Praying as a witness present in the Holy Spirit

August 14, 2018

As a teenager, I found myself struggling to pray. I balanced school, football, volunteering and some responsibilities at home. I was also a loud kid, who spoke loudly, watched the TV loudly and loved loud music. Whether it was a busy schedule or because I just couldn’t quiet myself down, I found it hard to pray.

I brought up my lack of prayer to a priest at a Catholic youth conference and got some great advice. He told me that every one of my actions could be a prayer to God. He encouraged me to live my life as my ultimate prayer to God. This was a revelation to me. In my mind, praying was hard. I believed praying through my actions would be easier, but I was wrong. 

As I started trying to live my life as a prayer I realized how much responsibility it brings. Every action becomes meaningful. When I dedicated my daily life to God, I discovered that only the best will do. What that meant for me was more effort in school and on the football field. If I was dedicating a test, a project, or a football game to God, then there was no room to slack off. What followed was total change for me, one that included my conduct, my language and my mood. 

Living my life as prayer was a hard thing to do. However, I found the joy of prayer as my relationship with God grew every day. That joy was felt by everyone around me. My family, my teachers and my friends noticed the changes that were happening in my life. People around me were very interested in finding out what sparked such a drastic change. The answer was living my life for Christ. 

I realized the importance of presence, and the effect that a positive presence can create. More than just my physical presence, the way I conduct myself or what I say, my presence is a force. That force, negative or positive, is felt by those who encounter me every day. That presence is a powerful tool for evangelization and witness. 

This past July close to 2,700 people attended the Archdiocesan Youth Conference in Houston. Throughout the entire weekend, the Holy Spirit was present at the conference, and there was no more evident way of feeling Him than through the presence of the youth attending the conference.

The amount of devotion, reverence and faith that the youth showed during this weekend was indescribable. Having attended the conference as both a student and a chaperone, I can attest that the joy and Holy Spirit that emanates from a young person who is truly feeling the love of God is staggering. 

These teenagers left the conference with the encouragement of Daniel Cardinal DiNardo to go forth and spread the Gospel in their homes, schools, communities and anywhere else the Holy Spirit may lead them. They will be invigorated to evangelize this upcoming school year. They will be emboldened to share their witness. Parallels to Pentecost can be drawn with our youth, just like the Apostles, revitalized by the Holy Spirit and joyfully spreading the Gospel to a world that doesn’t want to hear it. 

By the second or third week of school and the first test rolls around, that initial fervor to spread the Gospel can be gone from our youth, replaced instead with the stress of school. However, the lasting way these teens will evangelize will be through their presence. As our youth get ready to return to school, I encourage them to live their life as a prayer, to let their very presence be the ultimate witness. 

Allow me to leave the youth with the immortal words of St. Paul to Timothy: “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.”

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