The summer of 2008 offered two landmark events that brought the world together.
The 2008 Summer Olympic Games featured historic moments of athleticism, victory and achievement. The entire world watched as men and women put years of training and sacrifice to the test, in hopes of attaining the goal of their pursuit – an Olympic gold medal.
Conversely, World Youth Day 2008 saw the world, the Church universal, converge on Sydney, Australia for one of the largest Catholic gatherings in history. While dramatically different in scope and goal, our shepherd Pope Benedict XVI reminded us to strive forward in pursuit of our goal – the love of God and the salvation of all.
And as the Life Teen movement moves forward into 2009, we take with us some of the lessons we learned from these two events, most notably: One’s goal should dictate one’s actions.
If Olympic athletes wish to win a medal, or even just compete, they must be willing to sacrifice. They must be disciplined and they must be self-motivated. If a Christian, especially a Catholic, desires salvation they must be willing to sacrifice. They must be disciplined and they must be motivated by God’s grace.
Last year was a powerful year for Life Teen, one in which God poured out His grace on this movement in bold new ways. Our 2008 theme of “Consumed by Grace” did not disappoint. Through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, we came to experience God’s grace in depths and moments that left us both thankful and speechless.
Strengthened and empowered by that grace, Life Teen now ventures forward into an exciting new year of ministry under the pursuit of our 2009 theme “Heroic Virtue.”
It is through virtue that we put grace into action on a daily basis.
It is through virtue that we reach our highest excellence and moral perfection.
Guided by the Holy Spirit-inspired writings of St. Paul, our Church teaches us that once we are justified (through Christ) it is through the virtues that we live and grow in sanctification. Put simply, God endows us with the virtues in order to help us become like Christ. If we really want to become all God has designed us and called us to be, the virtues are how we unleash the full power of God’s grace. It’s through virtue that we are able to live up to our fullest potential and become saints.
Virtue is not only the fruit of a holy life but the manner in which we achieve true holiness. Virtues allow us not only to “perform good acts” – the acts that ministry requires – but, more importantly, “to give the best of (oneself)” (CCC 1803), which the Kingdom deserves.
Over the next 12 months of 2009, the Life Teen movement will prayerfully reflect upon and discern this theme of “Heroic Virtue,” seeking what the Spirit is saying and where He is leading us. This annual theme lends itself to blessing your ministry in deep ways, without adding a ton of work.
There are a number of ways you can methodically and practically implement the theme into your existing ministry schedule or add new elements into your current programming, for instance:
- Life Night – Take advantage of the included Life Night (in this Spotlight guide) called “Heroic Virtue.” It is an invaluable and timeless way to begin your teens on the path to personal virtue.
- Core Formation – Utilize the book Back to Virtue (included in this Life Support shipment) to do ongoing faith formation with your Core Team. Perhaps take one chapter a week and spend 20-30 minutes discussing it prior to your weekly Life Night prep meeting or on a separate night altogether.
- Bible Study – Take your teens deeper into virtue by doing a Scripture study based upon each one. Utilize resources like Sword of the Spirit, sessions from past retreats like “Virtuous Reality” or “Shake your Beauty,” the Bible studies included in the “Unstoppable” retreat or other articles available on www.lifeteen.com to create your own Bible study series on different virtues.
- Your daily faith walk – Assign one of the theological or cardinal virtues to each day of the week and find ways to live it out more intentionally and boldly. For instance, make Monday all about “faith.” Deliberately seek ways to grow in your faith. Make Sundays about “love,” creating opportunities to love more heroically and selflessly. Make Friday about “temperance,” encouraging all of your teens and Core to more prayerfully seek temperance as they head into the weekend. You get the idea.
- Your daily prayer – pray more about this theme of “Heroic Virtue” on your own, daily, seeking countless other opportunities to break it open in your own homes and parish communities. The Holy Spirit gave this to our entire Life Teen family, not just the staff – lean into grace and walk in more deeply into virtue this coming year!
One final thought…
Our goal must dictate our actions. If our goal, and the goal for our Catholic teenagers, is heaven (1 Peter 1:9), then we at Life Teen must heroically seek to pursue, reconcile or eliminate anything and everything in our lives that might keep us from that goal.
Grace changes everything, beginning with self.
Virtue perfects everything, even the self.
One heroic life can build God’s Kingdom on earth in powerful and timeless ways.
This year, we’re going to see just how powerful virtue – powered by divine grace – really can be.
“The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” – St. Gregory of Nyssa