I had the pleasure to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis last week. This conference was attended by over 20,000 Catholic high school students. I was struck by their energy—and my lack of energy! I was struck by their enthusiasm. I was struck by their zeal for Christ and the Church. I talked to a couple of young men who were joyfully displaying stickers saying “I am forgiven.” They had just been to confession and they were proudly sharing their faith and their freedom with all around.
I was struck by the thirteen bishops who attended and I could not say enough about their appreciation and their love for these young members of the flock. And the love was reciprocated. There were a number of workshops where the bishops were available to take on any and all questions—a very popular feature of the conference. I was struck by the talent that was invested to bring joy to the proclamation of the gospel. Musicians, comedians, speakers—all proclaimed a common theme: We are Called to Glory!
The kids came, often with their youth groups, and would wear distinctive (ok—weird) hats to identify members of their group. The gamut of headgear from barnyard animals (very popular) to alligators, to fairy princesses, to the Statue of Liberty was quite a sight. The kids wore them proudly—pretty much the geekier the better. Forget any notion of surly teenagers. What I saw and experienced was laughter, fun, friendliness and openness to others.
I was most struck one day as I walked out of the convention hall and happened upon a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. Led by a huge group of priests and literally thousands of young men and women, the Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession from a local parish, through the streets of Indianapolis and into a prayer chapel set up in the convention center. The teens fell to their knees in adoration as the procession passed by. One day at Mass I found myself right next to one of the Communion stations and I was again struck by the reverence with which these young people received the Eucharist.
We often hear bad news about the Church. Rarely do we see the good news in such an exhilarating display. I saw a glimpse not only of the future of the Church, but of the vibrancy of the Church today. And for this I am truly grateful.
(Check out the NCYC Facebook page.)