Vocations Aren’t Rocket Science

Life Teen’s fundraising slogan this year is “Vocations Start Here.” They are rightly proud that in a 2010 study 30% of seminarians said Life Teen helped them discern and 49% had attended some Life Teen event.

At the same time, St Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M (Aggie Catholics) claims that an average of 8 students have entered priestly or religious formation each year in the last 12 years.

Is that any surprise? The number one youth ministry program and the number one campus ministry are producing vocations.

Then you look at extraordinary form masses. They account for more than their fair share of vocations. The FSSP seminary dedicated to this ministry is full.

Even look at my own community, the Legion of Christ. We have gone through a lot the last few years and some have left the community. However, if you compare those entering and those being ordained to the number of priests we have, we are still growing.

Again, I doubt either of these surprise you.

The surprise is those who talk for hours about vocations, Continue reading

Who Am I?

Who am I? When I started with youth ministry I asked, “What do I do?” However as I spend more time doing it, that seems inadequate. There are many things to do but is that all? Is it enough to run activities, speak to teens one-on-one, and tell them about Christ?

Maybe not.

Will this really help teens come to know and experience Christ? At times “yes” and I have the experience of it. But is it the activity? The more time I spend with youth ministry, the less convinced I am that the answer is yes.

As I continue the ECyD Advisor’s course in Madrid, this inquietude of mine has come up to the surface. As I think about it, it doesn´t seem as much what activity is done but who does it and how. If a saint does a simple activity, he will transmit Christ more than if some functionary does the most magnificent activity. In the end, I need to ask myself, “Who I am accompanying these teens?”

We have a certain method in ECyD, but what is the key? If the key is the activities, we remain on the outside of teens. We want to transmit Christ to their interior. Only someone who knows the teen interiorly can transmit Christ to his interior. So any aspect of a method needs to begin with the person, the teen and the one who helps him to know Christ. This conclusion seemed to be common to all those who participated in the course.

This affects my responsibility dramatically, I write the activities so the rest can prepare quickly. I need to focus more on the individual team leader reading these activities that the activities themselves.

Experiences that Change the Heart

Blackboard

Teens are searching for something to fill their heart. As I continue at the ECyD Advisor’s course in Madrid, Wednesday was dedicated to this question.

What can fill a teen’s heart? Or better, who can? The first thing we realize is that something can’t, only someone can. In this sense, the experiences we want are not just experiences of drinking a coke or sitting in a chair. We need experiences where we reach the interior of the other. These experiences need to change the heart. In the last analysis, this is the only way to experience Christ.

In fact, in Spanish we distinguish such experiences from others with a special word. In English, we use this term, encounter, in theology and philosophy but in everyday parlance it has a meaning we want to avoid. In fact, the most influential book on the sacraments in the 20th century used this term: Christ, the Sacrament of Encounter with God.

We each can note the key moments of our life where we have had one of these profound experiences. I can remember Mr. Beteau who taught me to think. He was a my High School teacher in Honors Social Studies; and the teacher who really made me part of the class not just a spectator or note-taker.  He awaked in me a desire for truth, convincing me to read political philosophy. He allowed me to discover him. Through this experience to see my own thirst for truth and the beginnings of a path to find it.

This day at the Advisor’s Course taught me what it means to see the other in their depths; to see beyond the skin to experience who they are and their deep desires such as their search for truth. My tendency is to instruct teens. However, Jesus asks me something more difficult but more profound which is to be open to the other and incite them to a true experience with Him. Such experiences changes boys in a way my instruction never can.

We begin with this thinking about ECyD but in the end this is how we need to be with everyone.

How do we look at teens?

binocularsThis week I have the grace of being part of the ECyD Advisors’ Course in Madrid. The first two days have been dedicated to the way we look at teens. Instead of a program, what we want to do is respond to teens as they are. If we want to help them, we need to begin with who they are. They need to tell us who they are because if we start with what we want, we can rarely help them.

I had already read ahead. I thought it was something we do, a way that we help them. I thought that I already understood this method which let me understand teens better so I can help them. What I realized, looking at them implies a change in who I am. If I just look at them as something I do, I remain outside them and never understand their interior. And the interior is where the real help comes.

One of the examples that I thought was a little strange at first; then I realized that was what I was trying to do by looking at teens differently without changing who I am. Look out your window; isn’t that a beautiful view? Now focus on a little mark on the window; what can you see out the window? If I only look as a thing I do, then I end up looking at the stain.

To help teens, we need to begin by looking at them how they are.

Hopefully, I’ll find time for one or two more updates this week.

[This will also be posted on Regnum Christi Live.]

We All Need Help

Teenagers praying

When I first started working in youth minstry, I felt overwhelmed. I knew where I wanted to go, but I lacked the tools. I wanted the teens to do service projects ontheir own but it seemd that I always needed to be present. I watned them to do dynamic stuff not just read a Gospel passage and have something akin to a 15 minute class after. I asked around and got one list of service projects from one person, 5 activities from another, and then another 2 activities from a third. This was nice but this was a lot of work.

Then I realized something, there are several programs out their that had 2/3 of my work done for me. Some people spent their time thinking through these programs and giving me pre-made guides.

It suprises me today that many youth minsiters still try to make it up on their own. How much further each of them could go if they began with the material provided by any of the top few youth ministry programs. Even if you are great, why not get the first step done and be that much greater.

And if you are not the youth minister, help them out. If the parishes is paying $10,000 (part time) for a youth minister, but not $700 for a program that does half their work, that seems really inefficient.

For full disclosure, I ended up rewriting many of the different activities and service projects I found into one format for the Conquest program. But I don’t get paid for this. I really want to help you all out with what I write.

Another Author

OK, I was told the only way to get my author’s name to appear was to create a junk post by another author. So here it is.

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