Année pour Dieu ? Father Vincent Breynaert, director of The National Service for the Evangelization of Young People and Vocations in France (SNEJV) and a priest of the Chemin Neuf Community, came to Hautecombe Discipleship School to teach for a week on Church History.
On this occasion, we took advantage of his presence to ask him “why take a year for God”?

I’m going to choose 3 reasons that seem so important today, and that also take up the invitations of Pope Francis in his exhortation to all young people Christus Vivit.

The hope of young Christians

The first reason is : to be able to give an account of the Hope that is in us and to know this hope, to know the faith that structures us. The first reason to take a year for God is to take time to get to know God, to form ourselves around the word of God in particular. Most of us are lucky enough to be educated at university for 2, 3, 5 or even 7 years sometimes, and we learn exciting things that will serve us for the rest of our lives. How much more necessary it is to know the word of God, to know our faith, to know elements of our theology, to know our history in the Church. Very often we realise, as Christian young adults, that we are sometimes ignorant of this or that element of the Word of God, of our faith. To take a year for God is to take an authentic moment of human and intellectual formation by discovering more of the richness of the word of God and of our tradition.

Asking the right questions during a year for God

A second reason that seems so important to me, at a time when our lives are sometimes accelerating, is the space to ask ourselves the right questions for our lives. Pope Francis tells us that there is a risk sometimes of living on the surface of ourselves; of living by letting events, relationships follow one another and then gradually life unfolds but we have not taken the time to reflect authentically on ourselves, on what we want, to listen to our desires, and to respond to our deepest vocation.

Taking a year for God is a space of interiority and freedom where we have time to reflect on what we want to do with our lives in the light of God’s word. John Paul II said that youth is the time when we make choices that will guide the rest of our lives. John Paul II said that youth is the time when we make choices that will guide the rest of our lives.

And it is worth taking a few months, a year, to put ourselves in prayer, to listen to this voice that works within us… Very often in the daily life of a student or a young professional, we don’t have the time! We are caught up in the succession of activities and events; in a year for God, we suddenly have time to pray, to reflect, to read and to listen to the will of God.

Community life during a year for God

The third reason is the path of fraternal life. We are never Christians on our own, and we are probably experiencing this even more today. We need to make good friendships with others, and in fraternal relationships we discover more about ourselves. A year for God is not a hermit’s year!

It is a year in which we walk with other Christians, other disciples who will also allow each of us to discover who we are, it is an experience of fraternal life, of self-giving, of sharing, of transparency, of reconciliation and of acceptance of the other in his or her differences, sometimes in a different denominational path, and thus together we approach more truth and also missionary impetus.

To conclude, to make a year for God is to become authentically those missionary disciples that Christ needs to announce his Good News to the world. Do you want to announce the grace of the Gospel to others, to your family, to your friends? Then take time to form yourself, to listen to the word of God that works in your heart and take time to share it with other young people with whom you will be confronted.

And then you will not become a bureaucrat, but a passionate missionary, consumed by the desire to transmit the Good News of the Gospel. So don’t hesitate to think about the year you could take. In other cultures, other countries, sometimes other denominations it is much more usual. I think that for us, especially in France, it should be much easier to free up time, it’s necessary, it’s good, and it bears much fruit.