the “central finding” of Roe. Roe and Casey defenders were thus not mistaken in thinking that Kennedy’s replacement on the Court by a justice whose decision-making would be more firmly rooted in the text of the Constitution might lead to the effective dismantling of the abortion license, probably through its being radically constrained. That, after all, was what happened to another misbegotten Supreme Court decision, the Plessy v. Ferguson case, which in 1896 validated legal segregation of public facilities, which could be racially “separate,” but equal. Plessy v. Ferguson was never “reversed,” with the Court saying, “Sorry, we botched that one.” Rather, Plessy v. Ferguson was slowly hollowed out, until it was given the coup de grâce by the Court’s 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which declared “separate but equal” public schools unconstitutional. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act then finished the job.
And thus, with Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, what my correspondent rightly called the shooting phase of “this un-civil war” came. And its First Manassas (Bull Run, to those readers above the Mason-Dixon Line) was the often-violent circus conducted in the hearing room of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary—a circus that combined irrationality with the politics of personal destruction in a no-holds-barred battle that should have caused thoughtful people more than a moment of pause.
So what does this unraveling of the United States, which is beginning to display the unsavory characteristics of what used to be called “banana republics,” have to do with Synod-2018? Answering that takes us back to my correspondent’s lament that there is no Lincoln among us today.
American politics is a mess because American political culture is a mess; and American political culture is a mess because America’s public moral culture is deeply conflicted on the basic question of what constitutes a rights-bearing human person. People who get the answer to that question wrong, and who are thus stuck with pseudo-arguments in defense of the indefensible, eventually become so irrational as to become violent in that defense. The first violence is rhetorical: Remember Senator Edward Kennedy’s vicious and false attack on the jurisprudence of Judge Robert Bork at the later 1987 nomination to the Supreme Court. Then the violence takes aim at reputations: first, Clarence Thomas, then Brett Kavanaugh. Both irrationality and violence, some of it physical, were on ugly display in Washington during the Kavanaugh nomination battle. And no one who knows about the condition of American political culture in the 1850s—not to mention the condition of the U.S. Senate in those days—could miss the analogy.
There were many reasons why the United States managed to survive a civil war in which more than 700,000 Americans killed each other. Some of those reasons were noble, and some of them were not. Among the noble reasons why America survived its most sanguinary attempt at self-destruction—and would eventually come to realize the promise of full citizenship for all—was that Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address put the Civil War in a biblical and moral context that would, over time, prove both healing and ennobling to American democracy. There may be no Lincoln among us today, and there are real questions about whether such a biblical appeal as the sixteenth president made in March 1865 could be “heard” in the 21st-century United States. But that brings us, finally, to Synod-2018.
The American culture war, which is at the root of America’s contemporary democratic discontents, can only be resolved by a new form of Great Awakening: a recommitment to the moral truths on which the Republic was founded, capable of revitalizing our political culture so that rational argument once again prevails. That Great Awakening will involve both believers and nonbelievers committed to the truths built into the world and into human beings—truths that can be known by both reason and revelation. Public officials, in both elected office and long-term civil service, are essential to that new Great Awakening; that they are too little in evidence among elected officials is one unavoidable take-away from the Kavanaugh battle.
This crisis of public irrationality, the fundamental cause of which is a high culture that reduces the human person to the sum total of his or her passions, is not unique to the United States. You can find it, in one form or another, throughout the West. And the West is busily trying to export to the rest of the world the false anthropology—the desperately diminished idea of the human person—that is destroying western societies from within.
Thus Synod-2018 might well offer the young adults who are its primary concern three challenges: first, to be evangelized; second, to seek out the public meaning of that commitment to Christ and the truths Christ teaches about our humanity; and third, to bring that understanding into public life, surely as citizens, but also as elected officials or civil servants.
We hear little from the Church these days about public service as a vocation, not merely a career. The Kavanaugh battle, in which too many nominally Catholic senators disgraced themselves, stands as a cautionary tale of what happens when poorly catechized members of the Church think of their public office in careerist terms, which leads them to play to the mob. Synod-2018 would do the world Church, and struggling democracies, a great favor if it would remedy the Church’s relative silence on politics as a vocation and call young Catholics to take up the vocation of public service—after they have been deeply converted to Jesus Christ and well-catechized in the anthropology and social doctrine of the Church.
