THE World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany has just ended. Due to my workload, I could not follow it closely—I just got glimpses. But it was always in my heart, like an ember that refuses to die.
I was struck when Pope Benedict, quite youthful in his 78 years, said something to the effect that true joy has a name, and that is Jesus of Nazareth. He told the youth this. Jesus is who you need, he boldly said. Wow!
I was even more moved when he urged the youth to know and deal with Christ—”at all costs.” Double “wow”!
I could not agree with him more. But the problem is how to get this very important message across in all its integrity and vividness. It’s often lost in a turbulent ocean of difficulties, temptations, distractions, weaknesses and sin.
Those raging hormones, emotional instability, intellectual softness make them prone to all sorts of unhealthy influences, often leading them to undisciplined and dissolute lifestyles that they regret later on.
Making things worse, some unscrupulous sectors exploit this youthful weakness as they bombard the youth with false images and illusions, erroneous ideas and doctrines, dangerous practices and titillating impulses.
These crooks should be exposed and duly penalized. They often hide behind cloaks of legitimate businesses and youthful proclivity for fun and search for meaning.
That’s why, my fervent prayer is that families be truly strengthened to ably carry out their delicate responsibility of forming the youth well. They should be helped by the Church, government and other private groups.
My prayer is that more and more people wake up to realize more deeply how important it is to mould our youth as they ought to be—not only good children to their parents, dutiful students to their teachers, but also responsible citizens and faithful children of God.
Thus, we need to realize that forming them is not just a matter of making them physically fit, emotionally stable, intellectually prepared. It’s more of making them spiritually and morally mature. That’s where a person’s true identity is known.
Yes, they have to develop their human faculties. I just hope that we can find a way to pursue this without sacrificing the spiritual and moral upbringing which the real goal of education.
Even more, these human pursuits should rather boost, not compete with, the spiritual and moral development of the youth. Their fun, sports and fashions should not compete with their need for prayer, sacrifice and the sacraments.
How Christ is translated into doctrines attuned to the needs of the youth, into the substance of their youthful desire for fun and entertainment, into the goal of their aspirations is the challenge we all have.
We already have a lot of Christian doctrine in modules and what not. What is needed is how to make this vibrant and always attractive to them. The goal is how to make them be consistent to their Christian faith not only at home, nor in the school and in the church, but rather more in the places where they hang out.
That is, how they can achieve true Christian integrity, such that even in their private moments, when no one is around, they continue to be a living, breathing Christian. Though an effect of grace, Christianity should be quite natural to them.
Their age is quite crucial. I believe that’s when a person can already distinguish between what is a carnal or sensual man and a spiritual man, and can choose which one he wants to be.
That’s the age when a person can decide to definitively shed off his old man, so he can assume the new man that the Christian faith encourages each one of us to be.
That’s the age we all have to pay special attention to. The youth should be helped to get clear and correct ideas, and to develop appropriate virtues, knowing how to study, to dominate his passions, and to be led always by reason and then by faith, hope and charity.
With the scandalous situation of our present political world, we need to see to it that our investment for the future is well done and developed. We have to seriously work on the youth factor!