Saturday, January 11, 2014

Spiritual Accompaniment of Young People, Possibility to Live Life as Project; A Reflection, by Lual James-sdb


While young people in the past may have had to walk to school uphill in the snow or in the long distances, the obstacles today's young people are presented with are no easy either, and they reflect the sociality of our times. Intense media saturation, online predators, fear of terrorism, drugs, depression, and peer pressure are just a few of the hurdles young people regularly face. The result is some young people are likely to go through life without knowing their principal and specific objectives in life. In Reality Life is determined by the Choices We Make, Not by Chance. The decisions young people make today can affect their life today and for years to come. If the situation is left without change, it is likely to have negative on young people and their future. Due to the lack of proper understanding of principles and specific objectives in life, they may end up in confusion of distribution of time and resources. If there is spiritual and educative intervention to enable them understand their principal and specific objectives in life, then the situation will be likely different. Therefore, we propose spiritual accompaniment for young people as a possible means which can offer them possibilities to live their lives as project. In this reflection we argue that life is determined by the choices we make daily and not by accident or chance. This mean spiritual accompaniment should help young people understand life as a project which can be realized through daily choices. The reflection is divided into three points namely, choice in our lives, identification of principle and specific objectives and conclusion with some proposals of how to live life as project.


Professor Emanuel Garcia in his class notes, (English translation by me) has given an explanation of youth spiritual accompaniment as "helping them to discover and experience Jesus as the unifying center of their existence and as an option key that guides their choice of vocation". he goes ahead to notice that tuning of the ways of life of young people with Gospel will take time because it is a process of gradual integration of the factors that influence and determine the path of human growth. Hence, in my opinion, spiritual accompaniment first is to help young people discover that life project is made of up of choices. A choice can be define as mental process which helps us to judge and analyze from multiple options and selecting one of them based on preference. Each day offers us opportunity to participate in the process of development of our personalities though various options for instance:

* What should I wear today?

* What should I have for my breakfast?

* Whom to have as my life partner?

* What vocation I wish to pursue in life?

* What do I want out of life?

* What kind of person do I want to be?

The Truth is small or big, our choices work together to order our days, define our personalities and largely determine our levels of happiness and fulfilment. Strangely enough ,(most of the times, it is the little choices) are specific objectives that get more than their share of our times and attention, while the most fundamental choices, the ones that matter most (principles objectives), the ones that could make biggest difference in our lives, get little attention. It is possible someone now a days, because of means of communication, transportation, social networking could go through life without asking the big questions about principle objectives, but the problem with such a way of life is likely to end up in disappointment. In the law of the success it says: "if you do not know where you are going, you will end somewhere else". One may end up somewhere (in place, in position, in career) one does not even wish to, but because of the fact that one has no other direction. Again we see the relevance of the explanation of Garcia for spiritual accompaniment which emphasizes the experienced Jesus as the unifying center of young people's existence and guidance for their choice of vocation" , Hence to enable them to discover their principle and specific life objectives.


By principle objectives we mean spiritual aspects of life, regarding our origin, holiness, vocation and mission, while specific objectives refer to the things which can help us grow in our vocation, be more effective in our vocation like qualification, relationships, daily choices etc. Today some of the challenges facing young people include the tendency to measure or grade the success in life by the size of one's wealth or possessions, by one's accomplishments or fame, educational degrees, and position or power. Unfortunately, even some Christians are also sometimes tempted to view success in terms of these temporal realities that are of specific objectives ignoring the things that are of enduring value that are part of principle objectives, but by doing they are likely to end up in disappointment, explains Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium I quote:

"Although it sounds obvious, spiritual accompaniment must lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom. Some people think they are free if they can avoid God; they fail to see that they remain existentially orphaned, helpless, and homeless. They cease being pilgrims and become drifters, flitting around themselves and never getting anywhere. To accompany them would be counterproductive if it became a sort of therapy supporting their self-absorption and ceased to be a pilgrimage with Christ to the Father."(170)

In my opinion on one hand, a good spiritual accompaniment should be able to help young people discover their principle and specific objectives and on the other hand, a holistic spiritual accompaniment should empower young people with the wisdom that they need to integrate the two principle objectives.