- George Weigel
TESTIMONIES FOR THE SYNOD
For thirty years now, Catholic Christian Outreach has evangelized in colleges and universities throughout Canada. As its mission statement puts it, CCO “challenges young adults to live in the fullness of the Catholic faith with a special emphasis on building leaders for the renewal of the world.” As the Synod general secretariat did not see fit to recommend to Pope Francis that CCO representatives be invited to the Synod, where Canada is represented among the laity by young adults affiliated with Father Thomas Rosica’s “Salt and Light” media, LETTERS TO THE SYNOD is pleased to be able to share a CCO document, CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING THE SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, THE FAITH, AND VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT, which is replicated in full below. It should be of interest to all those involved in synodal discussions, here in Rome and throughout the world, but especially to bishops interested in Canadian apostolic initiatives that have produced impressive evangelical and vocational results. XR II
Young adults in today’s world face intense challenges: unemployment, addictions, distrust, poverty, isolation, sexualization, and crime. Some young people feel invincible as they face their future, but far too many are vulnerable and lack hope. For three decades Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) has faced this reality with young adults in Canada. From soaring mental health crises to a relentless hookup culture of casual sex, we have walked alongside them on a daily basis. We have seen them struggle and we have witnessed hope. The sure source of peace and healing has always come from the same place: an encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Preparatory Document for the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment speaks of the Church wanting to examine herself and asks young people to help her identify the most effective ways to announce the Good News today. CCO has been dedicated to evangelization of young people since 1988. These three decades of direct ministry relationships with young adults have convinced us that when we consider young people, faith, and vocational discernment, effective evangelization is the foundation. We offer the following insights to the Synod discussion.
Our evangelization efforts on campus have shown us the power of an encounter with Jesus—we know he is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and the fundamental answer to every problem faced by young people in this world. When young persons encounter Christ and orient their lives to follow him, they become heroic and generous missionary disciples. No obstacles, issues, or difficulties can cloud a heart that has been transformed by the working of the Holy Spirit.
“Jesus Christ is the way.” Every young person desires to know they are loved. The kerygma, presented clearly and simply, proclaims the person of Jesus and invites them to give their lives more fully to him. Giving themselves to Christ radically impacts how they live their lives in the Church and in the world.
“Jesus Christ is the truth.” Even the darkness of sin cannot extinguish the desire to be known and loved. The converted heart knows its identity in the love of the Father and in friendship with Jesus. Embracing the truth of this identity brings purpose and healing, comfort and freedom.
“Jesus Christ is the life.” Young people desire adventure and greatness which is rooted in their identity as children of God. It is only in this relationship with Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit that they can live for the greater glory of God. Living this mission transforms their life, their world, and their eternal destiny.
Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:5–6).
The rise of secularism and various contemporary challenges makes it, at times, seem nearly impossible for the Church to present Jesus Christ in a credible manner as “the way, the truth and the life.” This can lead to the temptation to think that the primary mission of the Church is to tackle difficult societal problems. We assume that young people, who seem to be motivated by social action and are ready to invest their lives in social causes, will inevitably discover the truth of Christ in the process of enacting social justice. Making this assumption is imprudent.
In our experience, in this highly secular postmodern world, many young people are not linking their desire for social action with the life of Christ in the Church. They are not looking to the Church to provide them with leadership in the moral issues that affect so many people and societies. They do not see the Church as having the answers. Instead, they often perceive the Church and religion as being a major cause of some of our grave social ills. These past three decades of ministry with young adults have convinced us that when we consider young people, faith, and vocational discernment, effective evangelization is the foundation. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and the fundamental answer to every yearning heart in this world. Thus we propose that the Church’s greatest opportunity is to show young people, in a clear and simple way, the narrow path that leads to an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ and his Church.
Through this encounter with Jesus Christ, they will become his disciples and ultimately his missionary disciples. Inspired by the Holy Spirit and encouraged and supported by the Christian community, these young people will be inspired to tackle the issues of the day and lay down their lives for the sake of others.
Jesus Christ is the way. We know from the Gospel that he is the way for all people, including the young, to find their way back to the Father and to the Church. Unfortunately, not unlike St. Thomas in John 14, the youth of the world are either unsure, confused, or have difficulty accepting the truth about Jesus Christ. To reach their young hearts it is paramount that the Church strive with simplicity and clarity to communicate who Jesus is and what he has done for them so that they can follow him.
We need to begin telling people that “we do not approach Jesus as ‘a new philosophy or a new form of morality’, but [as] an encounter with the person of Christ, an event that ignites a personal relationship with him.” (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, September 3, 2008). We are inviting young people to a personal relationship with God himself, a relationship they were created for and deeply desire even if they do not know it yet. The Church understands that, after an encounter with Jesus, “everything is different as a result of metanoia, that is, the state of conversion” (Instrumentum Laboris for the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization).
We have witnessed over the years the profound impact this encounter has had on countless students who now experience their relationship with God, his Church, and the world in a radical new way.
As a Church we know we need to provide opportunities for youth to encounter Christ, but we lack means and methods to do so. Recognizing this deficiency the 2012 Synod Fathers said:
We consider it necessary that there be a Pastoral Plan of Initial Proclamation, teaching a living encounter with Jesus Christ. This pastoral document would provide the first elements for the catechetical process, enabling its insertion into the lives of the parish communities.
