The Christian community and its young people

Recently, at a Sunday Mass, our pastor honored several young parishoners who had recently graduated from high-school and college.  It was a wonderful opportunity for recognition.  The graduates were affirmed by our pastor for their academic accomplishments, as well as for their participation in our parish.

In his Message for the 32nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, St John Paul II offered the following pointed advice for youth:

It is in following Jesus that youth displays all the richness of its potentiality and acquires its full meaning.
It is in following Jesus that the young discover the sense of a life lived as a gift of self, and experience the beauty and truth of growing in love.
It is in following Jesus that they feel themselves called to communion with him as living members of a single body, which is the Church.
It is in following Jesus that it will be possible for them to understand the personal call to love: in matrimony, in the consecrated life, in the ordained ministry, in the mission ad gentes.

Having established that an ongoing encounter with the living Christ should be the highest priority for youth, JP2 also offered advice for the rest of us in the Church:

What is needed today is a Church which knows how to respond to the expectations of young people. Jesus wants to enter into dialogue with them and, through his Body which is the Church, to propose the possibility of a choice which will require a commitment of their lives. As Jesus with the disciples of Emmaus, so the Church must become today the traveling companion of young people, who are often marked by confusion, resistance and contradictions, in order to announce to them the ever-astonishing “news” of the risen Christ.

This is what is needed: a Church for young people, which will know how to speak to their heart and enkindle, comfort, and inspire enthusiasm in it with the joy of the Gospel and the strength of the Eucharist; a Church which will know how to invite and to welcome the person who seeks a purpose for which to commit his whole existence; a Church which is not afraid to require much, after having given much; which does not fear asking from young people the effort of a noble and authentic adventure, such as that of the following of the Gospel.

The entire message is well worth reading, and quite challenging.  Near the conclusion, JP2 offered this brief but magnificent prayer to Our Blessed Mother for young people:

O Virgin of Nazareth,
the “yes” spoken in youth marked your
existence and it grew as did your life itself.

O Mother of Jesus,
in your free and joyful “yes”
and in your active faith so many generations
and so many educators have found inspiration
and strength for welcoming the Word of God
and for fulfilling his will.

O Teacher of life,
teach young people to pronounce the “yes”
that gives meaning to existence
and brings them to discover the hidden “name” of God
in the heart of every person.

O Queen of the Apostles, give us wise educators,
who will know how to love young people and help them grow,
guiding them to the encounter with Truth which makes one free and happy.


Effective communication

MagiIn his homily for Epiphany, Fr JN recalled the diligence with which the Magi followed the star.  He pointed out that the star in our lives is Jesus, and that we should each have a personal relationship with Jesus evidenced by our lives of prayer and service to others.  I was elated to hear such a clear Christocentric challenge (Thank you, Father!).  However, I also recalled a time when such words would have been meaningless to me.  As a lukewarm (or less) Catholic in my early 20’s, those words would have gone in one ear and out the other.  I was not seeking the Lord at that time.  I was filling my life with my own selfish pursuits.  I’m sure there were some Catholics at this Mass who are just like I was back then.  In communicating to the Magi, God used a language that they (wise men; astrologers) could readily understand — the star.  When I had the renewal experience which led to my personal encounter with Jesus, it changed my hearing.  Words which were previously meaningless to me were now filled with meaning and challenge.  Fr JN’s words were clear and simple.  They were quite possibly the ideal words to use.  The question is:  How can we best help people to open their hearts more to God, so that such clear and simple words prove to be inspiring and motivating to them, instead of being largely ignored by them?