Young People of Holy Cross, I'm Talking to you!

All, from least to greatest [and from youngest to oldest], shall know me, says the LORD
— Jeremiah 31:34

I admit that a bulletin article is not the hippest mode of communication, but I’m hoping against hope that these words will receive a hearing by at least some of the young people in our midst. Certainly our ‘older folk’ are welcome to listen in and pass this article along to young people in their lives. I still am close enough to my own youth to feel the urge to share some words of encouragement as spring approaches and with it the end of another school year.

One of the defining moments of my life was making a deliberate decision to follow Christ. For me it wasn’t made at one single moment but little by little as I decided that I didn’t want to be duplicitous, hypocritical or carefree in my approach to faith. I saw plenty around me who energetically attended youth group but when back at school they simply fell in line with the conventions of worldly ways of living. I had a sense that faith called forth a more total response especially by ‘swimming against the tide’ of peer pressure and the latest fads.

It is not easy to be a young person in today’s world but have no doubt, there are extraordinary graces being offered to you. Standing up for Christ and for what is right may seem scary but it is also exhilarating. Don’t we naturally look for ways to stand out in the crowd? Why not by fervent belief? Pope Benedict once said, “Today more than ever, the Christian must be aware that he belongs to a minority…” Or as my favorite writer GK Chesterton said, “Right is right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it...” We are called to break the conventions by keeping God’s Commandments!

I would like to share a verse from scripture that has long inspired me: “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). I believe that wholeheartedly! You have a real contribution to make to our parish, your schools and our world. In many ways you already make that contribution but I want to challenge you as well.

Come to Mass every Sunday. Sounds radical, doesn’t it? Even when the ‘going gets busy,’ don’t let Mass slide—you need spiritual strength to survive. Read the lives of the saints (they are anything but dull!); find a good book about the Catholic Faith that answers the questions you have; read the bible a few minutes each day; get to confession and discover the joyful freedom of being forgiven. There is a great deal you can do individually but you also need friendships with others who are serious about their faith.

Going forward, we are making active efforts to provide opportunities for our young people, especially of middle school and high school age to engage in your faith. We are teaming up with our neighbors at St. Charles Borromeo for Totus Tuus this summer to offer an excellent week for youth of all ages to discover the joy of Catholicism. I can’t recommend it enough. We also have some young people attending various summer camps including Extreme Faith Camp and Camp Veritas. We will also have a series of Saturday evening youth nights throughout the summer months that could perhaps form the basis of a youth group here in Northeast going forward.

Holy Week is approaching, but sadly it often gets treated like just any other week. Our culture gives much more emphasis to Spring Break than it does to Holy Week, but perhaps this Holy Week can be a time to make your  faith more real and personal. When I was in high school, I first began to take Holy Week seriously and discovered by attending the Triduum what Christ had died to give me. Consider coming, especially if you have never seen what the Triduum is all about. The liturgy allows us to participate deeply in these central mysteries of our faith.

More than twenty of our young people will be confirmed at the Basilica of St. Mary on Tuesday, April 17th. The Sacrament of Confirmation entails a commissioning to live boldly for Christ. This means a lifelong commitment to keep learning about Catholicism. We are looking at organizing a summer faith study for young people wanting to deepen their knowledge. If you are not yet involved, consider becoming a lector, an usher, a musician/singer or an altar server. You can get in touch with Jordan Monson if any of these liturgical roles interest you. If you are already involved, thank you for your service and consider trying something new. Remember that it is not only in church that you are called to witness to Christ but also at school, on the sports field and among friends. If not you, then who?

I realize that there are intense demands on your time. This summer and the next school year will bring opportunities to grow in countless dimensions of your lives. But I hope that this includes spiritual growth in the knowledge and practice of your Catholic faith. Decide today not to remain a spiritual infant, crawling about. I pray that you will have the courage to take up Jesus on His invitation to become His disciple:

If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. I say to you dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ - and you will find true life.”
— Pope Benedict XVI

These words are not just pious mumbo-jumbo, they are true, but you’ll never know if you never try.            

-Fr. Howe