However, many unfortunate young people in our culture are merely provided for by well-intentioned adults, and are left feeling powerless and indecisive as they attempt to navigate young adulthood. When suffering comes, they crumble, having never learned its value. They lack the focus and strength that only a life in Christ can offer. Catechists and parents will need to assist young people in finding age-appropriate ways to use their time and talents for others, including service to the poor and involvement in public discourse on issues.
Whatever their abilities, remind your students that each of us, as members of the Body of Christ, has a unique purpose ordained by God. By fulfilling that purpose, their lives become a part of the greater mission of the Church to save souls; and by pouring themselves out for others they will receive greater gifts of grace and love than they could ever have found otherwise. Here are some ways to cultivate an attitude of loving service in your students:
- First and foremost, pray for them and for each child's personal relationship with Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6). Ask God to help you and others in their lives to be instruments of grace, authentically modeling Christian virtues, like reverence, humility, kindness, patience, cheerfulness, and generosity.
- Give them an overview of Catholic social teachings, so they understand their rights and responsibilities as Christian adults. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops provides a brief summary of each of the following at their website.
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation
- Rights and Responsibilities
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
- The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
- Care for God's Creation
- Illustrate the beauty and power of humble service so they can begin to envision their own role in the life of the Church. Abraham Lincoln said, "No man is so tall as when he stoops to help a child . . ." Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, "It is a kingly act to assist the fallen."
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:43-45).
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms (1 Pet. 4:10).
Don't give up hope, even if it's been a tough year with your students. Time is short, but God is great. You may not see the fruits of your prayers and hard work in this life, but be assured -- with faith the size of a tiny mustard seed (Mt. 13:31-32), you really can help guide these precious young souls to a beautiful life in Christ.
God bless you.