It was late in the summer of 2013 that I was reawakened in my love for the Church and all of the beauty that She contains. I had been a youth minister for five years at two very large and demanding parishes in Texas and Georgia. I loved what I did and all of the teens but was beginning to forget what it was all for.
I was beginning to struggle to see who I was working for… myself? God? Parents? Teens? It is a common place that youth ministers can find themselves in over time and it is why daily prayer is such a necessity. I was a product of Life Teen myself, growing up in an awesome youth group, but the feelings of excitement I used to experience had faded a bit.
In July, I boarded a plane to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day with 4 teens from my parish in Atlanta. If I am honest I had not spiritually prepared myself and really did not see this as a pilgrimage for myself, rather just for the teens. This was not my first time to World Youth Day so I felt like I “knew it all” but it ended up being the most unforgettable one yet.
When we arrived, Rio was everything any of us could have hoped for. Brazil had stunning landscapes, hospitable residents and the energy level was off the charts once Pope Francis arrived. My heart began to soften throughout the week as we saw the massive amounts of young people from every corner of the globe gathering to see Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, drive down Copacabana beach. It was incredible to see such an inspiring man of God but I must admit he was not what inspired me the most that week.
On Saturday evening of that week, I led my teens to a hotel on Copacabana beach to watch the Papal Prayer Vigil from above. I decided I was too “worn out” to actually sit on the beach with the other 3 million people (#WeakSauce). When we arrived in the hotel I sat down on the couch watching everything on TV.
After a few minutes on the couch, I looked over to the balcony; my teens were eagerly kneeling in adoration. They were praying with the millions gathered before the Blessed Sacrament even though they were spectators from above. Then I noticed a familiar voice, Matt Maher, singing his newest song, “Lord, I Need You.”
At this point, I jumped up to see what my teens were seeing. I was inspired by their spirit of reverence and so I wanted to experience it myself. When I walked quietly onto the balcony my breath was literally taken away! I now understood why my teens were brought to their knees on the balcony. Not only was it our Lord in the Eucharist but we were witnessing the Church from the viewpoint of God!
We were looking down on millions of people kneeling in the sand and on the streets, with Pope Francis at the helm, on a journey of prayer with Christ in the Eucharist. And there was Matt Maher assisting the Church in worship just like it was any Life Night or Steubenville Conference at home. The difference this time was that I got to experience it all through the lens of Christ. I was overcome with peace and overwhelming joy.
At that moment I remembered what this movement of Life Teen is all about. I was reminded that we are a part of the Body of Christ and it is a huge body made up of many diverse individuals.
I will never forget what it was like to look down and see the Church as Christ sees it. To see Americans, Italians, South Africans, Brazilians and every country in between crying out, “Lord, I need You!” It revitalized my love of the Church and it has inspired me to never forget whom I serve!
Editor’s Note: This blog is part of a series of blogs that relate to our 2014 theme Inspire[d]. If you would like to submit about a blog about an Inspire[d] story that you have, please see these guidelines.