Sometimes when I read the news or hear the endless bashes against the Church I want to give into discouragement at the situation of our world…but then I always remember that winter day in January 2003 when I saw with my own eyes the hope of the Church, brilliantly shining out in this dark night.
It was the chilly morning of January 22, 2003. The March for Life was about to begin in Washington, D.C. The Catholics at the event wanted to begin with a Mass at the MCI Center. It was packed full of faithful, mostly young people, who were there to take a stand for the culture of life. In the bleachers, surrounded by my peers, I looked out as cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women consecrated and religious filled the field down below. The Mass was about to begin.
The noisy talking vanished into a still silence when we heard a voice. One cardinal, the main celebrant, stretched out his arms and in a booming voice asked, “Young men and women, sons and daughters of the Church: would those who feel the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood, religious or consecrated life please stand?” I still remember my heart pound; would I be the only one who would stand up in this vast audience of thousands? Pushing these thoughts aside, I stood up. I closed my eyes tight, hoping the moment would end soon. At first the sound of screeching chairs was faint, but within moments it turned into a loud roar. When I opened my eyes I was stunned. Thousands of other young men and women where standing with me. We all looked down at the cardinal, who smiled and beamed with pride. The crowd let out a deafening applaud. So, I thought, here they all were. Here were my Catholic brothers and sisters; here was the hope for the future.
Yours is the victory
For twenty-six years John Paul II pleaded to the youth, “The Church depends on you! Yours is the victory!” The echo of these words has resounded in many a heart; many young ears who heard that call not so long ago have answered and now are the young missionaries and priests we see today.
And the call continues. In Loreto, Italy, Pope Benedict XVI said of the youth: “at this very minute there are some who are watching, others who are asleep, yet others who are studying or working; some are hoping and some despairing, some believe and others are not able to believe, some love life and others, instead, are throwing it away. I would like my words to reach them all: the Pope is close to you, he shares your joys and your pain, and he especially shares in the most intimate hopes that are in your soul. Dear young people, if the Lord calls you to live more intimately at his service, respond generously. You may be certain: life dedicated to God is never spent in vain!”
You are not alone
Let’s face it: what discourages us the most is that we feel alone. We feel that alone we will fail. How can we be real witnesses of Christ to a confused society if we are unaided? The lives of the saints are excellent witnesses of youth who have answered the Church’s call.
The fourteen year old Mexican boy, Jose Luis Sanchez Del Rio, fought with the Cristeros, an army that defended the Catholic Church during persecution in Mexico during the 20s and 30s. When God asked he even gave up his life and was shot while shouting the words, “Long live Christ the King!” The saints have gone before us to give the example. Of course they, too, felt alone. But imagine if they didn’t do anything? Imagine if they would have given into discouragement and despair…? But they didn’t. Today, too, there are young people that are answering the Church’s call. During Holy Week this year hundreds of young people went on missions throughout the United States to bring Christ’s message to society. During the World Youth Day in Australia this past summer, 2500 young people went through the halls in the Vocational Expo every hour. You are not alone.
Do you accept?
This is a challenge from one young person to another. Do you accept the call of Christ and the Church to first learn more about your faith and then stand up for it in the public square? And if he is calling you to give your life completely to him do you accept? Well, there are others that do.
I was just fifteen when I was in the MCI Center that cold January day. The Church asked, I accepted and consecrated my life to serve the Church. And with me thousands of other young people have done the same. I wasn’t alone, I have never been alone. I know you are out there, I know your fears and desires, for they are mine as well. I repeat the call of the cardinal who stood on the field, looking up at the hope before him, “Young men and women, sons and daughters of the Church, would those who feel the possibility of the vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life please stand?” Will you stand?
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