Help Youth Encounter The Lord, Hear His Voice And Follow Him

Help Youth Encounter The Lord, Hear His Voice And Follow Him January 10, 2024

Help youth encounter the Lord, hear his voice, and follow him. Pope Francis holds young people in a special place in his heart, as is evidenced in his message for the upcoming World Youth Day.

Youth is a time full of hopes and dreams, stirred by the many beautiful things that enrich our lives: the splendor of God’s creation, our relationships with friends and loved ones, our encounter with art and culture, science and technology, our efforts to work for peace, justice and fraternity, and so many other things. We are living at a time, though, when for many people, including the young, hope seems absent. (Pope Francis, Message for the XXXVIII World Youth Day, 26 November 2023)

Yet for many young people, they never get the chance to come into the faith in a real way. There is a pervasive myth that young people will come back to the Church after they are away for a while. This myth is perpetuated by many adults who made this experience. Many expect them to have an “Augustine experience.” The famous African bishop and Father of the Church certainly sowed his wild oats for many years before converting to the faith, becoming a priest, and then a bishop. He tells his story in the Confessions, a timeless classic.

A loss of encounter

But this expectation that wandering brings you back does not hold any longer. Augustine had his praying mother Monica and the great bishop Ambrose. Most young people who leave the Church today never come back. Perhaps a Christian society would pull them back slowly. Even if a young person strayed, the basic values of society would pull him or back after a period of wandering. But now, our society is godless. This is not a criticism or an accusation, merely a statement of fact. We live in a world in which we must seek God to find God. He is not simply everywhere to find.

Authentic encounter with the Lord

As a Church, it is our responsibility to give young people the opportunity to hear the voice of the Lord. We should be like Eli, who helped Samuel discover the voice of God. Even for Eli, it was not so easy. Samuel came to him more than once before he realized that it was the Lord who was calling him. An interesting thing about Eli is that his own sons were far from the Lord. You could think that Eli would have been disinterested in helping the youth of his time. After all, his sons were far from God. Yet, the Lord used him to raise up Samuel, a powerful prophet of his name.

One of the great joys at the Newman Center has been to accompany young men and women who hear the call of the Lord. It is not easy or automatic for a young person to follow God’s voice and pursue a priestly or religious vocation. They need solid help and accompaniment. They need our support.

Helping young people to hear the Lord

We want to foster an attitude of readiness, of promptness, as indicated in Psalm 40. “Sacrifice or offering you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me.” “Behold I come.” This speaks of a generosity that is present among our young people but that needs to be fostered. The Newman Center is one of the greatest outreaches that we possess to welcome, form, and direct these young people.

Newman Center on the Day of the Dead
Some of the young adults get together for fellowship. Courtesy | Krista Corbello

Helping young people follow Jesus

We see the example of John the Baptist in the Gospel. Early in the Gospel of John, he sees Jesus. Here is his cousin, someone he knows well. With him are two of his prized disciples, John and Andrew. Rather than getting complicated and competitive, the Baptist sends them with Jesus.

Jesus is ready for a life-changing encounter with this adventurous pair. I am always tempted to laugh when I hear their question. “Rabbi, where are you staying?” (Jn. 1:35) I always get the feeling I would have asked just about anything else. However, this question begins a relationship that will change their lives and sets them on a path of discipleship and evangelization.

Hopes and Dreams

Youth is a time of hopes and dreams, as Pope Francis reminds us. But let us not kid ourselves. For many young people, there is little hope and no dreams. We live in a world in which many young people are dejected, tired, and lost. We need to foster a culture of encounter, so that they can discover Christ, follow him, and make him the cornerstone of their lives. They need to encounter themselves, others, and ultimately Christ. We can close with the words from Pope Benedict at his inaugural mass.

Today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen. (Pope Benedict XVI, Inaugural Mass, 24 April 2005)

I want you to do three things. One, send. Do you know college-age and young adults that you can invite to the Newman Center? Every week in the bulletin, our upcoming events are listed. Two, pray. Can you spend one half-hour each week praying for young people? Pray for your own children and grandchildren. Pray for the young people in this area, the ones we reach and especially the ones we have not yet reached. Three, watch. After mass, young people from our Newman Center will help you get the information to participate in our upcoming livestream to get to know more about the Newman Center. Send, pray, watch.

About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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