To continue on without addressing the thirst our youth have to meet our Lord Jesus Christ is to ignore the cry of the many souls longing for a simple invitation from our Lord to enter into a relationship. I am convinced that the springtime of evangelization in our Holy Mother Church calls for dynamic, creative, spirit-filled, and authentic Catholic experiences for our youth. Particularly in the sacramental life of our Church can youth encounter the living Christ and bring Him into(?) an ever-fuller part of their lives. Youth are wrapped up in a culture saturated with many evils that have no need of explanation. The bondage from this permeates their lives and tears them from the transcendent experience of Calvary. Being young and having to endure the trials of temptation rips the soul from experiencing what the true real world is. Many times we define the real world in terms of the negative. The drudgery of routine and the trivialities of everyday tasks seem to us to be what the real world consists of. Furthermore, we see the harshness of our world as being “real”, something that we simply have to deal with and defend ourselves from.
Young people today are told that this is the real world and that what we have to live for is nothing more than the American dream or high achievement in academics or athletics. When the Son of God became incarnate, when He became one of us, He challenged our definition of what the real world is. Through the cross, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit our world radically changed, because for the first time our world didn’t seem as real as we thought. Jesus Christ brings hope to our lives, joy in everyday tasks and purpose to our routine. The real world no longer consisted of only sorrow and heartache, but joy and peace.
Our youth need to have an avenue to see past the “real world” presented to them in their current environment and step into a world that is truly a reflection of the kingdom of God. If they can experience this just once for a brief time in their lives, what changes would they be willing to make in their own lives to better the world in which they live? If they could experience a Christian community vibrant in the Holy Spirit and alive with the abundant love of Christ pouring out from His Sacred Heart, what could be the result? If a young person could have this encounter with the Lord and realize that we are only a pilgrim people waiting to get to our real world in God’s eternal Jerusalem, how much sooner would our world become a reflection of the Glory of God?
What we need is simply to take our young people out of their environment and give them their own place where they can be safe, secure, and assured that they are loved. A place where the reflection of God’s love pours upon them so abundantly that they can no longer deny the existence of God’s awesome power, majesty and love. If the youth could get a taste of heaven in God’s grand cathedral of nature, they would usher it back to their schools, their families and their friends. It is exactly for this reason that this ministry can ignite a fire so bright that it changes how a young person looks at everything, and particularly at his or her relationship to the Creator. To step away from the tribulations of this “real world” and come to know the love of Christ and the truth of His real world through fellowship and community will transform not only their lives, but the life of our Church.
Well that’s simple. Young people have energy! They are active! They are adventurous! They look for challenges and ways to grow! Run them for the day and sit down in the evening around a campfire and give them the Good News. What a concept! The relationships that can grow from such an experience are amazing. The deepening of faith through such an experience can blow your mind. As Catholics, we are fortunate to have the sacraments. If we can give young people an experience they will never forget, rooted particularly in the Eucharist and Confession, we have an automatic link to their further cultivation in the parish. It is this that will unite the spiritual experience at camp to the life within the parish. It is essential. In addition, being away from home and thrown into an environment where you meet people from all over the country and see that it’s cool to be Catholic will give young people a thirst to learn more.
What are we waiting for?
To be honest, I don’t know what we are waiting for. Pope John Paul II has called us to cast off into the deep. (Duc In Altum!) He has called us to be courageous and confident in the workings of the Holy Spirit. It is a time of New Evangelization and the limits are wherever we set them. It is an exciting time in our Catholic Church and the only question that remains is: Are you ready to be apart of it?