05 Editorial - The Art of Listening and of Accompaniment

posted Jan 25, 2018, 9:54 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 25, 2018, 10:30 AM ]
At the start of every year, the Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco gives the Salesian Family a Strenna (literally, a gift), which gives the Salesian Family a direction and focus for that year. This is a tradition that dates to our Founder - Don Bosco.

Strenna 2018 of the Rector Major, Fr Angel Fernandez Artime, is: "Let us cultivate the art of listening and of accompaniment." He has chosen this guiding theme in view of the forthcoming XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment".

Listening—Fr Artime reminds us—is an art, and is more than hearing. It is an openness of heart which makes possible the closeness that is a prerequisite for a genuine spiritual encounter. It must lead us to an understanding of the needs of today's young people and of the people we encounter. Young people face conflicts, doubts, problems and tensions, and need to make life-changing decisions; they will approach us when we make the first move, when they perceive our availability to, and interest in, them. These young people, who belong to an over-connected generation dominated by technology, yearn for persons who can express empathy, and offer them support and encouragement, but without making them feel they are being judged.

How should we accompany young people? We need to accompany them as Jesus did! Fr Artime asserts that the following are necessary in every act of accompaniment: a) a loving gaze (like the one of Jesus in the call of the first disciples; John 1:35-51); b) an authoritative word (as the one Jesus pronounced in the Capernaum synagogue; Luke 4:32); c) becoming a neighbour (like Jesus in the encounter with the Samaritan woman; John 4:3ff); d) becoming a companion on the way (like Jesus with the disciples of Emmaus; Luke 24:13-35).

Fr Artime insists that accompanying young people should be a joyful accompaniment. He writes: "Young people who dream of living their Christian life in an authentic way and who wonder what God wants from them, want to see our enthusiasm and want to experience it personally… This is possible when we ourselves—young people, adults, fathers and mothers who are in search—have lived the experience of the encounter of the Lord with us. And that experience must be translated into the joy of living, into the optimism with which we meet every day, into the serene courage with which we face problems and difficult times. There is nothing further away from God who fills life than an existence marked by disappointment, without vivacity, demotivated."

A sociologist, interviewing juvenile delinquents, asked them: "Is there anything you needed most and could not get?" Their response, invariably preceded by sadness and tears, was unanimous: "What I needed most was someone to listen to me. Someone who cared enough to listen to me." May you and I be that 'someone'!

Fr Godfrey D'Souza is SDB Provincial, Salesian Province of Bombay.