The Poorest of the Poor, Part Two

Alternate title: The Concrete Cinderblock Jungle

(Part One)

“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 27

I had been well-prepared and trained for what I would encounter in the business of teaching Catholicism.  Knowing the culture of the people you will serve is vital for any mission, and this very point was engraved into my brain during my catechetical formation.  Long-term missionaries to foreign countries spend years learning about the language and the culture of the people they will serve before ever stepping foot on a plane to get there.  They first study, then they serve.  The understanding of the culture helps them to serve better.  This is no different when it comes to the mission field of a young, post-modern culture to whom you are attempting to bring an outrageously counter-cultural message.  As Catholics, we’ve got to know who we’re serving, who we’re teaching, where they are coming from and what’s important to them if we want to even attempt to reach their hearts with the glory of the Lord.  And yet, in my humble and way unexperienced opinion, it is true that no amount of preparation will ever really prepare anyone for what they will actually encounter.  But that’s true for most things in life, isn’t it?

So we do our best to know those we serve inasmuch as we are able, and we leave the rest to God and to flying by the seat of our pants.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, my first year of teaching has taught me so many lessons that I can’t even wrap my mind around them all yet.  Being immersed in and coming in face-to-face contact with today’s youth culture has both amazed me and brought me to my knees every single day.

The middle schooler’s heart is a searching heart, seeking to discover the truth about who they are, why they exist, why the world is the way it is, who God is and if He even matters, and, perhaps most adamantly, trying to unlock the door to lasting happiness.  Their level of happiness, at this time in their lives, is directly proportional to how well they are or are not accepted.  For the evangelist, this presents an incredible opportunity to give them the answers to all those questions, namely, that it is God alone who satisfies every longing in our hearts and that He desires and accepts us in return.  But the evangelist must also realize that their message is one of many, and that their proposal for lasting happiness through giving of oneself is in direct opposition of the secular promises of fulfillment through complete selfishness.  The battle is not one of flesh and blood.

I have witnessed first hand how many of our young people (notice this is a generalization about youth culture in America today and obviously does not apply to every single teenager) are searching for happiness in all the wrong places.  It goes without saying that most young teens today look to immoral celebrities for moral advice and base their perception of their personal value upon how many followers they have on Instagram.  Fleeting is their joy and absent is their understanding of self-sacrifice.  They recognize the truth and beauty of an authentically Catholic life, but they, in their too-early-exposed innocence, are afraid.  The hope that the Lord offers them is so counter-cultural that it stuns some of them.  They are in the midst of trying to reconcile how so much of what they are fed through the television, internet, and radio can be empty promises if everyone else is buying in to them, and how having a relationship with a God they can’t FaceTime (solution: Eucharistic adoration), follow (solution: Scripture), or talk to (solution: prayer) will ever give them what they really want.  And what do they really want?  Love.  They want to be loved simply for who they are, and not who they pretend to be.  They want to be loved without limits, without conditions.  They want to be filled up with love so badly that they go to the ends of malice in order to obtain even the most twisted forms of love and acceptance.  The desire for God is written on their hearts, and from that they cannot run.

I have once again found myself in the slums, serving among the poorest of the poor.  They have everything in the world.  But they lack the lasting joy for which they search.  In their wounded-ness they pretend that they don’t need anyone else but themselves to be happy.  In Ecuador, I was blessed to serve a people who had found the Lord in their hearts but who longed for Him in the Sacraments.  Now, I am blessed to serve a people who have the Lord in the Sacraments but who long for Him to take a true grasp of their hearts and their lives, even if they don’t realize it.

God has demanded much of me in this new mission – patience, humility, charity, understanding, forgiveness, peace, sacrifice, and unwavering joy – on a whole different level than ever before.  But He’s provided the grace, as per usual.  I’ve had some successes and many failures.  When I start to fail, I know that I need to pray more, to pray better, to die to myself and my own desires more in order to love them better, to love them like Jesus loves them.

My students, who somehow shine in the midst of the aforementioned culture, have already given me much more than I could ever give them.  I am the most blessed woman to be able to teach them, and they are future saints for putting up with me on the daily.  As this year comes to a close and my mission continues, please pray for my little/notsolittle ones, that their hearts might be open to receive all the love that God offers them, and that they might respond to that love in joy and a willingness to leave all behind in order to follow Him.  And please pray for me, that I might continue to be humbled, that I may decrease so He can increase.  He can love them much more than I can, and I need His grace to get out of His way so He can work through me.

“A sacrifice, to be real, must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves… Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.” – Blessed Mama T

Comments

  1. sobbing over here.

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