It was a regular Life Night, when I noticed a new teen enter through the door. It was written all over his face that he was unsure about attending Life Teen. When I introduced myself, I got the impression that he kept to himself and was fairly quiet.
That first night he spoke about three words to me, but every week he would once again walk through the door. There was something that was keeping him interested, and it definitely was not me.
What I didn’t realize was that this teen, Mathieu, was the younger brother of Megan, a girl I went to high school with. If you knew our Church community, you would remember her. She was always filled with joy and life. It was contagious.
She regularly read at Mass and actively participated in the youth group. When she was working in St. Thomas, she was in a car accident and died. This tragedy affected every one of us. There were many young people who were a part of the youth group who experienced a breakdown in their faith. And some, including myself, were angry that God would let this happen.
Fast forward five years, the younger brother of Megan was now attending our Life Teen program. Jesus had Mathieu here for a reason, there was no doubt about that. I knew that there was much brokenness from the tragedy, but I also knew that God always has the last say.
By the time November came around, Mathieu had continued to attend our Life Nights and it was clear that he was interested in what we were talking about. Later that month, our youth ministry program traveled to a nearby town to attend a Catholic retreat hosted by Net Ministries. When I invited Mathieu to the retreat, he told me that he had sports practice. However, God was not going to let that get in the way of His furious love.
The day before the retreat, I decided to send an email inviting again all of the teenagers who had declined. Little did I know that the email was sent to Mathieu’s mother two minutes after she received notification that his sports practice was cancelled. Jesus clearly had greater plans for that weekend. She asked Mathieu if he wanted to go, and since he had nothing else planned, he decided to join us.
The focus of the retreat was that God loves you and that there is nothing you can do that will make Him love you less. As the day continued, they had praise and worship, Eucharistic Adoration and prayer ministry.
At the end of the retreat, the Net team had an open mic. This was a time where the youth could share about anything that spoke to them during the retreat. To my surprise, Mathieu stood up and went right for the microphone. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This teen had barely said anything to me let alone a group of over 50 teenagers! As he stood at the microphone he said, “I haven’t really talked about this very much but when I was 10 years old my older sister died in a car accident. I found myself so angry that I locked myself in my room for years playing video games so that I could hide the pain.”
Tears began flowing down my face.
He went on to share that he always thought that God was off in the distance but now he knows that God loves him. I could see the joy in his eyes when he said it. He concluded by thanking the leaders saying that, “I feel like my heart is beating again for the first time.”
It took courage to share what he did. I will never forget that moment. The reality is that God was not going to leave Mathieu in his brokenness. Romans 8:28 promises us that, “God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.”
Since that day Mathieu has become a new man. In fact, he is now serving as an EDGE Crew leader. He has the same joy that I saw in his older sister. This Christmas, I received a message from his father saying, “I want to thank you for everything. We finally have our son back.” Jesus has come to set every prisoner free.
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.