I hope that you are enjoying the summer and that you have time to “get away from it all” at the beach, in the mountains or on a river. Summer is a great time for weddings and vacations. It is also a time to be quiet with the God who gives us the beauty of creation and the joys of family and friends. After 30 years as a family and youth social worker, I still look for messages to help young people to grow in faith. In Paraguay, Pope Francis spoke to youth saying: “It is important that you, the young, realize that genuine happiness comes from working to make a more fraternal world! It comes from realizing that happiness and pleasure are not synonymous. Happiness is demanding, it requires commitment and effort. You are too important to be satisfied with living life under a kind of anesthesia. While pleasure is fleeting, happiness is a dream that builds, that constructs.”
Pope Francis called young people: “a great source of enrichment for the nation…I think that the first thing to do is to make sure that all that energy, that light, does not grow dim in your hearts, and to resist the growing mentality which considers it useless and absurd to aspire to things that demand effort. Be committed to something, be committed to someone. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Don’t be afraid to give the best of yourselves…don’t look out for the easy way, in order to avoid having to do real, hard work.”
“But don’t do this alone. Try to talk about these things among yourselves, profit from the lives, the stories and the wisdom of your elders, of your grandparents. ‘Waste’ lots of time listening to all the good things they have to teach you. They are the guardians of that spiritual legacy of faith and values which define a people and illumine its path. Find comfort, too, in the power of prayer, in Jesus. Keep praying to him daily. He will not disappoint you. Christ is the secret to keeping a joyful heart in your quest for fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for everyone…Yes, God is the guarantee of the dignity of man.”
Every week I see and feel the pain and confusion that come from living in a society that no longer values Holy Matrimony and children and does not care for the poor and the immigrant. But, we have great hope in the overflowing love and mercy of Jesus Christ, who is the answer to the deepest questions of human Life. When we turn back to Christ and humbly admit our failure to trust God and love others, we receive grace that helps us to be generous and loving Catholics. We need both prayer and the love of our community of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let us dialogue with respect with those with different ideas. The genius of Catholicism is our unity of love in the midst of diversity of ages, cultures, gifts and talents. Our strength comes from our diversity and not from a uniformity that does not celebrate difference. The diversity of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are spread among many different people who are the one Body of Christ. We live the mystery of being one family in Christ, while each of us retains our precious individuality. No matter what divides us, we are one in Christ. His grace is enough to restore us to unity with God and others. The grace that he showers upon us through the Church is sufficient to heal us and overcome any of our conflicts.
I invite all young people to encounter Christ in Confession and the Eucharist. Jesus truly is with us, healing us and calling us to holiness. His grace draws us to live a counter-cultural life of loving others for their benefit, rather than to satisfy our own desires. Now is the time for young Catholics to demonstrate that to love and obey God is the way to true happiness. Pleasure is fleeting, but the love of God is eternal.
Your servant in Christ, Father Paul