Arokiaswami Alphonse. A New Paradigm for Youth Ministry Today. Bangalore: SFS, 2011. Xvi+200pp. Price 195.00 ISBN: 978-81-85376-81-3.
Arockiaswami Alphonse, MSFS holds a Licentiate in Pastoral Theology and specialization in Youth Ministry and Catechetics. He is known for his retreats and seminars for youth and the seminarians. The work under review is ‘A New Paradigm for Youth Ministry Today’. It is an attempt to draw out some of the unique qualities, attitudes and approaches of St. Francis De sales, as presented in his life and work, and to set them as a model for youth ministry in the Church today.
The book is divided into 4 chapters. Chapter one studies the youth situation, it analyses the connection of the youth with religion, mass media, authority, values and politics. The hedonistic tendencies are noted among the teenagers and young people of every major city. The mass media and politics have such an influence that “the kids are big business today and big business needs youngsters to be vulnerable for their fashions and addictions”. Education has become a product in the commercial market. The call is to realize the internal self worth to experience the true human dignity. It is very true that no one can ignore the fact that the religions have a role in the life of people. The youth in a special way look for ideals and models in the Church and in the leaders of the Church, which at time not finding upto their expectation, develops in them a negative attitude. So, the tendencies are more in them to move towards hero worship and lose their worth in themselves.
Chapter two is a short study of the life of St. Francis De Sales. It analyses his life sketch to show the impact of loving kindness and patience that he practised in his life. His spirituality of love expresses to us that “he was in love, he was born in love, he was made to love and lived for human love”. He was a model for optimism (a very important quality to work with youth) which flows form the Christian humanism (the original sin has weakened the human race but the grace of Christ restores it). He celebrated the human person as the marvel of the redeemed nature and strongly believed in the goodness of human being. The genuine relationship that he made with the other and his ability to guide the young through spiritual guidance, his growing intimacy with God, his unforgettable personal presence and his gentle, humble , friendly, encouraging, and inspiring presence made him an authentic human, a model for all spiritual guides for the ages to come.
Chapter three flashes light into the terms youth and ministry. Since 1985 after the declaration of international youth year there was a deeper understanding of the importance of youth. Church has also placed it as one of her important missions; late Pope John Paul II was very outgoing in his dealing with youth. The book understands the term ministry from the Biblical, post-apostolic and from the Second Vatican point of view. The scope of the youth ministry is broadened by the understanding of the Youth Ministry as “With Youth, By Youth, To youth and For youth”. The goal of youth ministry is to enhance the life of the young and to form them to be responsible participants in life, mission and work of the faith community. Church achieves this goal through various components such as word of God, Prayer and Worship, Community Life, Guidance and Healing, etc. Basic humanness, sound theological knowledge and the social political awareness are must for the effective functioning of the youth ministers.
Chapter four can be recognized as the core of the book. It presents St. Francis De Sales as the model for youth ministry par excellence. The chapter discusses and puts together the concepts recognised in the first and in the second chapters. The qualities of St. Francis De Sales are considered as remedies for today’s youth problems. The optimism of St. Francis De Sales helps to have a positive outlook on Youth. The Gentleness of St. Francis De Sales helps to the sensitive task of empowering the young. Acquiring the friendly nature of St. Francis De Sales helps Youth Ministers to walk with the young with a pastoral heart. St. Francis De Sales as spiritual director could be a very good model for the Youth ministers today. The author knowing the need of a model for youth presents St. Francis De Sales to all the youth as a model worthy imitation.
The book has a flow of thought and has a detailed table of contents. It also contains a very elaborate bibliography on youth ministry. The author has done a remarkable job in presenting St. Francis De Sales as a model for youth ministry. I think this work is a need of the time. I recommend this book to all youth ministers for forming themselves after the heart of St. Francis De Sales and for all youth to find a beautiful model in St. Francis De Sales to face the challenges of the time.