If you have never been involved in a Church as a teenager and can summarize your interaction with your Faith as something that only involves coming to Mass most Sundays, then I would reckon you are missing out on a much better and fulfilling life. When I was a High School youth, I used to think Church was something you came to once a week with the family and anything else the Church had going on for my age group was lame. Sometimes I even thought the announcements were irrelevant to my life and therefore unworthy of my time. The nearest exit was found, whether Mass was officially or unofficially over.
The wisdom that I learned later on in my life is that a vast amount of life is spent on living a long life and not a great life. Life’s adventure is missed, due in large, because many of us are unwilling to try new things; especially, if new things requires us to speak to new people. I regret not being more social in High School. I wasn’t a fly on the wall, but I certainly found comfort with my small group of friends and never dared to venture outside of that circle. My own insecurities left me okay with how life was; it did not need anything else.
Unexpectedly, I changed course my Senior year of High School, pressed with questions from within about life’s purpose and meaning. I never shared these thoughts, but they were always present to me. What is it that I am to do with this life? Is the point to get a degree, get married, buy a house, and start a family? Is there more to it?
Where would I go to college; who would I marry; what house would I buy. Was it really all up to me, anyways? The pressure and stress from feeling the weight of every decision rested on my shoulders all throughout High School. In particular, such stress would prevent myself from meeting new people, because of a deep rooted fear that if I said something dumb or made a fool of myself, then my life would be worse for it. Hence, according to myself, I always preferred the safe path with familiar friends.
Taking the risk to meet new people changed my life forever. I joined a Seminary College at a Monastery in Mission, British Columbia at the age of 18.
What I found at the College Seminary was completely unexpected. I found TRUTH. Every rock I overturned and every doubt I had in mind was met with sound logic and a clear explanation. I persisted to dig deeper and deeper to find and expose flaws to the person of Jesus Christ only to find more meaning and clarity to my life’s questions. Jesus’ profound wisdom was making a direct connection to my life in positive way.
Socially, I learned what the Church has to offer in terms of a Life Giving Community. From street hockey to soccer, sidewalk conversations to studying, daily Mass to basketball I found a group of friends that shared much of what my High School friends shared; yet, the difference herein was an additional aspect of open sharing of our Catholic Faith with each other.
When God became a center of my life’s activities and conversations, my life became a million times better. I was not ashamed about asking for prayers or having conversations about life’s meaning with God in the equation. I spent quality time discerning, praying, and welcoming God’s direction in my life. God led me on a unique path whereby the Seminary Formation was to be a part of it, but I was not to become a Catholic Priest. This took a great deal of trust in the Holy Spirit to allow God to continue to guide me and open new doors.
The Catholic Church wants everyone to gaze and focus on God. When we do this with every aspect of our lives, we can help one another because we are no longer in competition, but brothers and sisters with God as Our Father. We can build each other up instead of bringing each other down. We can laugh about the pointless human creations that claim to be life’s answer to happiness, because happiness is in our relationship with God. We can become better people, because we have the support and confidence of our neighbors.
Since recognizing that the Church has the supernatural ability to bring out the best in everyone, I have been on an adventure with this amazing Church. This adventure brought me to Houston, Texas where I met my beautiful and amazing wife. It has brought me the privilege of ministering to hundreds of youth over nearly a decade. In all honesty, the Holy Spirit has blessed me with abundant joy while upon this adventure.
Sometimes I feel completely inadequate being a Youth Minister. You know why? In High School, I never went to a Church youth group. I only went to the “requirements” of Confirmation Prep. I see many clones of myself within our very own community. It is disturbing at times, because I always wonder what it takes to shake that mindset. I always look at what it took for myself to see the benefits of Church and try to mimic such an environment here at St. Clare’s.
I have only one challenge to every teen: show up and be present to your community. You may not feel you need the community; but I know the community needs you. Your unique adventure awaits.
Your Brother In Christ,
Director of Youth Ministry
St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church