COLBERT: Living our best life

January 29, 2019

Matthew Kelly, founder and CEO of Dynamic Catholic, has a number of catchphrases that challenge us to live a fulfilling life — “Become the best version of yourself,” “Who you become is infinitely more important than what you do or what you have” and “Live every day with passion and purpose.”

In sacred Scripture we find that Jesus also invites us to the fullness of life in and through Him — in John 10:10 Jesus tells us “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

In a world of busy schedules, constant social media presence and strong secular influences, how do we create an atmosphere where young people might find the joy and beauty of living in Christ? How can we help young people respond to the universal call to holiness, to become lifelong disciples of Jesus the Christ and to find their vocation? The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. The answer is to develop a Culture of Vocations in families and parish ministries.

The Third Continental Congress on Vocations in North America in 2002 had this to say: We need ”to foster an atmosphere in which young Catholics are open to a personal invitation to discern accurately and embrace freely the form of permanent commitment in the Church to which they are being called.”

Although the congress itself was focused on Holy Orders and religious life, the principles are transferable to all vocations. That means a complete openness to the possibility of sacramental marriage, religious life, consecrated virginity, or ordination (both priesthood and diaconate).

To create this atmosphere or vocation culture, the congress suggested five actions which comprise its plan. Applying these five actions to young people as they discern their vocation might look like this:

To Pray: to be holy, to be converted, to worship.
Teaching parents and young people to pray is essential. Most importantly, the ability to pray on their own. Although public prayer is essential (Liturgy, Eucharistic Adoration, etc.), we need to provide forms of prayer that are available whenever they choose to pray. Introducing young people and their families to the Ignatian Examen, praying with the Sacred Word, prayer through art, meal prayers etc. will solidify their ongoing relationship with the Lord.

To Evangelize: to teach, to form, to catechize.
“Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed... the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary … On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; He gave His life to save you; and now He is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium)

Once someone has been transformed by these truths they will hunger to go deeper.

To Experience: worship, community, service, witness.

Christ has no body but yours; No hands, no feet on earth but yours (St. Teresa of Avila). Help young people to live their faith out loud. Teach youth to share their witness and to serve those in need because in each of them is the face of Christ. Parishes need to assess their worship experiences to ensure that they are vibrant, welcoming and faithful to our tradition.

To Mentor: to accompany, to guide, to model.

In the recent study by St. Mary’s Press and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate we find this challenging fact — “A contributing factor in drifting away from the faith is the lack of companions on the spiritual journey.” Young people need mentors to listen and to guide them on their spiritual journey. We often excel at large group ministry but we need to enhance that experience through individual or small group (two to four) accompaniment. Critically, we need to train parents in the art of accompaniment.

To Invite: to discern, to choose, to commit.

Personal invitation is key. Through the experiences of prayer and accompaniment a young person can clearly see and commit to the unique vocation he/she is called to by Christ.
May each of us create a culture of vocation – an environment where the Lord’s call can be heard and responded to with joy and passion.

Timothy E. Colbert is the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.