The greatness of God made manifest in teens
By Scott Bailey
Photo by Adrienne Merritt
“God is great.”
I heard teenagers utter these words hundreds of times this summer. Sometimes they said it with a hearty laugh, and sometimes with a joyful tear. But the point was always the same: God is present and acting in their lives today.
Who are these deep and profound young people who see God everywhere? They are the youth of the archdiocese who participated in Prayer & Action, a week-long retreat and mission trip right here in our local communities—June 19-July 1 at St. Michael’s in Craig and July 17-29 at St. Joan of Arc in Arvada.
Nearly 90 teenagers sacrificed a week of their summer to sleep on church floors and work in the hot sun for those in need. They painted houses, trimmed trees, stained fences, pulled weeds, pulled weeds—and pulled weeds! And they did it with the love of Christ in their hearts and smiles on their faces.
Each evening the participants had the opportunity to share “GIGs.” GIG is short for “God Is Great.” It was a chance for the teens to share where they saw God acting throughout the day. Now that Prayer & Action has concluded for the summer, and I have had some time to reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit these past weeks, I would like to share a few of my own GIGs. They are three-fold: the sacraments, the people we served, and the teenagers.
First: the sacraments. At Prayer & Action, the teens attended Mass every day. Over and over again, parishioners told me how inspiring it was to see so many youths at daily Mass. I even saw several teenagers return the next week for daily Masses and rosary. However, the pinnacle of each week was always the evening of eucharistic adoration and reconciliation. Nearly every teenager went to confession. And many of them talked about experiencing peace during adoration—a resting in the Lord they had never experienced.
Second: the people we served. Most of the summer was spent with our hands in paint buckets and our shoes covered in dirt. We mainly helped the elderly, the disabled and the poor with projects around their homes and yards. I know those people appreciated our help and were touched by the presence of such hard-working teens. It is also clear that the Lord placed these people in our path so that they might touch our lives. Kids would return from work with stories about how so-and-so made cupcakes for them, or how so-and-so sat on the swing with them to talk about life and faith. Our teenagers left Prayer & Action inspired and moved by the people they served.
Finally: the teenagers. At the beginning of each week of Prayer & Action, the teens were challenged to give themselves fully to the week. And boy, did they respond. As the week trudged on and the days were hot and the kids were tired, they continued to pour themselves out in work and in prayer. As the teenagers gave of themselves, God gave back so much more. If only you could have heard the GIGs at the end of the week, when the teens were able to see how God had led them and had been present in every moment.
Just when I thought I knew what to expect from a week of Prayer & Action, God’s grace overwhelmed me anew by doing something unique in each group of teenagers. For example, one group of boys devoted themselves to a nightly Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Another group of boys wants to start a fraternal group devoted to chivalry and prayer. Some girls now want to discern a religious vocation. The Holy Spirit was with these teenagers. Their openness and their faith was a powerful witness to me that God is indeed with us.
Praise be to Jesus Christ who has acted powerfully in the lives of these teenagers during Prayer & Action. For that, I know that God is great.
Scott Bailey is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Denver in his third year of theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.