Sunday, August 24, 2008

Youth Evangelization

It has been very heartening to hear of the great success of the many Catholic youth festivals around Ireland during the summer months. From Knock to Clonmacnois to All Hallows and other venues hosting smaller events, young people have been learning about and celebrating their faith. Great credit is due to the organisers of these festivals - particularly the Youth 2000 movement and the Legion of Mary who are at the forefront of youth evangelization and peer ministry. It is evident that their work is paying dividends.
Ten years ago, these Catholic youth festivals in Ireland would have been unheard of. To me, this sign of growth as young people desire to know and practice their faith is a powerful sign of the Holy Spirit in action. It is also quite clear that the engagement of our young people with these young Catholic lay groups will be a source of vocations into the future.

The great Catholic youth event of the year was, of course, the World Youth Day(s) in Sydney, Australia. I have been reading the texts of what Pope Benedict had to say and it is evident that he made a point of encouraging the young people to follow Christ, even when this would prove difficult. His words to seminarians and young religious in St. Mary's Cathedral sum up his encouraging words:

I wish now to turn to the seminarians and young religious in our midst, with a special word of affection and encouragement. Dear friends: with great generosity you have set out on a particular path of consecration, grounded in your Baptism and undertaken in response to the Lord’s personal call. You have committed yourselves, in different ways, to accepting Christ’s invitation to follow him, to leave all behind, and to devote your lives to the pursuit of holiness and the service of his people.
In today’s Gospel, the Lord calls us to “believe in the light” (Jn 12:36). These words have a special meaning for you, dear young seminarians and religious. They are a summons to trust in the truth of God’s word and to hope firmly in his promises. They invite us to see, with the eyes of faith, the infallible working of his grace all around us, even in those dark times when all our efforts seem to be in vain. Let this altar, with its powerful image of Christ the Suffering Servant, be a constant inspiration to you. Certainly there are times when every faithful disciple will feel the heat and the burden of the day (cf. Mt 20:12), and the struggle of bearing prophetic witness before a world which can appear deaf to the demands of God’s word. Do not be afraid! Believe in the light! Take to heart the truth which we have heard in today’s second reading: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and for ever” (Heb 13:8). The light of Easter continues to dispel the darkness!

There are signs of life in the Irish church as evidenced by the participation of these young people in the many and varied festivals and meetings. We will be failing in our own commitment to the preaching and living of the Gospel if we do not encourage and support them.
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