“Young people are not an accident. They aren’t a centrepiece, or a circumstance which will fade with time. The primacy of the youth belongs to the founding grace of the Shalom Charisma”
Our Statutes tells us to pay a special attention to the youth. When we were preparing this document to present it to the Vatican, it was highly recommended that we present only what is truly important, that we not put anything that was not of top priority, of prime importance, because the Statutes needs to include aspects which will last forever. In them are directions, ideas, mentalities which make up the characteristics of the vocation, something that belongs to the founding grace.
When Moyses talks about the primacy of the youth in the Statutes, as the founder, he is recognising that the primacy of the evangelisation of the youth is part of the founding grace of the charisma. It means that without it we cannot understand the Shalom Catholic Community, the Shalom Charisma. The youth are not an accident. The youth are a part of the founding grace. They aren’t a centrepiece or a circumstance which will fade with time. The primacy of the youth belongs to the founding grace of the Shalom Charisma.
In the preamble of the Statutes it says: “Born among the youth, the Community has a special love and dedication for young people. Without neglecting the other dimensions of the discipleship, dedicate a special care to the welcoming and apostolate of the youth. The members of the Community continuously cultivate their youth ardour and frequently maintain a youthful spirit, which characterises us. The Community presents St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus as a role model and loyal intercessor during the challenging mission that is evangelising the youth”. In addition to, the youth being essential to the founding charisma, it is also the only dimension which has a patron in the Statutes. We have St. Joseph as the one who intercedes for the Divine Providence, but who is not present in the Statutes as St. Thérèse is, who’s exclusively the patron saint of the youth in the community. These facts alone would be sufficient to demonstrate that the evangelisation of the youth is at the centre of the founder’s heart, above all other other things. It would be fair to say that in the field of apostolate, of evangelisation, it is right at the top. We have an advisory service solely for the youth, we have an action programme just for them. Amongst the various apostolates, the youth’s one stands out. Among all the things we are called to be in the Community, having a youthful spirit is outstanding. To dedicate ourselves to the young belongs to our path towards holiness.
“Born among the youth…”
When we say that the Community was born among the youth and when we hear the founders biblical hermeneutics, we see that the youth play a significant role in the Community and in its history. Moyses doesn’t talk very much about the café in the Statutes, he simply sites it; however, he dedicates a whole paragraph to the youth. In all honesty, the café was only ever opened because of the youth. When the founder states “born among the youth”, it relates to a historical event, which happened on the 9th of July, 1980, it is significant to him, the same way that it is significant to him having given his life and his youth at the feet of Pope John Paul II. We could have been born among the youth for; science, for technology, for literature, for priestly vocations, to care for the elderly, for the children, but instead we were born among the youth for the youth, this has a great importance in the apostolate, which is what we know as the protagonism of the youth.
When people come to visit the Diaconia- the Community’s General Government headquarter, they are usually impressed to find out that major roles are held by young people. They are impressed to see how we entrust important tasks at the hands of young people. Nonetheless, youth is not a synonym of irresponsibility, of inability or futility or carelessness. A converted youth is a synonym for strength, of parresia – confidence, boldness, creativity, of thoroughness. There are times, depending on the institution or location that a certain suspicion is associated with the youth, but the more we place them in situations where they are asked to be protagonists, to act, to generate ideas, the better. I am not discriminating against adults, but I am showing that in the Shalom Community the youth assume the limelight of the mission, of the calling, of the evangelisation. It wasn’t by accident that the Community was born among the youth, and it is not by accident that it dedicates itself to them.
Parresia and creativity
In 1976, I worked in a foreign languages institution. All of my pupils were young people, and it was prohibited to talk about Jesus. What did I do? I resolved to using literature, used pop music, and through that I attracted people to my house. I couldn’t evangelise them in the institution, but in my house I could do whatever I wanted. Little by little, this evangelisation technique which used literature and pop music to gain people’s attention began to blossom, and God began to generate this aspect of parresia which is called creativity.
We run the risk of thinking that parresia is solely boldness, but it is also creativity, imagination. Parresia is boldness, it is creativity, and said creativity comes from love. It’s the love that makes me creative, it is this said love that anguishes me at the loss of a single sheep, a whole generation or a whole group.
Paul VI wrote a document called: Evangelii Nuntiandi (the announcement of the Gospel). The pope was worried about the exact same things as us, the need for evangelisation, we were worried about how we could make the current generation attracted to the Gospel, how to announce the Gospel using new ways and methods. The Evangelii Nuntiandi, and soon after, John Paul II talk about and reiterate the importance of evangelising with new methods, new creativity and new ardour. These are the elements of the parresia. This was the summary that John Paul II used for the word parresia when he opened the Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) of Santo Domingo, in Aperecida. The parresia has this creativity element.
