November 14, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Like Holy Father, archdiocese committed to reaching out to young adults

On Nov. 9, we commemorated the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. On Nov. 18, we commemorate the dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome.

Both of these occasions, if you will, celebrate the “homes” of the universal Church and its Roman roots.

St. John Lateran is the Cathedral Church of the Holy Father. The Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul honor the tombs of the two founding “fathers” of the Church.

One cannot but think of the successor of Peter on these feasts of the universal Church. Pope Benedict XVI continues to surprise many of us because of the energy he brings as universal pastor.

He is certainly in “the evening of life” at age 81. To those of us who have known him for many years, it seems as if his health is better now than it was 10 years ago.

I try to keep up with him by reading the English edition of the Vatican weekly edition of the L’Osservatore Romano. Besides featuring his address at the weekly general audience, the paper usually publishes various talks and messages the pope gives during a given week. I am struck by the common themes expressed by the Holy Father.

Recently, he received the Benedictine abbots who were in Rome for their general congress held every four years.

Pope Benedict has a great regard for the Rule of St. Benedict and the contribution that Benedictine monasticism has made in the civilization of Europe. He encouraged the abbots to carry on the civilizing role of monasticism in a culture sorely in need of the harmonizing effect of the Gospel of Christ.

The Holy Father also encouraged the abbots to continue to foster the spirit of hospitality, which has been a hallmark of Benedictine communities in a world sorely in need of places that people can go for respite in a truly Christian spirit “within the infinite horizon of Christian hope.”

I was pleasantly surprised that the Holy Father’s central point with the abbots was to urge them to devote themselves “with fresh apostolic zeal to youth who are the future of the Church and of humanity. Indeed to build a ‘new’ Europe, it is necessary to start with the new generations, offering them the possibility of coming into close contact with the spiritual treasure of the liturgy, of meditation and of lectio divina. This pastoral and formative action is in fact more necessary than ever for the whole human family” (L’Osservatore Romano, #39, Sept. 24, 2008).

The Holy Father made a brief visit to Paris and to Lourdes in mid-September. He went to France in order to be part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother in Lourdes.

The pope was given a formal reception in the Élysée Palace by the president of France, Nikolas Sarkozy. In his address to the president, the Holy Father said: “The pope, as a witness of a God who loves and saves, strives to be a sower of charity and hope. All of human society needs hope. This hope is all the more necessary in today’s world which offers few spiritual aspirations and few material certainties.

“My greatest concern is for young people. Some of them are struggling to find the right direction or are suffering from a loss of connection with their families. Still others are experiencing the limits of religious communitarianism. Sometimes on the margins and often left to themselves, they are vulnerable and must come to terms on their own with a reality that overwhelms them. It is necessary to offer them a sound educational environment and to encourage them to respect and assist others if they are to develop serenely towards the age of responsibility” (L’Osservatore Romano, #38, Sept. 17, 2008).

From the time I became a bishop, I have been deeply committed to Catholic education and the religious formation of our youths. Our schools and parish catechetical programs form a core of ministry to our youths.

The archdiocese has also been working hard for several years to strengthen our youth ministry programs in addition to Catholic education and catechetical formation.

More recently, we have begun efforts to provide an archdiocesan “home” for our young adults. This ministry addresses the significant challenge of the mobility of our young adults. With the use of the Internet and other means of technology, we hope to provide more initiatives for young adults and specifically for campus ministry at our colleges and universities.

The presence of five young adults on our archdiocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land was intentional. Their presence and interaction with the more senior pilgrims was a blessing for all parties concerned.

Our efforts will continue to echo the hopes of Pope Benedict. †

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