I often say, “You never know who is in front of you.” My job is to learn what I can and to facilitate whatever needs to happen.
Louis and his brother are in 9th and 6th grade and their parents (his Spanish speaking mother and father) came to sign them up for classes. Neither children had been baptized so both needed that and First Communion. In our parish, at those ages, we have an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) for those ages. But those classes were starting to overflow so on the suggestion of our Pastoral Associate, I put the boys and a couple of other kids into regular classes. (Did I mention that this is my first year doing this part of the program?)
The younger brother and his parents kept showing up but there was no Louis. Since he is 14, I asked if he was on board with all of this. I have had my own 14 year olds and I know how they can be. But I was assured that he was.
The next week Louis shows up. A very shy, very polite, tall, studious and clearly smart young man. He learned as much as he could. He spent all year following through on every service experience, lesson and conversation, ( even though he was very shy he wanted to talk about God).
During our final weeks, getting these boys baptized was a challenge but since First Communion was a fixed date we had to work it out. As I sat down with each of the brothers to talk about what this process was to them, I could hear the desire and the urgency in Louis’s voice. Being part of the Catholic community, specifically this Catholic community, was something vital to him.
Our final class was a large group activity and I asked all of the kids, (with their teachers present!) to tell me one thing that they learned this year. (Some of the responses will be shown in other posts but today I want to share Louis’s because I think that is the crux of what we can teach our teens.)
Louis, ever quiet, raised his hand and said, “Mrs. Gape, I can tell you something I learned this year.”
“Go ahead, Louis.”
“I learned what it means to be Catholic. I learned that serving others and going to Mass so that we can be part of the bigger community is a gift. (he touches his necklace hidden under his t-shirt), that doing all of the things we did this year and learning more about Jesus ( he shows the crucifix) make us closer to Him and I want to be closer to Him. I know that everyone else here has been going to classes but this is my first year and I’m, well, thank you.” (he said some other things but I think I blanked out as I felt the Holy Spirit vying for space!)
Needless to say, I wanted to weep with humility and gratitude. God allowed me to be part of this??? What??? But I composed myself and turned it around to my life-long Catholic kids who complain because their parents make them hear about God.
“Did you all hear that?” I asked to their intent listening silence. “Being part of this is not something to take for granted. You have been given, we all have been given a gift. Faith is a gift and as Louis said, a gift to be shared! You all grumble about being here but here is Louis reminding all of us that not everyone receives this automatically. Consider the world we live in? How many people need this gift?? Don’t take it for granted. Louis, you made my week, thank you.” (Later, my daughter said, “Mom, I’m proud of you, I know you wanted to cry but you held it together.”)
Louis and his brother were baptized and at one point he took me aside, “Mrs. Gape, do you know where I can get a Spanish Bible? I’d like to be able to read our bible (a gift from the program) side by side with my mother. But she doesn’t understand English. I thought this way we could read along together.”
You never know who is in front of you.