Confirmation is this Sunday. My kids from the youth group I am minister of will be confirmed in Christ. It is a bitter sweet moment for me, you see I turned in my letter of resignation and this will be my last year working with the youth of my parish. So this confirmation will hold a special spot in my heart. I have seen these kids grow up, watched them become who they are.
You see our confirmation program runs for three years, so I have been with this group since the 6th grade, and anyone who has ever work with pre-teens and teen knows that the growth between a 6th grader and an 8th grader is tremendous.
I have seen the lanky kid turn in to the graceful swan, I have heard the dreams of the youth and seen the crash of reality take its toll. I have had the privilege of being a small part of their lives. God has graced me with them, and I am forever grateful.
The magic of youth is a wonderful thing to see and experience, and I have had the pleasure of dealing with youth for the past 19 years. The joys have been many and the disappoints few the work is always hard but the reward far surpasses anything I could have ever imagined.
In years past I have seen the hand of God at work with in our youth. I remember one youth in particular, he was in the 8th grade confirmation program at a different parish than I am at now. He was a troubled young man, whom we had to sit at our “bad boy” table. This table was were we had our most experienced teacher who could handle certain youth with love and respect, and was able to bring out the best in most. This young man was interesting at best, his goal was to upset as many people as he could, he had no interest in what we were doing and wanted nothing to do with religion of faith. As I walked around from table to table (We had all180 kids in one room for confirmation classes) to see how they were progressing on the project at hand, making a poster of Jesus in the modern world, and how would he (Jesus) bring youth to him in the modern world. The posters always bring interesting results, and his group was no exception. It showed Jesus skateboarding with a can of spray paint in his hand, and on the wall behind Jesus was His message. In truth I don’t remember the message but I do remember asking why Jesus had a can of spray paint, the youth in question responded with “Jesus was tagging”. For those that don’t know, tagging is the word used for graffiti. So basically this youth showed Jesus tagging, breaking the law to promote the faith.
I asked said youth why he would do that, and his response, “well that’s what I did last night”. I went on and questioned him about that, the morality of it and the legality of it. He asked me if I was going to turn him in, I responded by saying no, that was his responsibility and the discussion ended there. We never talked about it again and soon after he was confirmed.
I never thought I would see this young man again, I figured he was a lost soul that didn’t want the faith and would never look for it. Boy was I wrong!
The following year he showed up to volunteered and an 8th grade aid, I asked him why and his response was “You remember last year when I told you I tagged, well I was expecting you to call me bad, to toss me out to tell on me, but you didn’t, you listened, you talked and you showed me respect, that really affected me. It was really powerful, I went home and decided I was going to change, I spent the summer cleaning up all the tagging I did, and that of others and I decided that I needed to give back to the faith that has given me so much.”
I was touched, I was in tears and I was thankful to God and His powerful hands. I was the grace of God standing in front of me, I heard the voice of God in this young mans testimony and I knew that I was only a small part of the transformation in him, but was privilege to be apart of it. I was apart of his becoming, what an awesome experience.
I have many such stores, some more and some less dramatic, but each a story of becoming, of the ugly duckling becoming the graceful swan. God has blessed me, and I am forever grateful.