The Synod Fathers propose that guidelines of the initial proclamation of thekerygma be written. This compendium would include:
- Systematic teaching on the kerygma in Scripture and Tradition of the Catholic Church;
- Teachings and quotations from the missionary saints and martyrs in our Catholic history that would assist us in our pastoral challenges of today; and
- Qualities and guidelines for the formation of Catholic evangelizers today (Proposition 9, 2012 Synod of Bishops Bulletin).
CCO is a movement focused on initial proclamation of the kerygma, teaching a living encounter with Jesus Christ. Over the past thirty years, we have found the approach outlined below to be very effective with young people. It is intended to be clear and simple, so the hearer can understand what is being proposed and choose in fullness of understanding to respond to God’s invitation to relationship and receive his gift of salvation.
Creation: We first introduce students to an encounter with Christ by explaining how God, out of love for us, created us to be in a relationship with him that will last for eternity: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Every young person, regardless of her situation, is open to hearing that she is loved.
The Fall: In our experience we have found it important to touch on the topic of sin. Young people welcome a clear explanation of sin since it helps them understand the manner in which they are living in relation to a greater vocation to love. Sin is a failure to love perfectly in our own attitude and behaviours, both in relation to God as well as to ourselves and those around us. Young people know instinctively that failure to love and care for others—including God—has destructive consequences on a relationship. Certainly all young people, to some degree, carry within themselves pain and regret for the results of their own bad choices.
Incarnation: As students become aware of the reality of sin, the understanding that Jesus came to heal this wounded relationship and restore us to the Father, as well as offer us the hope of eternal life, is truly Good News. It is paramount that there is clarity on who Jesus is (God and Man) and what he has done for us (life, death, and resurrection).
Redemption: Once we are clear on the above essentials we invite the students to take the initial step on the narrow way: We ask them if they would like to enter more deeply into relationship with God who is a person, Jesus Christ. This is an invitation to make the adult decision to receive the gift that Jesus offers. When this message is shared clearly by an authentic witness, through the prompting and power of the Holy Spirit and in such a way that there is an opportunity for the person to respond with a decision of faith and a heart of repentance, a life-changing encounter with Jesus occurs.
The words of the Synod Fathers describe the invitation to faith in Christ so beautifully: The “first proclamation” is where the kerygma, the message of salvation of the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, is proclaimed with great spiritual power to the point of bringing about repentance of sin, conversion of hearts, and a decision of faith (Proposition 9, 2012 Synod of Bishops Bulletin).
The Church believes that Jesus is “the way” to confidently invite our young people to give their hearts to God, to be in a personal relationship with him that radically changes the way they live forever.
Jesus Christ is the truth. Young people today yearn deeply for truth. But so few realize that the truth they are seeking is not a complicated abstract concept or philosophy. Rather the truth is a person, Jesus. Through a living encounter with the person of Jesus, the truth of our human identity is revealed.
Truth Provides Identity
Young people today are restlessly searching for their identity. Education, work, relationships, hobbies, social action, and all manners of self-seeking—religious or otherwise—are all part of the attempt by young people to discover who they are, the meaning of their existence, and their purpose in life. Unfortunately, like Adam and Eve, humanity continues to doubt that only God can offer us the full truth of our existence.
A Christian who has encountered the truth in the kerygma knows her identity: She is loved infinitely by the Father, willed into existence for relationship with him, redeemed by the merciful love of the Son on the cross, and invited to respond to the invitation of that same life-giving relationship. Thus they can say: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1).
Yet so many are unaware of the truth of their identity as children of God. The cry of their hearts to know who they are is manifested in every attempt of theirs to belong, to receive attention, to feel satisfaction, and to have a purpose. The disordered actions of young people who turn to substance abuse, violence, promiscuity, secularism, etc., point to a yearning to live the life of freedom and joy promised to them in Christ. Encountering the Truth, who is Jesus, restores one’s true identity.
It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle (Pope St. John Paul II, World Youth Day 2000).
Truth Provides Healing
Further to the inherent yearning of identity that each person seeks to satisfy is the desire for healing. Young people seeking to know themselves are also seeking solace and comfort in response to the burden and guilt of their own failures, weakness, and sins, and the casualties of others’ sins. Their hearts are dissatisfied by shallow materialism and careless desires. Whether they know it or not, they ache for the freedom that comes from knowing the truth of their lives. These hungry hearts are prepared to receive and respond to the truth of their identity as fallen and sinful individuals, and more important, as individuals who are offered healing, redemption, and mercy by the God of infinite love.
Even in their shortcomings, compounded by the effect of secular culture that numbs and normalizes the destructive pain of sin (see Romans 6:23), seeing the truth, no matter how difficult, reveals that mercy is “the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us” (Pope Francis, Misericordia Vultus, 2). As Pope Francis states, Jesus is the face of that Mercy.
