The youth are a very important and vital component of the Catholic Church. Without them, the Church has no future. The future of the Church is not in buildings and structures but in her capacity to attract and maintain young people within her ranks. A self-reliant Church is not defined by her income in money and material goods but by her capacity to pass on a mature and informed faith and especially so to the youth. And these are young people who are faithful and who love the Church and who love Jesus and his mother. In many instances, however, the church has not invested in the young people leading to them listening to the many false voices gunning for their attention.
Psalm 127:4 says, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” The youth are the children of a young Church. They are her arrows and she is the warrior in the world. Indeed, the Church in the world is referred to as the militant Church, the warrior Church!
CHURCH: Mother and Teacher.
The Church is our mother; she gives birth to us with the waters of baptism. She nurtures us through the sacraments, the Word, a community of brothers and sisters united by the waters of baptism which must and ought to be heavier than the blood of our immediate relatives.
She is also our teacher. She reveals to us the will of God, her spouse, when she teaches us on matters of Faith and Morals. Indeed, it is wrong to say, “well, the Church teaches this way regarding this issue, BUT what does God say or what would Jesus do?” To ask that question is to put Jesus in opposition to his body, the Church: “Whoever listens to you, listens to me” (Lk. 10:16).
Role One: Meet Christ.
The Church is firstly a place for you to meet Christ. It is not primarily a place to showcase our talents or make new friends even though there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is very possible to build our relationship with Christ through our talents and friends. However, meeting Christ is through the Sacraments and through spending time in adoration and worship. It is loving our neighbors and touching the wounds of the sick and the unwanted.
The Church is thus a place where we seek Holiness properly. It is easy to lie to ourselves that we are worshipping God in “spirit and in Truth” when we are alone and separated from the community. Imagine if students were left to study whatever they wanted without guidance and cooperation with other students and teachers? Everybody would come up with their own conclusions and the result would be total Chaos. The Church thus exists as the authority that Christ Himself set up so that you and I are confident that indeed what we believe and practice is True, Beautiful, and Good.
Holiness is not being obsessed with perfection. It is not an obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD as commonly known. Holiness is not a constant fear of sin and of hell. Holiness is cheerfulness in spite of suffering, a service based on love of God and neighbour, commitment to excellence in one’s personal life, thinking with the Church and not against her, receiving the sacraments constantly, and listening to the Word of God.
Role Two: To Know and to Love Christ
So, what do you do after you meet Christ? Get to know Him and to grow in love of Him. There are three important Truths that Pope Francis reminds youth in his beautiful letter to youth titled, “Christ is Alive.” Have you read it? If not, you can download it from here. The three Truths are:
God loves you: never doubt this! His memory is a heart filled with tender compassion, one that finds joy in ‘deleting’ from us every trace of evil. Try to keep still for a moment and let yourself feel his love. His love is one that has to do more with raising up than knocking down,
Christ saves you: The Lord’s love is greater than all our problems, frailties, and flaws. He forgives us and sets us free without cost.
He is alive! Jesus Christ is not simply a fine model from the distant past, Since He lives, there can be no doubt that goodness will have the upper hand in your life.
Seek every single day to believe more and more about these truths.
Role Three: Imitate the Queen.
We belong to the Kingdom of God and in every proper kingdom, there is a queen. The beautiful this is the queen is from among us! She is the bridge. Her Yes to God created a path for God to be with us: Emmanuel. Pope Francis say, “Her Yes was that of “someone willing to take a risk, ready to stake everything she had, with no more security than the certainty of knowing that she was the bearer of a promise. So, I (The Pope) ask each one of you: do you see yourselves as the bearers of a promise?” For Mary, “challenges were not a reason to say “NO.” Don’t let the challenges and the sins that you commit be a reason for you to say NO to the invitation from God.
Role Four: Finding your Value and Voice
The youth have an active role to play in the Church. The Holy Father says something very beautiful: “Young people must help to keep the Church young by daring to be different; to point to noble ideals, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, fidelity to our personal vocation, prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship.”
He goes on to say that indeed, there are many reasons that might discourage them from loving and participating in the life of the Church:
“Sexual and financial scandals; a clergy ill-prepared to engage effectively with the young; the passive role assigned to the young within the Christian community; the Church’s difficulty in explaining her doctrine and ethical positions to the society can understandably discourage the youth.”
Youth can help to change the Church from within if they have the courage, like the Queen, to find their voice. Whereas Martin Luther sought to change the Church by leaving it, we have to be like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Theresa of Avila who reformed the Church from within.
Role Five: Finding Identity and Worth
There are several areas that the youth need to be helped to integrate into themselves so that they can form a mature and responsible identity:
Intrapersonal: Physical, sexual, mental. Appreciating and taking care of your body, your sexuality, and your mental health.
Interpersonal changes: learning how to live with others without being obsessed with being liked nor being insensitive to the needs of society. Having proper role models, mature relationships, and knowing how to handle conflicts.
Critical consciousness: not fearing to question their religious beliefs not so that they may leave them but so that they may understand properly what they believe. In the same manner, being willing to question their values, actions, and moral beliefs so that they develop a healthy conviction.
Holy Obedience: this is a healthy relationship with authority where one does not cower in the face of authority but is able to show deference and assertiveness at the same time where necessary. This leads to a healthy interdependence which is a meeting point of mature dependence on others and responsible independence.
Self-concept: Develop a sense of self that is not based on money, looks, intellect, or talent but based on being the image of God.