In fact, in the social teaching of the Catholic Church any superficial kind of development which aims merely at the fulfilling of basic needs, such as food and shelter is rejected and basis on human solidarity, it argues that all people should be involved in the integral and authentic development of all. Hence, in this sense development, should give attention to economic justice, ecological sustainability, and other values including spiritual development. Therefore, the role of spiritual accompaniment is to help young people understand that both objectives namely principle and specific are important and any choice they make should enable them integrate the two objectives to seek and develop a character that would fit their lives vocation.


In the previous discussion we have realized that the ability to choose is an amazing powerful gift we possess and we sometimes do not realize or take advantage of in our lives we have also realized the important role which spiritual accompaniment has to help young people discover their principle and specific objectives. Now spiritual accompaniment need to help young people identify their fundamental choice or option in life. By fundamental choice we mean that choice which is wider or broader in scope. We are not talking about choices to do a particular kind of action, like swearing falsely or giving alms to a poor man; rather, we are concerned with the ordering of whole lives to all that is good, and to God.

Last year during my holiday experience with young people in North Italy I probed some questions to young people to identify some of the most important things in their lives. Their answers included their faith or religion, education, family, health, relationship, friends, job opportunities, and their reputation. I am sure many of us today can still identify themselves with the above mentioned answers, I am also sure most Christians, especially young people, can identify with the above standard responses. But in an effort to probe a little further into what some of my Facebook friends list really valued in life, I asked them this questions: "If your home or dormitory were on fire, what items you would rescue before exiting? Again the answers which I got were as follows: their passports, wallets, credit cards, computers, document files, cell-phones, and etc. I am not sure what would our answers and what we would add to that list; however, those items tell us about the things we truly value in life. They are the things we hold dear, the things we consider essential to our happiness, living, and security. They are our treasures, and our treasures determine our priorities. They reveal our true ambitions, our attractions, and our affections.

In the gospel of St. Mathew for example, we find the parable of the Hidden Treasure and it goes like this, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field (Mt 13:45-46). The Parable is very straightforward. Man stubbles upon a treasure he decides to hide it and then sells everything so that he can afford to buy the field. There can be various interpretations of this parable.

The most common interpretation is that each of us (young person) is the man in the field and the hidden treasure in the parable is the Kingdom of Heaven (fundamental choice), that means we (young people) are so willing to have the Kingdom of Heaven to the extent that we (young person) sell everything we (they) have and buy the land just to have the treasure.Now let us take it literally, how many people have probably seen the pearl/treasure, but they did not know the value of the pearl or treasure. The treasure has been found and many wish or want to have it now, but they can't, they can't buy it because of the simple fact that they have no enough resources or money to buy it; they have spent their resources/wealth for lesser things in life.

Spiritual accompaniment should help young people discover their fundamental choices in life, a choice which deserves their sacrifices of lesser values so that they may be able to have full attention to this kingdom or treasures of heaven. By the kingdom of heaven it intends, "the glad recognition of God's rule over heart and life, including salvation for the present and for the future, for soul and ultimately also for the body, the great privilege of being thereby made a blessing to others to the glory of God, all this, is a treasure so inestimably precious that one who obtains it is willing to surrender for it whatever could interfere with having it."


Throughout this reflection we attempted to explain the vital role that spiritual accompaniment has to help young people to discover and experience Jesus as the unifying center of their existence and as an option key that guides their choice of vocation. Each day in our lives we are offered opportunity to participate in the process of making and development of our personalities. While we are free to choose our response, we are not free to choose the results and the consequences. The truth is that small or big, our choices work together to order days, define our personalities and largely determine our levels of happiness and fulfilment. Therefore, good spiritual accompaniment empowers young people with wisdom. This helps them to discover that life project is made of up of choices; to help them to know and integrate their principle and specific objectives and holistic spiritual accompaniment should help young people discover their fundamental choice or Treasure that deserves their sacrifices of other lesser values.

I also acknowledge the limitations of this reflection specially not everything is possible saying on the topic has been said due to limitation of time, language, wideness of the topic, however, this reflection is a unique contribution that can also be a starting point for those wish to have a deeper understanding of the fields.


FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today's World, Vatican City, libreria editrice vaticana, 2013

Jes s M.Garc a, Spiritual accompaniment of young: framework, Rome, UPS, 2013.P.1

Paul VI, Populorum Progressio ,"The Progress of Peoples" (1967), paragraph 14

Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Director, Spiritual Companion: Guide to Tending the Soul, New York, Paulist Press, 2001,
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