Hope and Perseverance: Christus Vivit five years on

By Tiziana Campisi, 14 April 2024
Young people are seen embracing during the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. Image: Bárbara Vitória/JMJ 2023


Five years after the publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on young people, Vatican News speaks to a participant in the 2018 Synod that inspired it.

Among the hundreds of bishops gathered for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2018, which was dedicated to the theme “Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” there were 34 young people invited as auditors.

One of them was Briana Santiago, originally from Texas, who at the time of the Synod was in her fifth year of formation in the community of consecrated “Apostles of Interior Life”.

Today, at thirty-two, she is involved in the activities of that community, established in 1991 to address spiritual poverty through an apostolate focused on evangelization and spiritual formation.

She told Vatican News about how the Apostolic Exhortation inspires her daily life:

The following transcript has been lightly edited for brevity

You took part in the 2018 Synod on Young People. What can you tell us about that experience and what did you learn?

I think when you come from one specific culture, to be in a room with 300 other people – between the Synod Fathers and the 32 of us young people who come from completely different backgrounds and experiences and stories and needs – it completely opens up your horizons, and you see that we are part of a complete body of Christ.

There was a pre-synodal meeting a year before, and meeting all of the young people there of different faiths and backgrounds, and then the Synod itself, with all of the richness there and being able to discuss things together and arrive together at – I truly believe – something inspired by the Holy Spirit himself. And then there was the post-Synod encounter, which was called the International Youth Forum, where we were able to take those fruits and say, “OK, how do we apply this? How can I live this in my diocese? How can I live this in my parish? How can I live this in the job that I have in the world? And how can I bring Jesus there?”
So there was such a richness in being able to experience all three of those moments as the synodal process continued and to being able to see where the Spirit was inspiring us to move towards young people today.


What was the lasting impact of the synod on you?

There were so many different ones! There was the human formation, from having so many different cultures and different people and different needs together in one place. But I think also just personally being able to say, ”This is where I need to give my life as a consecrated person. This is how I can be close to young people today and an offer to them the experience that I have in my own charism.” My community’s name is ‘The Apostles of the Interior Life’, and I realised I need to encounter young people in the Church today in a certain way. It’s not just my idea, but it’s something that is now enriched by all of the stories that I heard over this experience of the Synod from people literally all over the world.

So for me personally, a big fruit was just being able to experience that and to learn from other people and then make it my own in a way. How can I bring God to young people today who are very different from young people 50 years ago, and even from young people five years ago, when the Synod itself was happening? What can I do today for them?

Another big fruit for me was that it didn’t end with the Synod itself. All of us auditors of the Synod created a WhatsApp group and in that WhatsApp group we send each other updates or ideas or apostolate or updates when we get married. When I was consecrated, I sent the link to watch the live stream of my consecration, and we ask for prayers, and we ask on how everybody is doing.

So even this communication continues, the fruit of that synod, it is still very present in our lives and we’re trying to bring that out into the world still to this day.


What parts of Christus Vivit are the most meaningful for you?

I’ll start with paragraph 112, which is part of chapter 4, and it has a message for all young people: “The very first truth I would tell each of you is this, God loves you.” I think in everything that we do and every way that we try to bring Christ to the world that we have to start here. We have to start with the fact that God loves each and every one of the young people that we encounter, regardless of where they are in their story. And I think that’s a beautiful thing to start with, not with what they’re doing wrong in their life or if they have faith or not, but that God loves them where they are.

And then also Paragraph 178: “Dear young friends, don’t wait until tomorrow to contribute your energy, your audacity, and your creativity to changing our world.” So basically: Yes, we need your energy, we need your audacity, and we need your creativity to change the world. Don’t wait. We need you now. I think it’s such a beautiful thing to keep in mind.

For me personally, one of the paragraphs that’s almost kind of an examination of conscience for me is 246, which talks about what the qualities of a spiritual director or a mentor need to be for the young people today. And as someone who in my own apostolate frequently does spiritual accompaniment, to even recognize, yes, young people want me to be in contact with my own humanity and to recognize that I make mistakes, but that I can be forgiven. What a beautiful thing to remember in my own apostolate.

And for the young people of today, I think there are two words that I’d want to bring up: hope and perseverance. I think it’s very common that young people are tempted to lose hope, saying that things will never change, that the Church will never be updated, that they’ll never have faith, or enough of it. But God says, no, don’t lose your hope because I’m here, I’m present, I love you. God loves us, and there always will be this love.

So we have the World Youth Day coming up in Seoul, this beautiful communion that we have between brothers and sisters in Christ with millions of them present. How do you not lose that hope after it’s over? Well, by persevering day by day and saying, “I know God is present here and I know things will change.”

With thanks to Vatican News and Tiziana Campisi, where this article originally appeared.


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