Yesterday the Vatican released a new apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis entitled Christus Vivit (Christ lives). This exhortation came out of the Vatican’s Synod on the Youth that took place in October 2018, and is primarily directed toward young people.
The title of the document comes from the first paragraph, in which Pope Francis says, “Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life. The very first words, then, that I would like to say to every young Christian are these: Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!”
On the day of its release, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ took some time during St. Joseph’s Workshop to give an overview of the document and highlight some of its most important parts.
He said, “My first impression upon reading it was it reads less like a papal document and more like a very pastoral letter. It’s an apostolic exhortation, you’re probably aware, so it’s a document that’s meant to exhort the faithful. But this one is rather unique, rather interesting in its approach, since it is directed at youth. And since it’s based on the working document that came out of that synod, it uses some rather unique language.”
Fr. Matthew pointed out that Christus Vivit is likely the first papal document to include the word ‘cyborg’ in it, but he also addressed Pope Francis’ use of the term ‘influencer of God’ when referring to Mary. This term elicited some criticism as it was taken as comparing Mary, the Mother of God, to Instagram models.
Fr. Matthew responded to this criticism saying, “To me, I think what this makes clear is who the target audience of this document is. It’s not theologians working in universities, this is really directed toward youth. Pope Francis, in the first few paragraphs, underlined that point and said this letter is meant for the youth of our time. And yes, he said, this also has lessons for others of many ages and all different cultures. But principally he’s trying to speak to youth. He knows the vocab of the youth, or maybe he’s at least trying to communicate these Gospel values in that way. So I don’t fault him for that.”
Fr. Matthew also pointed out some parts of the document that stood out to him in a particularly positive way. He said that Pope Francis’ emphasis on the Eucharist, on the sacraments, and on the love that God has for each and every person were messages that the youth of our time especially need to hear.
Fr. Matthew also reflected on how the lives of the saints had a powerful influence in his life, and he appreciated the time that Pope Francis devoted to the examples of the saints as models for living a holy life, no matter your age or background.
“There are some beautiful things inside this document,” Fr. Matthew said. “Within the span of maybe 20 paragraphs Pope Francis mentions a dozen saints, at least, as models and examples for youth. And they’re really lots of different saints from lots of different backgrounds, though many of them quite young.”
“This is something that you and I have benefited from,” he continued. “And our young people, the sooner they start looking to the saints, the sooner they start to learn from the saints in their own lives, to learn how to be holy in the many different ways that God calls us to holiness, the sooner we ourselves are going to find the path that God wants for us. … Overall, I think it’s a beautiful document that youth ministers and youth can read and profit from quite a bit.”
Listen to the full reflection below: