November 27, 2015

National Catholic Youth Conference 2015

Archbishop Tobin gives charge to archdiocesan youths: ‘If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart’

More than 1,000 youths, youth ministry leaders and chaperones from the archdiocese packed St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis on Nov. 19 for a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin at the beginning of the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

More than 1,000 youths, youth ministry leaders and chaperones from the archdiocese packed St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis on Nov. 19 for a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin at the beginning of the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

As more than 1,000 high school youths, youth ministry leaders and chaperones from across central and southern Indiana gathered for the archdiocese’s opening National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis on Nov. 19, something was noticeably missing, something NCYC is noted for: the crazy hats.

The youth of NCYC are known for donning hilarious headgear—cow heads, sharks, pizzas, hot dogs, tall hats, drooping hats, hats that light up.

But as they entered the 144-year-old spired church, the hats were tucked away in reverence for the sacrifice of the holy Mass in which they were about to partake.

After the opening song, led by a special choir consisting of NCYC participants from throughout the archdiocese, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin put his fingers to his lips in contemplation, looking over the standing-room only congregation.

“You have no idea how good you look, not after where I’ve been in the last week,” he said in reference to the time he spent in Baltimore for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall general assembly on Nov. 16-19.

Repeating the words from Psalm 95:7-8, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart,” the archbishop used his homily to call the youth to focus on the present.

“All we really have is today,” he said. “What other day is there? It’s tempting

to think I have many more todays ahead of me. But all I have is today. ‘If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart’ ” (Ps 95:7-8).

Archbishop Tobin acknowledged that some days are harder than others.

“We proclaim that we should offer to God our praise in times of distress,” he told the teens, their youth ministry leaders and chaperones. “But sometimes I wish today would go away. Sometimes my heart hardens. ‘Why did you let this happen

to me, God? If you loved me, you would take this trouble away.’

“God says, ‘Call on me in times of distress. I will rescue you, and you will glorify me.’

“Some days I can’t do that. I feel too sorry for myself. Maybe I’ll feel like doing it tomorrow. But I only have today. ‘If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart’ ” (Ps 95:7-8).

The archbishop closed his homily with words looking to what the youths would experience during NCYC, for which this year’s theme was “Here I Am, Lord. Aqui estoy, Señor.”

“God will speak to you today,” he said. “And when Friday comes, God will speak again. And Saturday, God will speak again.

“I would like to say that NCYC will change me for the rest of my life, but it won’t. What I really hope is that this experience will change me today. ‘If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart’ (Ps 95:7-8). Instead, let’s simply say, ‘Here I am, Lord. Aqui estoy, Señor.’ ”

After the Mass, the archbishop, preceded by the approximately 35 priests and 18 seminarians who joined him at the altar, processed with the Blessed Sacrament across Capitol Avenue to the Indiana Convention Center.

The raucous, energetic youths in the halls of the convention center removed their hats and dropped to their knees in reverent silence as Christ in the Blessed Sacrament was processed by, accompanied by a litany of hymns and antiphons sung by those in the procession.

The procession ended in a large ballroom where Mass had been celebrated for members of the Diocese of Lafayette, Ind. After Benediction, many remained for quiet prayer in the presence of Christ.

Abbi Hamm, a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Clarkesville, knelt for several minutes, head turned upward, eyes closed in prayer.

After leaving the ballroom, she shared a broad smile.

“I was praying about the whole idea of saying, ‘Here I am, Lord’—use me this week,” she said. “I asked him to speak to me, and I told him I’m saying ‘yes’ to him these next couple of days.” †

 

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