ESTACIO: Never old, ever new

February 11, 2020

I feel old. Gone are the days when I could instantly bounce back from leading a weekend Confirmation Retreat in a day. Now, it takes me at least five days to recuperate physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The theme for the 2020 Archdiocesan Youth Conference (AYC) is “Seek the Truth.” That same theme guides the articles that you will read on this youth page for 2020. It doesn’t matter when you were born, as young people, we asked the same questions searching for the truth. What is the meaning of life? Where do I go when I die? Does all of this even matter? Young people seek truth. They need the rich wisdom and indispensable experience of the generations before to guide and mentor them.

Droves of young people are leaving the Catholic Church, and they are renouncing their belief in Jesus Christ as early as 12. More than ever, the future looks bleak, and there are real consequences.

If so many young people continue to leave, who will tithe to keep parishes open? Who will register for preparation for Sacraments, such as Confirmation? Who will carry on the Catholic faith for the generations to come? The Holy Spirit continues to guide us, and Jesus Christ will be with us until the end of time (Matthew 28:20), but we have to do our part as the Body of Christ.

In March 2019, Pope Francis promulgated the post-synodal exhortation Christus Vivit addressed to young people and the entire People of God. He reminds us that the Word became flesh, and sanctified not only humanity but most especially for specific stages of life – adolescence and young adulthood.

In the Gospels, the little bit that is written about Jesus Christ’s life before his public ministry tells us about an adolescent being found in the Temple preaching to the elders. Jesus gave us His entire life; He suffered, died and rose from the dead as a young adult. This is not a coincidence but part of God’s plan.

“Adults, too, have to mature without losing the values of youth (Christus Vivit, 160).”

I feel old, but I keep going for the young people. They are not only the Church of the future, but they are the Church of the present. By our very witness, we can show young people the beauty, goodness and joy of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the way, the life, and the TRUTH.

Jesus Christ’s entire life was about fulfilling the mission for which the Father created Him. This is no different for young people — and even for us — today. To ensure the future of the Catholic Church will bear fruit, we need to begin right now by walking with young people and listening to what their hearts are saying.

Once trust is gradually gained in a relationship, an adult can pastorally and loving apprentice the young person in discerning what the Father created him or her for. It is through finding his or her vocation (Matthew 12:46) that the young person will meet the Person of Jesus Christ and the beauty of the Catholic Church.

“Through the holiness of the young, the Church can renew her spiritual ardor and her apostolic vigor. The balm of holiness generated by the good lives of so many young people can heal the wounds of the Church and of the world (CV, 50).”

I feel old, but I know I am not. As I age, the physical vigor wanes, but my zeal for the Gospel only grows stronger because of the young people I serve. Their love for the Catholic faith inspires me; it makes me young again. Adults can learn many lessons of faith from young people. We can learn how to dream. We can learn what it means to be daring and not to be afraid. We can learn what it means to be renewed in, with, for Jesus Christ.

When we meet a young person, let us not forget to be patient with them, and to slowly accompany them along their faith journey with the risen Lord.

“Anyone called to be a parent, pastor, or guide to young people must have the farsightedness to appreciate the little flame that continues to burn… The ability to discern pathways where others see walls, to recognize potential where others see only peril… Each young person’s heart should thus be considered ‘holy ground,’ a bearer of seeds of divine life, before which we must ‘take off our shoes’ in order to draw nearer and enter more deeply into the Mystery (CV, 67).”
Come, Holy Spirit, come! 

Dunn Estacio is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.