But no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it (Pope St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 1).
Jesus Christ is the life. Life with Christ is the great adventure longed for by every young person. He is the call to boldness and pursuit of greatness that young hearts burn for. He is the destination that every heart finds rest in. Life with Christ is simultaneously the journey of walking with Christ in this life, as well as the destination of eternal intimacy with Christ in Heaven. To begin a journey without knowing the destination is foolish and will soon leave one disheartened and lacking zeal. That is why it is vital that young people are not only equipped with a knowledge of their destination but are also fostered to hunger for that intimacy with Christ through continual witness and accompaniment from those who are further down the path of Christian maturity.
A Life of Abundance
Saying “yes” to Christ’s invitation to “come and see” (John 1:39), leads to the adventure of a life in relationship with Christ. In fact, we lose nothing in following him, and gain everything:
If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful, and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed...Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ—and you will find true life (Pope Benedict XVI, Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, 2005).
A longing for true life with Christ burns at the depths of every youth’s heart. We in turn must go and provide them the opportunity for this relationship by proclaiming to them the kerygma and inviting them to respond to further the call of salvation.
Their yes would allow a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit, unlocking in their lives the richness and depths of the Church in the sacraments and the Mystical Body of Christ. The hunger of their hearts would be satisfied as they experience the fulfillment of Christ’s promise when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Truly, it is only through the complete acceptance of Christ and his saving work that young people can experience true fulfillment, meaning, and purpose. Their personal relationship with Jesus Christ makes it possible to have open hearts and minds and discern the vocation of love God is calling them to embrace.
A Life of Leadership
Young people's unique distinctiveness, the gift they bring to the Church, is their youthful zeal—a desire to make one's mark upon the world. St. John Paul II is clear on the important role that young people play today in the Church:
Youth must not simply be considered as an object of pastoral concern for the Church: in fact, young people are and ought to be encouraged to be active on behalf of the Church as leading characters in evangelization and participants in the renewal of society (Pope St. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 46).
Our expectation for our young people must match their idealism. We are calling young people to do more than stay in the Church, we are inviting them to change the world and help fulfill Jesus’s command to go and make disciples of all the nations. We have witnessed how courageously young missionary disciples embrace such an expansive vision for the world. Anything less would lose their attention.
As a Church we must see that it is not simply youthful idealism that we want to be expressed, but a zeal for evangelical mission. This zeal is the outflow or the fruit of an encounter, a relationship, with Jesus Christ:
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal”(Pope St. John Paul II, World Youth Day 2000).
In Jesus, we find true life—a life of abundance and a life of leadership. It is only through this “yes” to Jesus that we find hope for the future of the Church. And it is through this “yes” that each young person can experience true faith and accept the greatest gift of all: eternal life.
It is commonly perceived that young people are asking the Church to listen to what they have to say. And while they appreciate having their voices heard, we believe that what young people want even more is for the Church to speak to them in meaningful and transformative ways.
Young people long to hear the Church speak soothing truths about the value of their lives, that they are loved and created to bring great glory to God in service to him. Young people are spiritually hungry, whether they realize it fully or not. If the Church is not there to speak these truths clearly and simply to them, they will continue to turn to what is most accessible and alluring to appease the aches of their hunger for meaning.
As the Church, we must speak to young people about Jesus Christ. Jesus is the answer to their questions, their concerns, their issues. He is “the way, the truth and the life.” No one comes to the Father except by him:
“Jesus Christ is the way.” Every young person desires to know she is loved. The kerygma, presented clearly and simply, proclaims the person of Jesus and invites the young person to claim her role in salvation history. It gives youth a foundation on which to build their lives.
“Jesus Christ is the truth.” Even darkness and sin cannot extinguish the desire to be known and loved. The converted heart knows its identity in the love of the Father and in friendship with Jesus. Embracing the truth of this identity brings purpose and healing, comfort and freedom.
“Jesus Christ is the life.” Young people desire adventure and greatness which is rooted in their identity as children of God. It is only in this relationship with Christ that they can live for the greater glory of God. Living this mission transforms their lives, their world, and their eternal destiny.
As each young heart is brought back to the Father through the life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, they will live in the freedom of being children of God. The power of the evils of secularism and immorality will fade through the power of the Holy Spirit alive in them, empowering them to discern good from evil and follow God’s calling in their lives. The daunting mountain of worldliness, sin, addiction, and pain that threatens young people is circumvented and subdued by inviting them to the narrow path of our victorious King and mighty Savior, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, when we consider young people, faith, and vocational discernment, let us ensure that as a fundamental first step we invite young people into an encounter with Jesus. Only then will they be able to orient their lives to follow him. Only then will they be able to become the heroic and generous missionary disciples God has called them to be.