Totally Catholic Youth Ministers Lounge

Are you in youth ministry and you've had it with crazed parents? Rollin' your eyes at the pastoral council? Tired of administration work? Love youth? Love the Church? Appalled at parish politics? Looking for some good games? For a creative ways to teach a lesson for Religious Ed? Just need a place to veg out and say "phew! Someone outside of the parish to talk to!"? Grab y'r Starbucks, turn the computer away from the staff's eyes, grab a seat on a donated dusty couch and let it all go.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Deus Caritas Est: "The best defense of God and man consists precisely in love."

By now, if you are a blog reader, everyone and their brother blogged on the Holy Father's first encyclical. I waited to be "fashionably late", as I believe there are parts of this document that will smack us ministers types right between the eyes, and convict the snot out of us.

Given on the 25th day of December, 2005 (yes released a bit later) is indicitive, I think, of where he plans to go with this. God is Love. God who became human to interact with us, live with us and die for us. God who loves us. Deus Caritas Est.

I won't go into great detail of the whole thing, you can easily read it yourself (a fact I LOVE about Benedict XVI) , but I want to point out a few particular quotes and ask you to reflect on what this means in your own ministerial life. (PS All emphasis mine)

Read this:
We recognize that we are not acting on the basis of any superiority or greater personal efficiency, but because the Lord has graciously enabled us to do so. There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in this end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14). (35)

How many of us fall into the tendancy that every kids' salvation depends on us and our work? That if I just go to their schools enough, or engage this kid or that kid in conversation, I'll be furthering their salvation, if I teach this correctly or expertly put on that program or retreat, their salvation is, gosh, nearly guranteed! Look at the great work that I've done!!

Really? I could have italicized that entire paragraph, it is so good. It is GOD who governs the world, NOT WE! Or the earlier line "...frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are "- - - what? Personally responsible for building a better world? Good gracious, get down off your cross. There is only one Savior and he only allows us to participate in his work at his will.

Here is the solution:
Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the “goodness and loving kindness of God”. (Titus 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible. (38)

I had the opportunity to give a talk on Burnout. I wish I could give it more often to polish it up, but be that as it may, I think we program and relationship ourselves into Burnout. We do this, we pursue that kid, we may battle the insanity of other parish staff and feel like we are carrying "orthodox Catholicism" on our backs every day, have a tough relationship with the pastor, got yelled at by a mother, and can't stand the poor catechetical material that is still getting published...Youth Ministers© ends up being a home for the insane and burnt out. What we can often miss is that last line which describes the truth about what a Christian is, someone "remain(s) unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible."

And then, as a solid answer to any unasked or unresolved questions:
Faith, hope and charity go together. Hope is practiced through the virtue of patience, which continues to do good even in the face of apparent failure, and through the virtue of humility, which accepts God’s mystery and trusts him even at times of darkness. Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. (40)


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