Families created anew

September 4, 2012

Summer has come to a close and school sessions have begun. Although the largest gathering of high school youth for the Archdiocese occurred in mid July (the Archdiocesan Youth Conference), the experience was designed to be far reaching beyond the one three-day event. 

Coming off of the theme "Created Anew," it is important to understand where young people are in their faith and those things they desire and perhaps question. High school adolescents:

- Explore and question the faith that has been handed down to them by Church and family as they search to personalize a style of faith in beliefs and practice. They are often not easily satisfied with pat answers to questions such as "What difference does it make going to church or following the teachings of Jesus in the world?" They want others to listen respectfully to what they think is life-giving and are, in turn, called to listen critically to other voices, including the essential voice of Christ and the Church. 

- Increase awareness and ownership of responsibility for their own faith life. "I (we) can make a difference." How is God calling me to live my life? What is God calling me to do with my life?

- Explore a more personal relationship with God who can accept and love the teen with his or her strengths and limitations. This translates into a teen's deepening awareness of God's presence within him or her and in the world as well as his or her response to God. 

- Expand his or her view of faith to encompass the concerns and needs of the larger world.

- Evaluate how to preserve and foster personal integrity in living a moral code in the face of opposing (non-supportive) influences.

- Look to communal influences in addition to the family to maintain a sense of support and stability in living as a Christian disciple. They require continuing support from both.

The Archdiocesan Youth Conference is much more than the cheers, the dancing and hand movements to a favorite song and the bright t-shirts. Here's a glimpse of what the teens experienced and tips for parents to walk the journey of faith with them.

The conference helped young people get in touch with their longings in light of being disciples of Christ. Christ desires each of us to grow closer to him. Our own hearts are restless until we center our own desires on Christ. This is what it means to become a saint. Parents, share a story with your teen about a saint that helped you as a parent discover God's love and caring presence and the difference it made in your life. Invite your teen and family to put your heart's desires and concerns into God's hands. Adjoin patron saints of family.

Teens were brought to moments of encountering Christ where they were being helped to develop an understanding how Jesus loves them. Jesus meets us where we are — in the messiness of life with all our sinfulness, hopes, dreams, sorrows, disappointments and struggles. Jesus invites us to trust His compassionate care to forgive, heal, strengthen and encourage us so we can live a life grounded in compassion and justice for all people. Parents, share an occasion with your teen when you encountered Christ in your struggles. Invite your teen and family to put the messiness of your lives into Christ's care. 

Teens were invited to live in Christ by being shown how abiding in Jesus will renew their hearts and strengthen their spirits. Jesus wants to help carry our daily crosses. When we respond to Christ, our burdens become lightened. Parents, share with your teen, how you have allowed Christ to carry your cross and struggles and how living in Christ has transformed your life. Invite your teen and family to examine how you can live more closely in Christ through prayer, Sunday Mass and the sacraments, living morally and a life of service. 

Finally, the teens were challenged to respond to Christ by integrating their being made anew in Christ back home. Having encountered the love of Christ, we are moved to share this love with others. Parents, share with your teen how the love of Christ has moved you to deepen your commitment to live your Catholic faith. Invite your teen and family to examine how you can be more generous in sharing your gifts through Christ's love to others.

Using this small reflection, we all find ourselves on a journey of being "Created Anew." 

Brian K. Johnson is the Director and Mark Ciesielski is the Associate Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.