By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, March 12, 2012

Zeal for the Gospel

When Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of a new evangelization, he specified the "new" in terms of zeal, method and expression. Well, this past week I encountered plenty of the first: zeal. On Thursday I joined with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa to have an afternoon-long discussion with members of the Canadian Catholic Youth Ministry Network (CCYMN). Then, on Saturday, I gave a talk to a formation conference for adult leaders of youth ministry, organized and hosted by CCYMN. In each case the ardour for making known the Gospel to our young people was palpable. It was very encouraging to meet, and hear from, people who are dedicating their lives to making Christ known. Clearly, what they do is, for them, not "just a job". It is a vocation, a mission, rooted in their own personal encounter with the Lord. Pope Benedict has spoken of this encounter as an "event" - something happens, we are changed when we encounter Jesus - and this "event" of meeting unconditional divine love has certainly impelled these youth evangelizers forward, with joy and enthusiasm, to those who are especially precious to God. "Let the children come to me ..."

That zeal also arises from a deeply held conviction that the message they carry to the young is one that must be announced and which, if accepted, leads to real life. There is an urgency to this annunciation, because our beloved young are immersed in a media world that offers anything but real meaning and hope.

That is precisely what our young people not only need but want. There is a desire for depth in the teaching they receive, a longing for real foundations on which to build their lives. I have recently begun to meet with a group of students from one of our Catholic high schools in Edmonton. They are serious about their faith, and are able to articulate very intelligent questions. Pat answers, or arguments lacking solidity, simply will not do. Where can they turn to find the meaning they seek? Certainly not to most of what comes to them through television, music, the Web and so on. Young people have very accurate antennae, and I sense they are growing increasingly tired of, and disappointed by, the shallow and vapid signals they are picking up from popular media sources.

Catholic youth leaders today share this sense, and thus earnestly desire to share the Gospel with our young people. They know, as does anyone who meets the love of God in Christ, that a relationship of love and friendship with Jesus Christ gives birth to a hope and joy that is real, that endures, and that can be found in no one else. We are blessed to have the CCYMN in Canada. Please join me in prayer for God's blessings on their outreach to our youth.

P.S. Since I was speaking in the hometown of the Ottawa Senators, this is the image they used when introducing me at the youth ministry formation weekend: