In December of 2006 my friends and I were working at a mission in Belize, a mere 26 hour bus ride away from Mexico City.
A day on a bus and 536 pesos seemed like a small price to spend the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Basilica where the image is housed. It was an incredible pilgrimage, minus an unfortunate encounter with contaminated ice and not checking the feast day Mass schedule. We assumed that Mass would be held hourly, as it was every other day.
When we stumbled off the bus late that Sunday night, the ushers apologetically told us this was the one evening there was no Mass, since the celebration for the next feast had already begun. Our mission priest later told us this was an honest mistake — we didn’t have access to the change in schedule. While embarrassed at our poor planning, we realized it was the first time in our adult lives that any of us had missed Mass.
When I was in high school there were times that I found my parents’ rules absolutely mortifying. I was never allowed to spend the night at friends’ houses on Saturdays or work on Sundays because we attended Mass as a family. If sports, trips or other activities conflicted with Mass, they were out of the question.
In “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Pope John Paul II describes youth as a time of searching, “not only for the meaning of life but also for a concrete way to go about living … life.”
When family schedules kick into overdrive and the BlackBerry is buzzing to remind mom and dad to be about six places in the next four minutes, it’s easy for things like Mass and religious education to get pushed aside.
However, this hectic time is when priorities are being established that will carry into adulthood.
Sitting outside the Basilica that night, my friends and I reflected that back in high school — at a time in our lives when the SAT, extracurricular activities and getting the attention of colleges and boys seemed to be of utmost importance — our parents instilled faith as the foundation by encouraging good habits.
Now out of college and in our 20s, no one really cared about what we had accomplished. I was sitting with girls who had graduated at the head of their class, lettered in sports and were the first runner-up in the Junior Miss Pennsylvania Pageant — yes, I was friends with some real over-achievers. Yet as healthy, holy and happy young adults we realized that it was our faith which brought us to this point, not the dust-covered awards in our closets.
Pope John Paul II stated “an important day in a young person’s life is the day on which he becomes convinced that [Christ] is the only Friend who will not disappoint him, on whom he can always count.”
There’s a lot demanding the attention of teens and their families, but a relationship with Christ and a foundation in the church is what will carry them through the challenges of this life and into heaven.
Alison Griswold is the youth director at St. Francis by the Sea Church on Hilton Head Island. She writes her column “Team Catholic” for The Miscellany.