First regional ‘Faith Alive’ asks ‘Why God?’
October 23, 2012 at 10:07 AM
The answer to the question "Why God?" came to light for more than 250 youth and teens Oct. 21 at the first of three regional "Faith Alive" events specially designed to coincide with the Year of Faith.
Bishop John Barres welcomes youth and teens to the first of three regional “Faith Alive” events at St. Catharine of Siena, Reading. (Photos by Richard Patrick)
"Faith Alive" events engage youth in grades 6-12 and their families in catechesis and prayer to renew the faith of Catholics, and enable them to serve as credible, joy-filled witnesses to the risen Lord in the world today.
Bishop of Allentown John Barres opened the event at St. Catharine of Siena, Reading by asking the youth, teens and their families to expand their minds, hearts and imaginations, and to go heart-to-heart with Jesus throughout the Year of Faith.
"I can't tell you how excited I am. It is so powerful to see joy on your face and the difference the faith makes in your life," he said.
As the youth and teens reopen the door to Christ during the year, Bishop Barres called on them to heed moral teachings of the faith to form consciences that will steer them toward solid decisions about chastity, religious freedom and respect for human life.
"When we put God first there is a beautiful balance in how we live our lives," he said. "God has unbelievable plans for you. He is leading you with great love."
It is with great love, according to Rick Lanciano, theology teacher at Berks Catholic High School, Reading, that God leads people through their struggles.
Lanciano delivered the keynote presentation and maintained that, despite the struggles of youth and teens, they are extraordinary people created in the image of God.
"The reason you are remarkable is because of your human dignity," he said.
In his talk, he reflected on struggles students have shared with him, such as bullying, feeling excluded by peer groups, being made fun of in the cafeteria or humiliated on social networks.
"Those things hurt and they are painful," said Lanciano.
"But my contention is that when we struggle or suffer is when our faith is most alive," he said.
Weaving the story of Job, into his talk, Lanciano said the righteous and prosperous man did not curse God when God gave Satan permission to test his faith by destroying his possessions, killing his 10 children and inflicting him with painful boils.
When Job's friends begged him to curse God, he rebuked them and insisted God is too great for any person to understand.
"Job dismissed them and gets the bad advice out of his life. There is something to be sad for that," noted Lanciano.
Although parents, adults and teachers often encourage younger generations to pray and assure them that God will fix the struggles in their lives, Lanciano said that's not always the case.
"That's not always how it works. We want to blame someone – so we blame God," he said.
"When we take on these poor attitudes we miss opportunities to learn about God. We get so caught up in how unfair it is for us that we fail to see bad things come to us and those same bad things pass over others," said Lanciano.
Calling to mind two of his former students – one who battled leukemia twice and another who lost a parent – Lanciano said both students allowed their faith to lead them through their struggles and were thankful that another person did not have to shoulder such pain.
"They told me there is no simple formula. They are examples that our faith is never more alive than when we struggle. Our struggles bring other people awareness of the faith," said Lanciano.
Urging the youth and teens to keep asking God "why," he said they will continue to grow in faith as long as they are talking with God and offering support to others.
"You are moving toward the kingdom of God when you reach out to others," said Lanciano.
"And we all learn from perseverance and a desire to live. That is why it is so important to pray to God to help us understand the struggles and to always be grateful that they aren't worse," he said.
The evening also featured Eucharistic adoration, confession, benediction and music by John Paul Kasperowicz.
During the Year of Faith the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, in collaboration with the Regional Youth Ministry Networks, encourages youth and their families to participate in regional "Faith Alive" events.
The next "Faith Alive" events are Sunday, Feb. 10 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Bethlehem and Sunday, April 7 at St. Katharine Drexel, Lansford.