A Message for Our Young People

2013 Youth Rally and Mass for Life, © Paul Fetters 2012, All Rights Reserved

One of my great joys is meeting so many young people who are excited about their faith.  As we continue to reflect on our faith and its role in our lives during this Year of Faith, I’d like to address in a particular way younger readers who may wonder how they can be evangelizers and benefit from the graces that come with deepening their faith and sharing it with others. 

At World Youth Day this summer in Rio, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with an astounding 3 million young people on Copacabana Beach, encouraging them with three simple ideas: “Go, do not be afraid, and serve.”

Like the first disciples, young people too are called to go and be Jesus’ witnesses.  “Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on,” our Holy Father said.

“Where does Jesus send us?  There are no borders, no limits, he sends us to everyone,” the Pope told them. “Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, the most indifferent.”  There is no reason to fear because Jesus “goes before us and guides us,” he said, “He always accompanies us.”

It takes confidence and courage for people of any age to invite others to experience the love and mercy of Christ, but this may be especially challenging for those of you in your teens.  Our culture often says there is no place for God, for the Gospel message of Jesus.  A barrage of images tells us that what is important in life is pleasure, money and prestige.  Even many older people feel helpless to resist this push to forget about God.  But never underestimate the power of your witness – in fact, you often can be more effective in sharing the faith than adults.

Each January at the Archdiocese of Washington’s Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center, tens of thousands of young people pray and then march together for life. Their faith and actions demonstrate that with the help of the Holy Spirit, young people truly can renew the face of the earth.

Recently, a young reader who appreciated a particular blog post on Catholic teaching about human sexuality provided her own witness by commenting, “As a teen, it is hard to hear about sex in a Catholic way.  Media has changed the views of it, but the Catholic teachings of this topic will always remain as the truth, whether or not people want to accept it.  I am proud to be a part of the Catholic faith, it has made me who I am.”

It is this kind of vibrant faith that encourages me and should encourage you to share with others what we believe and why.

By growing in your knowledge and understanding of the faith, you will gain in confidence to share the message of God’s love and mercy.  Most importantly, I encourage you to pray.  Spend time each day talking with Jesus; he is one friend who will always remain with you.

The gift of the Spirit that you receive in Confirmation is not the end of learning about the faith, but a wonderful new beginning.  Our faith is a lifetime journey, and by continuing to read and reflect on the Bible and Catholic teaching through all stages of life, we can be fearless and joyful in our lives and thereby bring the light of Jesus to everyone we meet.

In Rio, Pope Francis said, “Dear young friends, Jesus Christ is counting on you!  The Church is counting on you!”  Joining our Holy Father, I would like to add that, with Jesus by your side, you will do great things.  You are the generation who will bring the New Evangelization to life – when your heart is transformed by Christ, you can truly change the world!