“Born among the youth, the Community has a special dedication and love for them”. The parresia in our vocation assumes the disciple’s formation. The love for the young that our founder has isn’t a love made for a multitude but rather a love made for an individual. This means that in our spirituality, in our tradition, in the soul of the founder, the youth are called to evangelise other young people and to be evangelised through the discipleship, through a personal love, an individual love.
Personally, one of the toughest hardship of my journey was to no longer be able to do that for the youth, I had so many things to do that I no longer could keep up. However, to this day Moyses still does it, thank God. The youth evangelisation assumes this special dedication and love. Out founder has the discipleship as a method of excellency to evangelise the youth.
Moyses continues saying: “Without discarding the many dimensions of the discipleship, dedicate a special care in the welcoming and apostolate of the youth”. You see, Moyses doesn’t simply talk about the apostolate, he talks about both the apostolate and the welcoming. I desire and ask God that your mission is filled with thousands of young people, but I ask that these young people come to know God through the love, the dedication, the welcoming and the apostolate.
In our Shalom family we have three primacies, each being in a different domain. The first is the grace of God. The second is linked to the former; prayer. The third, is the primacy of the youth. These are the three primacies, our special dedications. A dedication to God, to prayer and to the young.
How can we establish a primacy in our lives? How can we make an aspect of our lives be the most important? How can I make God the most important thing in my life? By putting everything before God and by “spending” time with Him in prayer, in the lectio divina, in the apostolate, in communal life. But how can I establish the primacy of the youth? By doing the same things: my mind thinks about the youth, my heart loves the youth, my time belongs to the youth, my priority in my life is the youth.
I really like it when Priests say that before Mary conceived Jesus in her womb, she had conceived Jesus in her heart. During prayer is when you’ll conceive the youth in your hearts. You might encounter with them things that you have never been faced with before, neither in your family, nor in your school, nor among your friends, these are things like drugs, pornography, but you must confront them with prayer, and only through the grace of God, through penitence, and through the rosary will you overcome them, there is no other way!
There are numerous type of support and therapies, which will be necessary for some people, especially for those who have specific emotional impairments. However, with that comes a great spiritual battle which must be fought hand in hand with the young person, and you do so because that young person is worth it. Do you guys know the story of Magdalena, Madá from the Shalom Community? She was someone who everyone had given up on, but when we met her we realised: “Madá is worth it, I cannot give up on Madá.” Today she is 50 years old and is the founder of the Come Back Israel project, and God knows how many people she’s already saved from drugs, hundreds, thousands of people!
Your troublesome youngster, is the youngster who requires your prayer, your attention, your patience, your rosary, your time. That troublesome youngster is the one most worthy of it all. The primacy of the youth needs to be a primacy that comes from my heart, a primacy of my decision. I am the one who decides, and I decide in their behalf. You, who’s a part of our Shalom family, you’re called to dedicate yourself to the youth with all your heart, with all your prayer, with all your time, while at the same time being an example, an example of what a son, a student, a professional should be, but also an example of someone who dedicates themselves to the youth and is there to help them overcome any barrier.
Communicate more, give more testimonies, exchange testimony among yourselves, send each other testimonies of young people, send young people’s testimony to the Shalom magazine (Shalom Maná), send it to the Shalom portal, tweet what you can about holiness, about choosing Jesus. You guys have new tools, a creative mind and an immense love for the youth. I ask the Lord that He may establish in the life of each and everyone one of you this primacy for the youth, firstly in your hearts and in your lives. You are an evangeliser.
We do not know what will be of Brazil in the upcoming decades, and this worries me, but if we have young people who are well prepared, who are centred in Jesus, who chose the Gospel, who chose the living Jesus, we shall have a new world. Not only a new Brazil, but a new world. With the internet, you guys have the world in your hands, and because of that your objectives should be to evangelise the youth of the whole world, not only those in your cities. Get your minds thinking, your hearts loving and place your prayers in Jesus and things will work out. Thank you very much for all the effort that you guys have made, for the young people that you have brought, but above all thank you for the aching love that you have for the most troubled youth. God bless.
Maria Emmir Nogueira
Co-founder of the Shalom Catholic Community
(transcribed excerpt. Kept in the Colloquial language)
Maria Emmir Nogueira
Cofundadora da Comunidade Católica Shalom
(trecho transcrito de pregação. Mantido o tom coloquial)