I recently had the privilege of speaking to around 9,000 middle and high-school students from the Catholic schools of Los Angeles archdiocese. They were gathered in the cavernous Galen Center at the University of Southern California (USC), and the atmosphere in the room was electric.
There was a good deal of upbeat music and games, but when Archbishop Gómez processed into the arena carrying the Blessed Sacrament for Benediction, you could hear a pin drop. There is something uniquely moving about seeing 9,000 energetic kids suddenly falling to their knees in silent adoration.
At the very end of the morning I came on stage to address the crowd. My first move was to ask all the young people to scream as loudly as they could. What ensued could be compared to about 10 jet airplanes taking off at the same time, or perhaps, to a Beatles concert circa 1964. When they finally settled down, I said: “I want you to remember that sound, because if we could harness that energy for the purposes of Christ, we could transform this entire city overnight.”
I do indeed believe that Vatican II’s universal call to holiness is a largely unrealised dream. Most Catholics still don’t get that their vocation is to carry their faith into the marketplace, into schools, into office buildings, into the corridors of government, into sports stadiums and into the streets. I wanted those kids at USC at least to start thinking about this great mission.
I then shared three spiritual truths that I invited them to internalise. First, I said, if they want to be happy, they have to play an emptying game rather than a filling game. The secular culture, in a thousand ways, tells them that the key to happiness is filling up their lives with the goods of the world, more specifically, with money, sensual pleasure, power and fame. Watch, I told them, practically any movie, listen to practically any popular song, attend to practically any pop star, and you’ll hear this message over and over again, repeated ad nauseam.
But precisely because we have all been wired for God, which is to say, for an infinite happiness, none of these finite goods will ever satisfy the longing of the heart. Indeed, the more relentlessly we seek them, the less satisfying and more addictive they become.
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