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Commitment to the Youth

During the XVI General Synod in October 1982 in Scranton PA the following resolution was passed, “That the last Sunday in August be set aside for the Youth of our Church and that a collection be taken for that purpose.”  Ever since this Synod the Polish National Catholic Church has taken this time of year to focus our attention on the youth of the Church.

I suppose that this time of year makes sense in today’s world since the summer is a time when the young have off from school.  The very young spend this time home for summer vacation.  This is often the time of year when families go on vacation trips.  In my family these trips were always of both a fun and educational nature.  We would go to visit places where we could learn about American history and visit museums and it would also be a fun time as well at the pool or at the beach.

As the students get a little older, this summer time becomes one in which they begin to learn about the world and the work force.  I certainly remember the many summer jobs that I had during my high school years and early college years.  I worked in construction, in a grocery store and a copy center and several more.  In each of these jobs I learned valuable lessons about life and also about finances.

And of course then the young, during the years when they graduate from high school or college, begin to find their vocation in the world. This vocation regards not only their work life, but also where they might live and their family life.  The Church also prays that some of the young men will realize their call of a vocation to the ordained ministry.  While certainly things may change in our lives over the course of many years, it is oftentimes during these formative years that our path in life is set, even if it is only at the beginning.

But we now must ask the question here, what of the spiritual life of the young members of our Holy Church as they go through all of these times of growth and change?  How can we truly make this time of the year a special one in which we reach out to the young and focus attention of the issues they face and the trials that they encounter.

I want to begin by taking a look at the Constitution and Laws of the Polish National Catholic Church.  I know that many will think that this is a strange place to start.  The Constitution speaks about how we run our parishes and church and what are responsibilities are.  But our responsibilities are exactly the point I am trying to get to.  In Article II, the Constitution addresses the rights and duties of members of the Church.  It contains sections on our prayer life, our attendance at the corporate worship of the community, that is, Holy Mass, and our reception of the Sacraments.  It is the fourth section though that is of interest here.  It states: “Spiritual duties are: worship, love and obedience to God.  A member of this Church expresses such acts of worship, love and obedience towards God by (4) the proper rearing of children and the good examples of parents and guardians, through pastoral preparation in school and in Church.

Our Constitution lays out that as Polish National Catholics we have a sacred obligation placed upon us to care and nurture the youth of our families and of the Church.  It states that this obligation takes on responsibilities in four specific areas: proper rearing, good examples, pastoral preparation in school and pastoral preparation in Church.

The definition of “rearing” is “to bring up and care for (a child) until they are fully grown, especially in a particular manner or place.”  These words should all be meaningful in regards to our focus on the youth of the Polish National Catholic Church.  We are first to “bring up” the young.  This implies that we will walk together with them.  We won’t just tell the young what they should do or demand that they go a certain way in life, but rather that we will bring them along with us in our faith journey in the Church.  Now in order for this to be a reality, each of us must, of course, already have an active and mature spiritual life.  We must not only attend Church and receive the Sacraments, but we also must be people who pray, people who act rightly and people who live rightly and piously.  We are called to bring up these youth in a particular manner and this manner is the Christian Catholic way of life, with its understanding of the need to attend Holy Mass and receive the Sacraments as well as an understanding of the requirements of our Lord in living a good and holy life.

This of course brings us to the next item, to be a good example.  We begin with the quote from the Book of Proverbs: “Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.” (Prov 22:6)  This says to us that the example of others can be a powerful factor in our lives and especially in the lives of the young.  I can certainly say this of my own life as well, the examples of many people, first of all my parents but also others such as parishioners at my home parish, teachers I had as a very young person and even those who were influential for the development of my priesthood were a powerful example to me.  Each of them added a facet to my ongoing spiritual life and the way in which I live out my Catholic faith, both as a bishop and priest, but also as a believer in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

This reminds us that as people who are committed to the youth, we all must be careful concerning the example that we portray.  This work is not only the work of parents and guardians, but the work of each and every one of us.  So first and foremost we must be aware of the example that we show to others, especially to the youth, but this is also only a first step.  The Scripture tells us to “train the young.”  This means that our example must be more intentional.  We must not only show a good example to others, but rather we must extend that example to include others in it.

It is here that we really must show our “Commitment to Youth.”  And this commitment cannot just be for one Sunday or one week a year.  While it is nice that we put a day aside to honor the work and life of the youth of our Church and while it is certainly helpful to collect funds to help support the youth programs of the Church such as Convo, the more important matter is that we strive to make the youth an ongoing and continuing part of everything we do as a Polish National Catholic parish and as individual believers.  This means that we should involve them in worship as we would anyone else within our parish communities.  This means that we encourage them to speak at our parish meetings that we may take their concerns to heart, make sure their voices are heard and their needs are met.  This means that we share with them the ongoing Catholic faith that is lived, not only within the four walls of the parish church, but at each and every moment of life.  That we pray with them, work with them, enjoy time with them, share our life and our all with them.

In this way we can live by and are guided by the words of our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew: “At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one child such as this in My name receives Me.”  (Matthew 18:1-5)  Jesus reminds us of the special care that we should have for the young and we also know that He went out of His way to bless them. Again from the Gospel of Matthew we read: “The children were brought to Him that He might lay His hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to Me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ After He placed His hands on them, He went away.” (Matthew 19:13-15)

It is in this bringing of the youth and welcoming them that we provide the pastoral care to them in both school and church that is spoken of in the Constitution.  This care is not only the physical care that we provide to the young in meeting their bodily needs but with the realization that a relationship with Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are as vital a matter as any other need.  We must make sure at every moment, in school, at home, in Church, on the playground or at work that the relationship to Christ and His Church plays a role.  Everything is connected to our Christian Catholic life as believers and this is something that we must not only model for others, but especially for the young, we must guide them through active pastoral care, leading them along with us in our faith journey.

It is then up to us to make sure we do not prevent the youth from coming to Jesus, rather we must encourage them and lead them on this journey to our Lord.  And then the words of Proverbs will become true for them, “Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.”


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1006 Pittston Avenue, Scranton, PA 18505
Phone: (570) 346-9131
Website: http://www.pncc.org
Email: info@pncc.org