Day 2 of reflecting on the memories of World Youth Day: One year ago on this day, I had the great pleasure of joining many other young people from all around the world who identify with the mission of St. John Bosco. For those unaware of who he was, Don Bosco was a 19th century Italian priest who focused on bettering the lives of abandoned young people, both spiritually and financially as he taught them trades to be productive members of society.
Even before I chose him to be my Confirmation saint, I noticed how undervalued young people were. Lately, I’ve seen many articles and many videos written by young people explaining why they’re leaving the Church; I’ve seen statistics on this great exodus, as well. These are the ramifications of an undervalued and mocked generation who have felt they have been lied to…..or so I thought.
When I looked back at these pictures from last year, both of the international Salesian party and the Mass held at Tauron Arena for the English-speaking pilgrims, I remain in awe–in awe of a Church so alive and energized by young people (2 million young people, to be exact)! It is from this day that I am encouraged; while I thought the Church was dying from young people giving up, I am reminded that She bounces back because these particular young people have not lost neither faith nor hope nor charity. They remember the words of St. John Bosco: “Servite Domino in laetitia!” (Serve the Lord joyfully!)
So while my fellow Christian millenials feel abandoned and lied to, who felt church was stuck up and rigid and dead, I feel invigorated because of such a saintly teacher who said such things as, “Run, jump, have all the fun you want at the right time, but, for heaven’s sake, do not commit sin!” and “Do not put off till tomorrow the good you can do today. You may not have a tomorrow.”
Such a paradox: Have all the fun you want (at the right time, of course), yet do not put off the good you can do…..how is this possible to have fun yet do good right now? When one does something joyfully, one has fun; when one serves the Lord joyfully, one has fun! Why do I not think the Church is dead? Because She is full of joyful servants! Joyful servants have fun! Serving the Lord is never dull, never boring, but fun!
How can this be? In one of the skits during the Salesian party, 9 people went up to draw on giant boards. At first, we couldn’t make out what they were; they were just black squiggles with random shades of blue, red, or white. But, when put together, when reoriented just the right way, they formed the image of the Sacred Heart. This is to say nothing is as they appear: Behind the rigidity of Church hierarchy, there are young people going to their own communities and abroad helping with missions; behind the scandals of the Church, there are young people holding hands and praying for one another; behind the “sleepyness” of the Mass, there are choirs of young people joining the angels in singing! When friends gather together, they have fun! When friends gather for work, they get it done quickly and efficiently! Imagine if friends gathered together for the Lord….how much fun, how much work can be done all at once!
My prayer for today: May we find ways to serve the Lord joyfully, and may those who have fallen away from the Church find friends to love, to respect, and to do work together.