Last week all of us postulants were on a discernment retreat up in Orangeville, Toronto. Yes, way up in Canada! And I do have to say that it came at a pretty good time. Mostly because I was already beginning to enter into a time of my own discernment. This week just gave me some extra time to think. So what was I thinking about? What was I discerning? As you may already know, my ministry here in Milwaukee is at St. Francis of Assisi Parish working with the youth group there. We just had our retreat not to long ago and in my opinion it didn't go well. But at the same time more kids are coming to youth group every week so I guess maybe I was wrong. Maybe it didn't go how I wanted it to go, but it went how God wanted it to go and thats the imoprtant part. But I began thinking alot after the high school retreat. I began wondering if this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Because in my mind I failed. I began praying that God would show me how to minister to these kids. And to get to the point what was going through my mind was that I am a white guy from a mostly white suburban area growing up in a nice middle class family. Every youth group I have worked in up until now has been upper middle class to the low end of upper class. And now here I am ministering in the inner city, with inner city kids of minority racial backgrounds. Now I find that I am the one who is in the minority. That is a huge switch for me. And I have been trying to find a way to connect with these kids. And I keep doubting my ability. Then a few days before we left for Canada I had a profound, yet terrifying thought that came to my mind as I was praying about all of this. I was praying, and when I say praying I mean I was mostly complaining, to God that I don't know if I'm the right person for this ministry. There has to be someone better than me. But unfortunately no one ever puts any effort or money into inner city youth programs and I thought if no one else is going to do it then who is? And in the depths of my heart a heard a soft and gentle voice respond, "You are." And it scared the crap out of me. It's one of those moments where you just want to laugh at God and be like you've got the wrong guy. You got me mixed up with someone else. So what do I do with this? Well I took it with me on my discernment retreat and thought a lot about it. But the thing about discernment is that it is ongoing. I didn't get the answer while on the retreat. But it gave me the time to pray about how I am suppoosed to minister to these kids. How can I connect with them? So a series of events took place. Our last day in Toronto we were walking around the city with the Canadian Candidates. Guys who are thinking about beginning postulancy next year. And one of them worked in education and he was telling me that to connect with kids you have to find out what they are interested in and then become interested in that yourself so you can talk on their level. I didn't really think much of it at the time because I thought I knew that already. Obviously I didn't. On Saturday we left Toronto for Chicago. It was about a 12 hour drive so it gave me a lot of time to think and so I was praying more about this whole situation and suddenly what that Candidate told me sank into my head. What are the kids interested in? Become interested in it. Well they all love rap music. So I began to think that maybe a way to connect with them was through rap. We could do a bible study and then from there we could as a group write a rap song together about how the message of the scripture passage is relevant to them in their lives. One of the kids already writes his own rap music so I thought this could actually work. For the first time in a long time I was filled with joy and excitement about my ministry. I feel like this could be it. This could be how I start to make a breakthrough with the kids. Take what they already love and re-direct it to fit the message. Isn't that what evangelization is all about? Heck Saint Paul did it in Athens when the people were questioning him he pointed out to them "You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, 'To an Unknown God'." (Acts 17:22-23) He took what they knew already. They had an altar to an unknown god because they knew that there would always be a god they didnt know about so they wanted to make room for it. And he took that and turned that unknown god into the God of heaven and earth. The only God, creator of all things. He re-directed them in their worship. He re-directed the altar of the unknown god to fit the Christian message. I hope I am able to do the same with these kids. Pray for me that God will guide me in my ministry.
Peace and all good,