The Pope Has Written To Me

By Sr Sophie Boffa csfn, 30 December 2019
Sr Sophie Boffa csfn (right) poses for a photograph with fellow sisters Sr Paula Volchek and Sr Cristina Ramada at the second Australian Catholic Youth Festival formation session for the Diocese of Parramatta. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta.


This year, Pope Francis released a post-synodal exhortation called Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive).

Half the words in that sentence are not ordinary words or don’t make sense to many people, so let me backtrack even further.

In 2018, bishops from all around the world met to discuss a very important issue: young people, faith and vocational discernment.

Christus Vivit was written as a result of that meeting, and it’s sort of a way that people who weren’t at that meeting of bishops (so, most people) could know what happened and what the bishops and the pope in particular are saying to them and, in a special way, to young people.

As a young person I was very excited by this document. It was sort of like a breath of fresh air in my spiritual life. Why? My lifestyle isn’t the typical lifestyle of a young person. First off, I’m a religious sister and, well, most young women aren’t. Second, all those with whom I live and work each day are older – sometimes much older – than me.

RELATED: Profession of First Vows by Sr Mary Sophie Boffa CSFN

These things have meant I’ve needed to become more mature and able to relate to people of a different generation, and while I consider my lifestyle, my ministry and the people surrounding me to be such wonderful and incredible blessings, the nature of these things means that I don’t always recognise or embrace my youthfulness.

To know that the Pope had taken the time to write to young people – to me! – and that young people are important to him was so heart-warming. I read the entire document and really enjoyed it.

While I could give a list of comments as to why I really liked Christus Vivit, I also want to encourage you to read it for yourselves. These are just some reasons why I think people – especially young, Catholic people – should read this document.

  1. The Pope identifies Jesus as young. Mind officially blown. Okay, I know Jesus was born and grew up in a family just like everyone else, but it didn’t really hit me that he was ALWAYS a young person. He died around the age of thirty (hello, still young), but I don’t know, his age is just something I never paid much attention to. Actually recognising that Jesus was and still is young enriches me and brings me into closer relationship with him. This helps me to see more clearly that Jesus’ ambitions, dreams and hopes, while those of God, were also those of a young man…his youthful dreams are the dreams of my youth, too.
  2. Involvement of young people. Sometimes young Catholics have expressed disappointment at “not having a voice”, “being ignored”, or being overlooked as collaborators or contributors. When I read Christus Vivit, I felt like the Pope had just put some of my own feelings and thoughts into words. This isn’t a document written TO young people by someone who is not young. It’s written TO young people with the influence of young people. As I read, it really felt like the Pope and Bishops had spent a lot of time consulting young people on things like sexuality, digital media and technologies, vocation, decision-making, and the future of the Church. All of these areas are personally relevant and of importance to me, and so when I read about them I felt valued and heard.
  3. Straight-up doctrine. Okay, for me the heart of the document is chapter 4. I read it and just thought to myself, “Hey, I really needed to hear that”. So what goes on in this chapter 4? Well, the Pope lays down the heart of the matter. God loves you and you are important to Him. Christ saves you. Christ is alive. And the Spirit of life is present. So what I “really needed to hear” is really the foundation stone of my faith. It’s kind of funny how the things we most need sometimes are the most “essential” or “basic”.

Now, I’m not saying you have to jump into Christus Vivit and read it this weekend. But maybe if you’re young and feeling a bit bombarded, confused, disillusioned or unsure, especially as far as faith or the Church is concerned, you might think about picking up the document…at least to check out chapter four.

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Sr Sophie Boffa csfn is a Junior Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth.


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