I was nearly swept away last evening when I inadvertently stepped into a torrent of teenage energy.
A scheduling snafu at the parish office meant that two groups had been booked into the same space – my weekly faith sharing small-group (all of us graybeards); and an itinerant band of about 20 teenagers, on a mission trip from their homes in Louisville.
Freshly fueled with pizza, the teens came roaring into the room (the one we thought that we had booked for quiet prayer and discussion) to watch a movie together.
At least, I think that was the plan.
The leaders—barely beyond their teenage years themselves—were having a bit of a time trying to settle things down and channel all the youthful energy. I stuck around only long enough to work out an alternate location for our men’s group to meet. But in that time, I have to say I was impressed by the way one youth minister in particular approached his challenging task. He spoke with authority, but didn’t seem to mind repeating himself – as often as was necessary – in order to get the message across. In the process, he displayed a lot more patience than I think I could have mustered for that roomful of semi-rowdy, joyful and barely-controllable teens.
As St. Paul says, ‘there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit.’ And as I left the mission group behind last night, I found myself fully confirmed in the notion that I have not been called to minister to teens; and yet, at the same time, deeply grateful that there are people who DO have that calling, and who do it well.
Their work often goes unnoticed, but it is precisely through the gifts our Youth Ministers share that we see trickles of faith turn into torrents of service – sometimes, in places very far from home.
In the first reading today at Mass, the prophet Ezekiel reminds us that this is how the kingdom of God often works. Ezekiel provides the image of a trickle flowing out from the temple…a small stream that ultimately becomes a great, life-giving river.
And I have to say: I think I saw something like the headwaters, flowing through our meeting room last night – a stream whose runlets can indeed ‘gladden the city of God’ (Psalm 46) for generations to come.
Let us pause now…to remember that we are in the presence of the Holy One.