In the Year of the Youth, we hear how some young people endeavor to live the ideal of holiness. Even though beset by numerous challenges, the youth can aspire to be holy by relying on God’s grace and looking at the lives of the saints.
PUBLISHED ONApr 2019
We sometimes hear of people who say that they will first enjoy life and will give up their vices at a much later stage, when they are older. But the truth is, we do not know when our time here on earth would be over. The time to be holy is right now.
Holiness is defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia edited by Robert C. Broderick as, “a degree of union with God through sanctifying grace and the performance of morally good acts.” It is not easy to always be in union with the Lord, particularly when one has very deep hurts, rejection experiences and obstacles he goes through. Yet, it is possible, as described earlier, through sanctifying grace, “a supernatural quality granted by God” and which increases “through good acts done for and through God, and particularly through the reception of the sacraments,” as pointed out by the same reference.
A wise monk, Dom Paco Ma. San Juan OSB said, “God is always present to us, but we are the ones who are not always present to him.” In the history of humankind, only Jesus and the Blessed Mother were sinless. All of us, including the saints, are and have been sinners. The question is, how did the saints lead lives centered on God and how can they be shining examples to us, especially to the young, as we celebrate the Year of the Youth?
They exercised humility, childlikeness and trust. They surrendered their frailties to God and asked for His help so that they could do His will. They chose to do good things to bring others closer to Him. Were they perfect? No, they were not.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus, a saint who died when she was only 24, in her autobiography Story of a Soul, wrote, “He (God) made me understand my own glory would not be evident to the eyes of mortals, that it would consist in becoming a great saint! This desire could certainly appear daring if one were to consider how weak and imperfect I was, and how, after seven years in the religious life, I still am weak and imperfect. I always feel, however, the same bold confidence of becoming a great saint because I don’t count on my own merits, since I have none, but I trust in Him who is Virtue and Holiness. God alone, content with my weak efforts, will raise me to Himself and make me a saint, clothing me in His infinite merits.”
The Young and Holiness
Sky Ortigas, a young Catholic online missionary, tries to follow the way of the saints. She shares, “I always put to heart and try to remember Mother Teresa’s words, ‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’ Before, I thought in order for one to be holy is to be overly righteous, to do all the proper things, to be successful in everything, to be the nicest person on the planet who does great work on big things. But I make mistakes, I get hurt, I hurt others as well. I can be nice, but not the nicest. I become human in all sorts of ways. I realize that holiness is not something that defines what you look like or how you react on certain things. Holiness for me is to live your calling and your relationship with God, to live out each day with great love, to accept circumstances and deal with them with the knowledge that a holier God is right behind you.”
Today’s young person is faced with numerous challenges, particularly in relation to the use of social media. The pace of life is going faster, and even if success might be more achievable with the help of technology, one’s inner self might be more susceptible to attacks.
What does a young individual really need these days psycho-spiritually? When I interviewed Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD on Salitang Buhay on DZMM Teleradyo, I asked him how his tandem with Fatima Soriano, who started out as his very young listener on radio, lasted for years. I wanted to find out what made him connect with a child easily. He cited that the youth are looking for a relationship, for accompaniment.
Regardless of age, we need to listen more deeply to the pressing search of the youth for authentic intimacy with God whose love brings about meaning, wholeness and holiness. Sky stresses that “holiness is not achieved on how great and successful you are on your mission, but how you journeyed with your mission each day doing small things – even things that people don’t see. Holiness is about living every single day with the passion to do things not only for yourself, but for others and most of all, for God.”
James Santos, a seminarian from the Society of Jesus, says, “For me, holiness is to embrace and to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in His way of loving to all the people one encounters. It is seeing with His eyes, listening with His ears, loving with His heart. Christ loved without keeping count. Even if only one of the ten lepers came back after He cured them, or when the men on the way to Emmaus could not understand all that was written about Him, or when He saw Peter for the first time after he had denied Him thrice, Christ continued to heal, to teach, to forgive. He had the heart of the Good Shepherd, who always sought for that single lost sheep, even abandoning the ninety-nine in his search. In Christ’s eyes, each one mattered.”
James continues, “In one of my contemplations, He told me: ‘James, I love you as you are. No matter where you go, no matter what you choose, I will still love you. I will continue loving you.’ That was when I realized how much freedom the Lord has given me to love Him, and in the face of such a freedom, it was hard not to respond to such a love. He was simply loving me – freely, completely and unconditionally. And with that, my heart was filled with so much gratitude and love that I committed freely and entirely my life to follow Him. This is also the same love, Christ’s love and mercy, that I try to share and give to every person I meet as a Jesuit scholastic in formation.”
Thirsting for Hope
We cooperate with God’s graces in order for us to be more like Him. On our own, we cannot be holy, but if we open our hearts to Him, we can tread the path to holiness by rooting ourselves in Him. We are reminded in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
Pope Francis, in his Address on October 3, 2018 in Rome at the Synod of the Bishops on the Youth said, “The present moment, and this applies also to the Church, appears to be laden with struggles, problems, burdens. But our faith tells us that it is also the kairos in which the Lord comes to meet us in order to love us and call us to the fullness of life. The future is not a threat to be feared, but is the time the Lord promises us when we will be able to experience communion with him, with our brothers and sisters, and with the whole of creation. We need to rediscover the reasons for our hope and, above all, to pass them on to young people who are thirsting for hope.”