Catholic Youth Ministry: A Call to Patience

by gary-foote on January 25, 2011

I love teenagers and working in Catholic Youth Ministry! I’ve given my life to work with them and those who minister to them. I love talking with them, listening to them, and most of all praying with them and sharing the Gospel. On occasion, I’ve been known to embarrass my wife as I’ve randomly asked teens at restaurants if I could join them for a bit while they ate and talk with them. Although I have a great passion for the Catholic faith and young people, I still have many shortcomings to overcome. One of those shortcomings is patience with true conversion. I want so badly for young people to come and know God in an intimate way that sometimes I forget that there are a lot of steps that have to be taken sometimes before that can happen.  Unfortunately, I have to admit that on occasion I’ve expected too much from teens to quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should lower the bar or make excuses for our youth to become complacent in their faith. I will be the first to tell you that we need to heed the universal call to holiness at every stage of life, including the teenage years. However, there have been instances where I’ve become frustrated with the time it takes for a genuine conversation to take place.

Last night I had the opportunity to worship with many teens at Mass followed by XLT. For those of you who may not be familiar with XLT, it is one of the components of Life Teen where youth are gathered together for a time of praise and worship, a talk, and a time of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Very powerful! Mass was especially crowded last night at the parish I was visiting, which was a great problem to have. I noticed that there were some teens talking during Mass, and I kept debating whether or not to say something to them. I kept thinking to myself, “I’m sure they will stop soon.” Well, one of the young ladies had a bit of a “wardrobe malfunction” during the time of the consecration and another high school girl rushed to her aide. At this point I knew that I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t want to embarrass the poor girl. The whole ordeal was very distracting and I thought to myself, “If only they knew that Jesus is really coming here in this moment to become a piece of bread and some wine for us then they would treat this moment with the reverence it deserves.” After the consecration, I exchanged peace with the teenage girls and prepared to receive the Eucharist. After receiving communion, I prayed silently, “Lord help me to be more like you.” And then it hit me. The Gospel for the evening was about Jesus’ call to the Apostles. Jesus didn’t call out to perfect men but men who were willing to go where He would lead them. He slowly began to reveal who He was to them, not all at once. How different Peter’s life would have been if right away in their relationship Jesus would have rebuked him and said, “Get behind me Satan (Matthew 16:23).” I’m guessing that if that would have happened during their time of initial relationship building that Peter probably would have left.

Jesus had to love the Apostles where they were at, flaws and all, and allow them the time that they needed to truly fall in love with Him and give Him their lives. Like Jesus, we too are called to be patient and loving with the teens entrusted to our care. Today’s teens have so many things fighting for their time. Just the fact that they show up to something that will enrich their faith is a huge accomplishment. Like the Apostles, they are ready to be led. Eventually there will be a point where we may have to have those difficult conversations with them like Jesus had with Peter, but it takes time to get to that place where the words will be received well. If we move too quick too soon, we may lose them! Think first about how patient God has been in your life, and then extend that same patience to the teens (or any person for that matter) that you are blessed to work with. Jesus is the best teacher of how to lead others closer to Him. We must follow His example, not our own wisdom.

In case you are dying to know, those girls at Mass stayed for XLT. Not only did they stay, but they praised and prayed their hearts out. It was beautiful! I’m very grateful that I didn’t say anything, because maybe they would have left after Mass or may have closed their hearts. I didn’t know them well enough to “call them out.” My job was to embrace them where they were, and more importantly, to allow God to embrace me where I was. I’m thankful that God is so merciful. A sinner like me sure needs it.

God Bless you,

Gary Foote

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