During the week, I was preparing a homily for the opening of the year Mass in a boy’s secondary school. Moments like this are a great opportunity to speak to young people who little by little are coming to identify with the ethos and culture of their Catholic school and are present at the Mass. When they join with the whole school community, teachers, school leadership and parents and form a community of faith, they are empowered for excellence. They stand with their individual gifts, in the common uniform of the school and shedding head phones, tablets and phones, their immense potential for goodness can be awakened.
There is so much I’d love to be able to get across to them, to reinforce what they already know, that each one of them is a precious son of God, that they are loved, cherished and admired by the God who created them and by the family, school and community that they live in. I’d like them to know that their faith is a gift and that deepening their relationship with the Lord, being true Christian disciples will make them better men. I’d love to encourage them to pray, to identify with the social teaching of the church, to feed the poor, shelter the homeless, visit those who are sick and in prison. I’d love them to be a Good Samaritan in their own community, crossing the road to connect with the wounded, the outcast, the lad with a broken heart or spirit. I would like them to be men of the Beatitudes, gentle, humble and kind. I’d love to see them tap into the gift of the Holy Spirit that they received at Confirmation, that they would have wisdom and understanding, good judgement and have a capacity for wonder and awe.
It’s a struggle for me to speak into a teenage culture. As we get older and the gap widens between our time and theirs, things change. Our young people are freer, fitter, stronger, better dressed, with endless opportunities to learn, travel and explore life. Yet they bleed, bruise and weep in similar ways to everyone who went before them. Life can have disappointments, friendships can be lost, confidence drains away and dreams shatter for them too. So, it’s important to have spiritual strength in the core of their being.
So, I tell them that being a practicing catholic, a young person with a living faith, nourished by the sacraments and joined to the community of believers, is a good life choice, one that will bring abundant blessings, and definitely make them better boyfriend material. Can you tell them the same thing, and if you meet one at Church greet them with your best smile and kindest word.