Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Working with the Youth

A pastor who works with young people writes in his Peace Weekly column on some thoughts that came to mind as he looked back on 14 years of priesthood. Many things have exceeded expectations but there have also been failures and frustrations. He thanks God for the good and for the humility he has learned from the not-so-good.

He has experienced both the mystical and the fearful, he says. There were times when he did little yet found many good things happening, learning a lot in the process. But there were times when nothing went well, and he felt lost and in need to trust in God.

Referring to the staggering number of suicides among the young today, he has, in his 14 years of priestly life, also seen the death by suicide of 4 of his parishioners with whom he was close. Faced with these cases, he said his confidence in himself wavered, feeling helpless and panicky.

When he sees the young, sponge-like, receiving the happiness and love that comes with living a life of faith, he has great joy. But for those that do not experience the fruits of living such a life, he understands, but regretfully.

He remembers a student, attractive and bright, who he hadn't seen for some time. He wondered what had happened and was told the student had gone to an alternative school; for
he found it difficult to adapt to the public school system. He then recalled that he had been aware the student was having difficulty. The student was waiting for someone to listen, the priest surmised, someone to sympathize with the problems he was having, but apparently there was no one found.

He remembers saying to one troubled youth: "Is there something I am able to help you with?" The youth's response was clear and brief: "Father, whatever I say,  is it not true that you find it difficult to accept?" This was, he says, an instance where he felt helpless. But then added, there are always those moments when a young person, acting outside of the accepted standards of behavior, says: "Father, we seem to understand each other!" This, the priest says, comes as a big surprise to him.

He finishes the column by thanking all those who work  among the young, a very difficult task and at times verging on the dreadful, though with the possibilities of marvelous results. He wants to encourage them and be with them in prayer. We have to inscribe on our hearts that the  kingdom of God is made up of those who are young, he says. We have always another day to experience what the world will offer. We don't know what that will bring, but we trust in God.

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