Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Down on a Mat

Our parish youth minister invited me to help out with the Christian Awakening (C.A.) Retreat #28. About 50 teenagers attended the retreat in one capacity or another, with 10 adults chaperoning it.

Some of the teenagers are very impressive as Christians. I have seen them give up their day off to help old ladies move before the Sherriff's deputy arrives to evict her. I've seen them keep vigil with Our Lord into the wee hours of the night. I've seen them pick up their grades, take responsibility for their actions, and set good examples for their peers. I've seen them have a lot of good, clean fun. Other kids going come from very unstable families with absentee fathers, lack of supervision, even drugs or violence in their homes. The amazing thing is the amount of overlap there is in the two groups: kids who come from hell on earth who have begun to fix their eyes on heaven, and so are finding even life here-and-now transformed a bit.

Likewise, some of the kids coming on the retreat did so entirely voluntarily, this being perhaps their second or third annual retreat. Others were pressured by friends or parents using more or less coercive measures.

The Gospel reading for today's Mass (Mon after II Sun of Advent; Is 35:1-10; Ps 85; Lk 5:17-26) coincides beautifully with my experience over the past weekend. The Gospel story is the one in which a paralyzed man is lowered by his friends on a mat through the roof of the house where Jesus is teaching. There were too many people for the man's friends to bring him that way, and so they had to get creative. On our retreat, we found ourselves with too many difficulties to manage on our own. We had to let the Holy Spirit orchestrate what we hoped would be, in the lives of many of these kids, a new creation. The paralyzed man may have had some sort of faith, or maybe not, but that was entirely irrelevant because he couldn't do anything one way or the other about it. But his friends had faith, and they carried him through when he couldn't do for himself. So with our kids: perhaps they believe in God, or a god of some sort - but most of the retreatants had never encountered or gotten to know Him, and even if baptized their faith, the life of Christ dwelling in them, was a vestige of what God would have it be. So it was that the leadership team, adult chaperones, and the more spiritually advanced teenagers had to carry our younger friends to Our Lord. In the Gospel, Jesus sees the faith of the friends and is moved to give the paralyzed man what he needs. On our retreat, Jesus clearly heard our prayers and gave our young friends what they needed.

On the retreat, the talks focused on helping the young people to see themselves clearly and to risk themselves by giving confidence to brothers and sisters in Christ and to Our Blessed Lord Himself. The talks aimed at inspiring conversion and proposing to the young people a new, better way of living that will help them be happier in this life and certain of their destiny in the next. The talks were filled with the living testimony of people they know: parents, parish members, and peers. Small group discussions focused on helping them connect the message they had heard with the daily course of their own lives.

We hope that in the coming weeks and month our young peoples' life of prayer will flourish, their damaged relationships will continue to mend, their wounded souls will continue to heal, and their joyful innocence will continue to be restored. Please pray for them.

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