A The usual reason for reflection is the way to lead young people forward after the sacrament of Confirmation. It is frequent that in this period of human maturation they stop responding to the formation calls or move away from religious practice. Some parishes linked to the Neocatechumenal Way are putting into practice a post-confirmation initiative, with good results.
TEXT - Gabriel Benedicto, Parish Priest of Virgen de la Paloma (Madrid)
The pastoral care of adolescents between 12 and 18 years of age is a challenge for the Church today. What to do with them? How to give them the possibility of touching Christ as an existential response to their desires and problems? How to make the Word of God illuminate this important time of growth in their lives?
At 11-12 years of age, they stop being children and move towards adulthood, facing new challenges: What do I want to study? What friends should I choose? How to mature and express my sexuality? How to relate properly with my parents' authority? How to have fun without hurting myself? How to overcome my complexes? How to overcome the mystery of selfishness? How to be able to love?
A possible answer
If a young person is not offered a youth ministry that responds to these questions, it is very likely that sooner or later he will leave the Church... we could say that out of pure coherence, because he has not perceived that faith in Christ can give fullness to his life.
Post-Confirmation is a response of the Neocatechumenal Way to the challenge of transmitting the faith to adolescents. This pastoral is a service open to all the young people of the parish, who after receiving confirmation in 1st of ESO (high school), begin an itinerary in small groups to grow in a personal experience of faith.
Each group is assigned a couple, whom we call "godparents," who will be responsible for helping them grow and live in the faith of the Church. Why a couple? Because teenagers are saturated with words; if anything truly attracts them, it is the gratuitous love of a man and a woman who witness to the truth of God.
Godparents open their home to them, share dinner with their children, take them home and this gradually makes them feel loved. As Dostoevsky said, "beauty will save the world"In this case, the beauty of the Christian family is capable of saving adolescents. When young people are touched by an experience of love made flesh that is placed at their service, a relationship of trust is created that allows an intimacy to talk and listen. The family is joined by the figure of the priest who accompanies the group, attending and presiding over the meetings whenever he can.
In the Virgen de la Paloma parish we currently have 13 post-confirmation groups, and I can say that it is turning out to be a fantastic experience. The young people discover, throughout a 6-year program, the richness of the 10 commandments as ways of life, and they learn that there are seven adversaries who want to destroy the image of God in them: pride, envy, anger, greed, lust, laziness and gluttony. There is a spiritual battle that Christ has won for them, and they are taught how to fight back by discovering the power of the cardinal and theological virtues in the Christian's life and how they can extend the Kingdom of God through the 14 works of mercy.
It is impressive to see the power of the Word of God in their lives, which makes them discover that to be Christians is to live in the grace of a God who takes the initiative, and who in Christ makes a covenant with us. When they scrutinize, or especially in the summer camp where they receive a word for the whole year, we contemplate how a change is taking place in them by grace and not by mere moralism. The Word helps them to be able to ask their parents for forgiveness, to know how to say no to their friends when they need to, to get up when they stumble and to get out of difficult situations.
In the summer camp we do a nightly rosary at 4:00 a.m. that concludes with a Eucharist at dawn on top of a mountain. Many speak of how in the silence and darkness of the night they have a profound experience of that God hidden and manifested in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. It is a moment in which the children can pray and find the peace that they have not had during the whole course. This camp helps them a lot to start the summer by putting God in the middle of their vacations.
One great thing is that not only does it help all the young people in the parish, but many others, far from the faith, join the groups out of friendship and discover the treasure of seeing God's love in their lives. Some have not been confirmed, others have not made their first communion or even been baptized.
This pastoral takes place in some parishes where the Neocatechumenal Way is present on Friday afternoons, and is structured in 4 celebrations.
The first meeting is held at the home of the sponsors, where the topic to be discussed at the next meetings is presented and the young people can speak freely about what they and their environment think about it.
In the second meeting, the theme in question is illuminated in the light of the Word through a scrutiny of the biblical text, which ends with a sharing of what this Word says in the concrete life of each young person. This meeting ends with a small agape to foster communion among the young people and with the sponsors.
The third meeting, which is held in the parish, the presbyter discusses the theme with the Magisterium and Tradition of the Church, followed by a penitential act and concludes again with an agape.
In the fourth and last meeting, the theme that has been deepened is sealed, sharing the experience received throughout the month, and a special dinner is held, called Covenant, in which each boy accepts that the Grace of God fulfills in him the word that has been dealt with.
Finally, after the six years of post-confirmation, a pilgrimage is made with the parish priest, as an act of thanksgiving and blessing to God for so many gifts received. Three vocations are presented: religious life, receiving the experience of a consecrated woman; the priesthood, with the testimony of a seminarian; and marriage, deepening the experience of the godparents.