We live in a culture of compartmentalization. In the hustle and bustle of our schedules and our commitments, the ability to keep things in their proper place is sometimes all we can do to stay sane and keep all the plates spinning. However, this way of life has a way of casting a false sense of importance on the passing things of life while encouraging us to keep the things that really matter from crossing over into the other spheres of life.
As we prayerfully consider how we should progress in the day-to-day and the year-to-year aspects of our programs, we have the freedom to call out in exhaustion and even frustration that we want to quit. We have the freedom to question and say to Our Lord that we’ve tried something over and over before to no avail. But, when He speaks back to us, we need to be open to the fact that He may send us back out there to rejoin the ranks.
Do we need to know every detail of the teens’ lives? No. Nor do we need to broadcast every little thing to the entire youth group. Everything has its time and place. We just need to be open, available, and aware of what is going on just below the surface so that we can better serve our teens and help build community. We need to be with them on in their successes and their failings. As youth ministers and as volunteers, we can ask questions about their lives and passions. We can get our hands dirty in the muck and mire of life in order to show they are not alone.
Has anyone ever noticed the ways in which the desire to serve can so easily become prideful?
It sounds weird, but it sneaks so deftly into ministry. We want so badly to do good work and we desire so deeply to serve Jesus that suddenly we begin to look at ministry, the Church, and the structures therein either as obstacles stopping us from doing the service that we deem worthy of our time, or a warped professional ladder in which success is defined by how many people hear our voices, see our faces or read our words.
We see that, like the tongues of fire that divided and fell on all in the upper room, the tongues, the speech and language of the apostles, divided and fell on the ears and hearts of all present in the crowd.
One of these silent yet powerful figures that I love to hear about is Lazarus, the man Jesus so famously raised from the dead four days after his death. Think about the story that this Lazarus must have had. We know that Jesus called him a friend and even wept because of his death. We know that he followed Jesus from that point and that his sisters were Saints Mary and Martha, but apart from these details we know very little and we don’t hear a single word leave his lips.
Yet, as we read later, Lazarus was seen as dangerous.
Ministry is a challenge. A beautiful and sanctifying challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.
This fact is emphasized, and may even be caused in part by the fact that instead of peddling widgets or reaching deadlines, we work for and serve people. Messy, sticky, often unpredictable human persons who are as unique and individualized as the snowflakes that covered my home and parish all winter long. We can state trends and patterns about teens in the most general and terms possible, but unlike a chair or a car that is an exact clone of the one made before, the next teen to walk through your door is completely different than the one that just walked out.
Teens who had never been to Eucharistic Adoration before and had run from the very notion of encountering Jesus now lined up to stand face to face, nose to nose, with Jesus in the monstrance and to be introduced to him and prayed with. Sins were renounced. Hearts were healed. Teens that had turned their back on the faith now clutched the humeral veil and kissed the monstrance with tears in their eyes. A brother and sister who had lost their dad now felt the love of the Father. Young men in the clutches of sexual sin resolved to step up and out of their lust. Young women who had been hiding from love finally opened their hearts perfect Love.
I was forced to ask myself, does my pastor know I’m Catholic? What about the rest the staff? If someone walked in off the street, knowing nothing about the Catholic faith or what all those crosses and stained glass stand for, would they think that this was anything but just another office?