The real power of Christus Vivit five years on

By Sebastian Duhau, 17 June 2024
Young people of the Diocese are seen during LIFTED Live in the Forecourt: Bridge to the Synod at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, in October 2023. Image: Alphonsus Fok/Diocese of Parramatta


This year marks five years since Pope Francis’ letter to young people and the entire Church, Christus Vivit. It seems pertinent, at this time, therefore, to reflect on my experience at the Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, the gathering which Christus Vivit was written in response to.

In October 2018, I was given the privilege of representing the young people of Australia as an auditor at the Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment. I was one of 30 young people globally given this opportunity, and it’s an  opportunity that, to this day, has shaped the way that I see, experience, and understand Church.

I vividly remember the first day of the Synod. As I, and each of the Synod members entered the audience hall, Pope Francis stood at the entryway, greeting each member personally. In this simple but meaningful gesture, I was prompted immediately to think about how I welcome people into my own community. Do I stand at the door, ready and eager to meet all those who enter, or do I distance myself from anyone unfamiliar to me? As the Synod began, so too did the challenges that it presented.

As a young person, my voice was important, but vastly outnumbered and lacking authority. As an Australian, my experiences of Church and my perspectives about what really mattered were a very small part of a very rich tapestry. As a human being, I could only speak from my own lived experience, while acknowledging that my lived experience would not even adequately represent a fraction of my own community.

Through this lens, the Synod presented an opportunity to heed Pope Francis’ invitation to “listen to the Spirit” and to allow the Synod to inform me, rather than the other way around. Learning about people’s contexts, stories, and realities, was as important as learning the Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris (Working Document), and forming community was as important as forming modi (amendments) for that document. When this happened, the entire experience of the Synod shifted.

As young people, we were united through our shared priorities and experiences, and 30 individual murmurs became one powerful voice, advocating for young people everywhere and breathing new wisdom, energy, and joy into our collective space. Frustrating arguments in small groups were replaced by authentic dialogue, and a genuine desire to find common ground. The notion of speaking from ‘my own lived experiences’ became a reminder of the countless people, perspectives, stories and lives I’d encountered through those experiences, each which influenced who I was, and how I might enter into the Synod experience.

Sebastian Duhau (third right) with Synod auditors following the Canonisation Mass of Pope Paul VI, Archbishop Óscar Romero, and several other saints at St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, in October 2018. Image: Supplied.

This experience shaped the way in which I live my faith, and more than five years after the Synod, the lessons learnt throughout this experience are as valuable as ever. The image of standing at the door, welcoming all those who enter, is a powerful one; the story of the Prodigal Son shows us that.

Right now, though, simply standing at the door isn’t good enough. Rather, how are we going outside of our communities and comfort zones, actively meeting those on the margins where they are, and letting them know that they have a home in our Church?  

The invitation to listen to the Spirit in our daily lives is equally as powerful, and arguably even more relevant. How are we creating opportunities to engage in authentic dialogue with those around us, and allowing the Spirit to flow through that dialogue? How are we approaching our day-to-day interactions with those around us? With assumptions, pre-conceived notions and pre-determined outcomes, or with open minds and open hearts? How are we allowing the Holy Spirit to shape us and change us through our encounters with the Christ present in each person we encounter?

The Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, and in turn Christus Vivit, continues to serve as an invitation to the entire Church to go beyond its walls, to welcome all people, to value the wisdom of both young and old, to embrace humility, and to do all of this synodally, while walking alongside each other both within our local faith communities, and as the body of Christ.

Recently, Sebastian spoke with young people across our Diocese on the impact of Christus Vivit on their lives in youth ministry. You can watch clips from the conversation featuring Andrew from St John XXIII Parish, Stanhope Gardens, Zain from St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong and Qwayne Guevara, Manager – Catholic Youth Parramatta.

Sebastian Duhau is a MET Facilitator – Catholic Youth Parramatta, part of the Mission Enhancement Team of the Diocese of Parramatta.

This article was originally published in the 2024 Ordinary Time | Winter edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


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