I had the weekend off because I was wrapping up a Kairos Retreat with Maria Goretti High School, so no homily; thought I’d offer a word on the Kairos experience the past few days…
For those who may not know or be aware of the Kairos Retreat, the basic premise of the retreat is to allow the participants the opportunity to contemplate the role of God in their lives and an opportunity for great transformation. Needless to say, it lived up to it’s goal the past four days!
In all my years of working with high school teens, it never ceases to amaze me the challenges that many face on a day to day basis. Whether it is family problems, addictions, lost hope, broken relationships, and the list goes on and on. It often feels like they have been forced to be “little adults”, just seeming that when I was their age, life seemed much easier and there didn’t seem to be so many challenges like the one’s they face daily.
You could ask any of the adults that help with these experiences just how much of an eye-opening experience it is, a great testament as to why high school needs to be just as much about formation as it is about education. There are too many that just do enough to survive and don’t really have the opportunity to be “kids”. Many of them would tell you themselves that they feel a great deal of pressure to succeed ALWAYS and that things are never quite “good enough” for the adults in their lives. Yes, goals and expectations can be good, but not to the point where it forces them to be pressure cookers, waiting to explode.
Even though I no longer work with teens on a full-time basis, I don’t think I will ever stop being an advocate for them, especially for the young men who struggle without a male role model in their lives. Many would say that the immaturity of young men (college and beyond) has reached an epidemic level within this country of ours and so the necessity of male role models is even more important, in teaching young men what it really means to be a man, most especially from a Christian perspective. The paradox of the whole thing is that for some reason “kids” have been given the power, even within schools, often to the detriment of their formation; and yet, the shadow side of it all is that they don’t know how to handle it all. It is our responsibility, as adults, to show them and model it for them.
There is, then, the whole issue of God as well. Yes, there are believers, but what do we do with the atheists, the agnostics, those that simply equate God with the Church and hold a grievance against both, many with good reason. How do we balance them all and yet, still meet there where they are at. Some don’t know why they are even where they are at, some have been hurt, quite hard at that, some remain apathetic, and others are just simply lost. I only ask, where did we go wrong? When did all the “issues” become more important than the faith formation of these young people. I have always said, if we don’t teach them how to have a living relationship with God and who God really is, and to think critically of it, we are only going to continue a downward trend in those that “practice” their faith. For many young people, it has been disconnected, and for many adults as well!
And so “my” kairos moment…well, it’s still in process, but I pass on this passage from Saint Paul which summed it up: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” It really is in God’s hands and the grace and the seeds that have been placed in the hearts of them and me the past few days. It isn’t about a “moment in time” but rather a change that happens over the course of our lives. My heart ached at times for them and yet, they remain a big part of my hope for the future. They, we, are now called to preach with our lives what it is we believe; I’m grateful for the gentle reminder that the experience has given to me!