A few years ago, I had the opportunity to celebrate Easter Sunday in Rome with some students and members of the faculty from Cardinal Gibbons High School. Every year the school organizes a trip to Italy to give people an opportunity to deepen their faith and understand better the history of the Catholic Church. The trip begins on Holy Thursday and finishes at the end of the first week of Easter. Easter Mass at St. Peter’s Square is the core moment of the pilgrimage.
That Sunday, we arrived at St. Peter’s Square three hours before Mass began. We spent this time together before Mass in kind fellowship and excitement because it was the first Easter with Francis as our pope. When Mass began, the reverence of the group, the way they got so focused on the prayers, on the readings and on the whole celebration, was inspirational to me. The celebration was in different languages, but these students carefully prayed, responded and sang.
Communion time became a great experience for me as I saw all these young women and men receive Communion with amazing reverence, love and joy. I tried to be more focused on my prayer after Communion, but I couldn’t avoid seeing these people touched by the beauty of this Mass and having a deep dialogue with the Lord Jesus Christ.
During this trip, I was anointed with hope.
The students and their leaders taught me that many young people love the Church and her teachings. After spending some days with them, I realized that many young women and men seek God in a world that tends to hide him.
Most people of high school age are hungry for God. They want to find the meaning of the spiritual, and they are concerned about the needy. They want to be a part of the transformation that the world needs. These people love Pope Francis and see in him a model of faith, charity and love. They also pay attention to those who speak to them with respect and sincerity about the truth. I realized that these young people truly believed, and even though they had doubts, they wanted to get closer to God.
Amid the negative news that we have in the world, the faith of these young people is good news for us.
Most of us tend to think that we are the ones who are to lead the youth to Christ. But this experience taught me that giving young people the opportunity to share with us their dreams, fears, convictions and points of view is a way to let them draw us closer to Christ. During this experience, I was strengthened, blessed and anointed with hope. Young people need our guidance, but we all need their guidance as well. Young people seek God as we all do, but they can also make us find God where we least expect him to be.
Father Romen Acero is the pastor at St. Gabriel Church, Greenville