Find their Vocation: God has a plan for you which He will never impose on you. He does not control your destiny. You do. What career do you want to pursue? What state in life do you want to commit yourself to (marriage, holy orders, consecrated life as a religious or as a single person in the world)?
Speak up: Witness against any evil that might be finding its way in the Church and in the society. Talk about it without gossiping. Exorcise the devil by truthful speech.
Role six: Reject sin – Face the Evil.
There is so much evil in society. When you are baptized, you make some promises and one of them is to reject Satan. This is how he manifests himself in the world and your commitment to reject him calls you to face these evils in your personal life and in the society and to lead to their elimination:
Abuses: sexual, crime, human trafficking, drugs and drug trafficking, profit over people.
Used to promote false ideologies: youth are being used to push political, sexual, and religious lies and exaggeration, conflict, and false beauty standards.
Exclusion: In some spaces, the voice of the youth is excluded due to their religious background, age, ethnic or due to economic reasons.
Anti-life activities: Abortions, STDs, pornography, gambling, poverty, family dysfunctions, street families, etc.
Digital and media control: resulting in impersonal and fake relationships, depression, loneliness, cyberbullying, favoring thinking alike instead of debate over different ideas, fake news, distorting sexuality, concrete reality to virtual reality migration leading youth to be unable to face real life.
Scandal and sin: by Church members, abuse of minors, condemnation, alcoholic priests, womanizing priests, financial scandals, divorces, abortions among married people, adultery, fornication, and infidelity among others.
Role Seven: Make New Paths.
Saint Oscar Romero said: “Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed, rules to be followed, or prohibitions. Seen that way, it puts us off. Christianity is a person who loved me immensely, who demands and asks for my love. Christianity is Christ.” In light of this, youth are encouraged to forge new paths in confidence that Jesus is walking with them:
Paths of Maturity: seek the Lord and keeping his Word; maintain a connection with Jesus since you will not grow happy and holy by your own efforts and intelligence alone.
Paths of fraternity: God loves the joy of young people. Build communities based on friendship and communion.
Paths of Protagonists of Change: Be sources of charity within the family, society and in politics. Social engagement and direct contact with the poor remain fundamental ways of finding or deepening one’s faith and the discernment of one’s vocation.
Paths of Courageous missionaries: witnessing everywhere to the Gospel with your own lives, which does not mean just speaking about the truth, but living it.
Role Eight: Being Rooted.
There are way too many voices today claiming to be foundations of happiness: Possessions, Pleasures, and Power/Privileges. Don’t measure blessedness with any of the above: Find meaning in suffering. Learn to Live simply. It is said that those who do not learn from their history, are condemned to repeat. With this in mind, the Vicar of Christ advises youth people to:
Listen to the elderly: This does not mean agreeing with everything they say or do. It is really a matter of being open to receiving wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Not everything that is good and beautiful is “latest or new.”
Take risks together: walking together, young and old. Roots are not anchors chaining us but a fixed point from which we can grow and meet new challenges.
Role Nine: Discern your Vocation
Vocation is a call to missionary service to others, for our life on earth reaches full stature when it becomes an offering to God through others.
This ‘being there for others’ normally has to do with two basic issues: forming a new family and working.
However, the challenges within families can discourage many from the joy of love. This is often coupled with pathetic marriage preparation.
Pope Francis advises: “It is true that you cannot live without working, and that sometimes you have to accept whatever is available, but I ask you never to give up on your dreams, never completely bury a calling, and never accept defeat.”
The vocation to consecrated life: In discerning your vocation, do not dismiss the possibility of devoting yourself to God. Why not? You can be sure that, if you do recognize and follow a call from God, there you will find complete fulfillment.
What is discernment? This is spiritual decision making… Reflecting in the presence of God. Without the wisdom of discernment, we can easily become prey to every passing trend. One’s vocation is a personal decision that others cannot make for us, it requires a certain degree of solitude and silence.
A vocation, while a gift, will undoubtedly also be demanding and one must be willing to take risks. Look for your own Eli, your guide to walk with you and to help you discover what God is calling you to be and to do and then jump! Take a leap of faith… Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament should be your go-to. Go to God before you make choice and not during consequences only!
Role Ten: Pray for Bishops, Priests, and the religious.
His Holiness, The Pope, asks young people that if they see a priest at risk because he has taken the wrong path, to have the courage to remind him of his commitment to God and to his people. Always remember to pray for them and to say good words to them. In the same vein, let us always pray for those who have been selected to minister to the Bride of Christ, for towards them, the devil has a particular harshness.
Role Eleven: Go Forth!
Evangelize: Take the Gospel and Teachings to the family.
Justice: Work for social justice: distributive (society’s obligations towards an individual), contributive (an individual’s obligation to the society), and commutative (justice between individuals).
Agents: Be agents of mercy and forgiveness.
Lead: Be at the forefront of caring for our common home and promoting a culture of dialogue and friendship.
Do: Don’t just pray, work to bring about what you pray for!
Pope Francis beautiful concludes by saying:
“Dear young people, my joyful hope is to see you keep running the race before you, outstripping all those who are slow or fearful. Keep running, “attracted by the face of Christ, whom we love so much, whom we adore in the Holy Eucharist and acknowledge in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters. The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith… And when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us. “
2020-2021 is the Year of St Joseph. He is described as:
- A beloved, tender, obedient father
- Welcoming the will of God
- A creatively courageous father, an example of love
- A father who teaches the value, dignity and joy of work
- A father “in the shadows,” centered on Mary and Jesus
Let us end with a prayer for his intercession:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil.