In this blog, Life Teen VP Mark Hart shares the story behind this year’s spiritual theme. Scroll down for links to resources to help you parish unpack this theme. – Editor
The Acts of the Apostles is one of the great gems of the Bible. Nestled – almost hidden – between the Gospels and St. Paul’s “guide to Christian living” (the epistles), St. Luke’s Acts not only offers insights into where the Church came from, but often where She is going.
One particular scene in the Acts of the Apostles forever changed my view of ministry. Brief but poignant, it demonstrates the power and supremacy of the Spirit-led Church over and above any manmade ministry efforts. In the fifth chapter of Acts, a wise and learned teacher of the Law, Gamaliel, spoke to the council about this uncontrollable “new group” of (yet-to-be-called) Christians, saying:
“So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” – Acts 5:38-39
There it was: game, set, match. Powerful words about an even more powerful God. It really was (and still is) that simple. If a ministry effort is of man it will fall, if of God it will fly.
It’s with this truth in mind that I am proud to say, “twenty-five years after our humble beginnings in a single parish, Life Teen is still here and still serving by the grace and mercy of God.” Make no mistake, we are still being humbled and the fact that we have not only survived this long but that we are thriving like we are is a credit not to our staff but to God our Father and to our Mother Mary’s intercession.
People ask me all the time, “How have you all done it? What’s your secret? How is Life Teen still going strong after all these years and everything you’ve been through?” My honest answer is usually, “It’s a beautiful mystery.” That mystery, of course, is the Paschal Mystery, the Mystery of the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ. It’s a mystery not to be solved, it’s a mystery to simply behold.
In 2010, our Life Teen theme will focus on just that, drawing us all closer to Christ and His Church, as we collectively “Behold the Mystery.” In our training conferences and camps, in our retreats, rallies and resources we will enter more deeply into this beautiful mystery of Christ. We will rejoice in the Spirit’s constant movement not only in Life Teen but in our Roman Catholic Church, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Like the apostles 2000 years ago, we will pray and minister with humble passion and reckless abandon for the gospel (Acts 4:20, 5:29), soul to soul and side by side.
For two and half decades Life Teen has been a traveling companion (Luke 24:13-35) for Catholic families all over the world. Parishes implementing Life Teen have been helping parents fulfill their role as primary catechists (CCC #2223) each and every week as teenagers and their families have entered – time and time again – into the timeless and sacred Mysteries. We’re proud of our silver anniversary year, not because of “what we have accomplished” but because of all God continues to accomplish through humble hearts and willing souls year after year (in every corner of the world) through this Life Teen movement.
The Holy Spirit is using Life Teen to change the face of the Church. Countless men have entered the seminary. Hundreds have been ordained. More and more young women are discerning and joyfully entering into religious life. Innumerable marriages (my own included) found their beginnings and set their foundations around the altar table at a “Life Teen Mass” or on the floor at a Life Night in countless parish halls.
As in Acts, the Holy Spirit has sent us, too, to places we never expected. We’ve hosted Life Teen events on five continents. We’ve participated in World Youth Days, had audiences with Popes and Cardinals and seen several Life Teen Pastors ordained as Bishops, further blessing the Church in this new millenium. Members of the Life Teen family have been sent onto the “cultural mainstages” of MTV, professional sports teams and contemporary Christian music. All of these graces that have flowed from one parish youth ministry program…that is movement of a Divine Nature; that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
In the past five years alone, the Holy Spirit has guided us into all new, excitedly uncharted waters. Thousands of souls have encountered Christ’s mystery and had their lives forever changed through Sacramental encounters at Life Teen summer camps. Hundreds more are being formed in Christ as Life Teen Summer Staff and, now, as Life Teen Missionaries with households in Arizona, Georgia and, even, Germany! Life Teen Podcasts are downloaded in over two dozen countries. Thousands of young Catholics are now experiencing the mystery of God’s Word in a Life Teen Bible. Thousands more were holding a copy of Come Clean in their hands as they experienced the mystery of Christ’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation this year.
Indeed, these realities all contain an element of mystery or, more to the point, the Mystery of Christ sustains and fuels all of these realities. What an incredibly blessed movement of the Spirit that we are all witnessing, sharing and serving within! What an awe-filled and awesome chance we are being given, now, to pause and Behold the Mystery being unveiled around and within us. It makes perfect sense that the Spirit led us to this theme on our 25th Anniversary year, insuring that we would not inadvertently turn any attention on ourselves but, rather, insuring that all honor and glory be directed to Christ.
The prophetic words of Gamaliel ring as true today as they 2000 years ago. With hands outstretched and eyes wide open we turn our hearts yet again to our Lord, Jesus Christ, as He beckons us to behold not only what He has done and is doing but as He invites us more deeply into the unfathomable ministry mystery that is to come.
May we all be present and docile enough before God to enjoy this journey and may our Blessed Mother, through Her intercession, continue to lead us every step of the way.