Published January 12, 2006
In two different locations, separated by only a few miles, two groups of young Catholics from the Archdiocese of Atlanta rejoiced in the Faith that unites us all this past Saturday. In spite of a difference in language, they were almost identical in the energy and the happiness they engendered. The Hispanic youth festival that took place at St. Lawrence in Lawrenceville and the middle school youth rally that took place at St. Andrew in Roswell shared some very similar activities. Both included about 400 young people from this local Church. Both events were very LOUD with music and excitement! Both had the usual full quota of perpetually hungry youngsters that grace our lives—and both had the Archbishop for at least a portion of their day!
The Hispanic youth gathering was in preparation for a national assembly of Hispanic youth that will take place later this year at University of Notre Dame. Our young people were electric with their enthusiasm as they rejoiced with each other and greeted me. They shouted out that they were from Dalton or Gainesville or Marietta or a dozen other parishes. They were proud to represent those communities, and I pray that those communities are equally proud of these youngsters who symbolize the vibrancy of these parishes.
As I approached the stage, I had to walk past the speakers that blared out the music that was a clear reminder to me that this assembly was about youth and the songs that they love. The speakers were the size of small garages, and as I passed in front of them, I realized that my musical preferences and dislikes did not need the volume level that these monstrous speakers could and did produce!
I encouraged these young people to keep alive their wonderful cultural and language heritages. These are gifts that enrich this local Church and give us a special flavor and charm. I blessed medals of the Blessed Virgin Mary and bestowed them on these youths as a reminder of the love that Our Lady has for young people in general and our own Hispanic youth in particular.
I then made my way to St. Andrew’s where an equal number of young people were gathered to celebrate a middle school rally day. The sound level was the same—as was the enthusiasm and joy! These young people were at the lunch and recreation break when I stopped by, so the commotion was at a fever pitch.
The theme of the day included a reflection on the call to conversion (a subject not limited to teenagers!). Many wonderful youth ministers gave up a day to lead these young people in a time of faith and fun. Msgr. Hugh Marren, pastor of St. Andrew’s, popped in and out of the day’s activities and commented after Mass that these types of events have a lasting impact on the spiritual development of our youngsters and leave them with very positive memories of the Church. I could not agree more with his assessment!
The day at St. Andrew’s concluded with Mass. The ordinary Saturday evening vigil Mass was postponed for 30 minutes to coincide with the official ending of the youth rally. So the usual assembly of Faithful at that evening’s Eucharist were joined by 400 teenagers. I noticed in the front pew several parishioners who appeared to have had considerable experience as grandparents, clapping with the music that young Catholics prefer at Mass. That was an indication not only of the gracious hospitality of the parish but a sign of the approval that even the older Catholics find when they see our Faith so joyously celebrated by those who will lead the Church tomorrow.
My Saturday had a good beginning and an equally wonderful conclusion!