When I was 15 years old, I began to attend my parish’s youth ministry program. I was a sophomore in high school and wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. In other words, my mother made me go. God bless our mommas for their persistent hearts! I remember being really caught off guard about who was on the core team. Usually, there are adults only on the core teams, but I remember seeing someone on the core team that was a sophomore just like I was and I quickly thought to myself, “Man what is this guy going to teach me about Jesus? He’s my age and doing the same things I’m doing.” It definitely struck my curiosity. He later approached me and began to talk to me, and I quickly realized that he was different, in a good way. There was something about his character that was contagious; you would want to be around this guy. He was sending out all the good vibes! We became friends, and he began to teach me more about Jesus and what it means to be a young Christian.
My youth minister at the time challenged me as well. You see my father had left to go work in Hawaii and so I was looking for someone I could look up too to step in and fill that father void. My youth minister did just that. I was filled with questions about the faith, saints, the Church, and so much more, that I would walk straight after school to my Church, into my youth minister’s office and sit there until dinner time, asking him questions and growing in knowledge. To make a long story short, I ended up becoming part of the core team the following year and dove in head first, witnessing to the love of Jesus, as a fresh young 16-year-old high school junior.
“Say Not ‘I Am Too Young’”
The Devil is real, and his squadrons of fallen angels are real. Their one goal is to ruin and destroy our relationship with Good. That’s a pretty dark purpose don’t you think? But here’s the good news, even when we are young, we can lean on God’s promises and know that with him we have victory. In the Bible, there is a dialogue between a very young man named Jeremiah and God. I don’t know if there is another Scripture passage that I relate to more than this one. Jeremiah is talking to God and shares his fears for what God has planned for him. God’s tells Jeremiah about how he created him with a purpose and dedicated him way before he was even born. What strikes me here was Jeremiah’s response to God where he literally says something along the lines of, “but God, I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6).
Ok PAUSE. First off, when God asks something of you, please don’t respond with “But God…” We do this way too much, just making excuses for ourselves from doing God’s will. We begin to sell ourselves short from who we are. Remember that God knows our full potential and we let fears get in the way of becoming.
God responds to Jeremiah saying, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:7-8). This promise alone should be enough for any young person to stand tall upon and fearlessly approach the world.
Viva Cristo Rey
Almost 100 years ago the persecution of Catholic Christians took place in the state of Mexico. This persecution took place in the 1920s and was forced into existence by the Mexican president at the time. Essentially he thought that the Catholic Church was “too much” of an influence on Mexico and he did not like that. So he decided to wipe out as much of the Catholic Church as he possibly could. Soldiers would enter Church’s during masses and execute all who were present and begin to destroy and set fire to these Churches throughout Mexico.
A group of Catholics decided to revolt and protected the Church against the Mexican government and formed a revolutionary group known as the “Cristeros.” They would grow in numbers and help prevent and stop the Mexican government from doing more damage than they had already done. During the rise of the Cristero movement, there was a young 14-year-old boy by the name of Jose Sanchez Del Rio whose heart became inflamed for the Lord and his Church. He decided to join the movement despite his parent’s wishes.
In one particular moment, he led the frontline for the army, carrying their beloved flag against the enemy. In that battle, he noticed that his commander was knocked off of his horse, so Jose decided to give his commander his horse so he can get up and keep fighting while Jose hid and waited for the battle to be over. Unfortunately, a soldier found Jose and held him captive. They took him back and began to torture him trying to get him to say “Muerte a Cristo Rey” or “Death to Christ the King.” No matter what they would do to him, he never gave in to say it.
On the contrary, he would actually scream out as loud as he possibly could, the Cristero’s roar, “VIVA CRISTO REY.” One day they decided to cut off the bottom of his feet and walked him through the dirt roads of Mexico to his grave for the whole city to see what happens to those who go against the government. Once arriving at his grave miles away from where he first was they gave him one last chance to denounce Christ and his Church while holding a gun against his back. Jose decided not too and said one last time, ‘Viva Cristo Rey”. It was then when they stabbed him in the back. Jose fell onto the wet ground and right before they shot him dead he drew a tiny cross into the dirt ground and said, “I’m coming home.” They shot him and killed him. St. Jose Sanchez Del Rio was 14 years old and was canonized by Pope Francis on October 16th, 2016.
Saints in the Making
You and I have been called from before we were in our mother’s wombs to be holy saints. God has a plan for us, and that plan is now. You see, the youth ministry program that I came from has been running with young teens as their core members for over a decade. If you are a high school teen and want to get involved in some way for your church, I highly recommend asking your youth minister where you can help and how you can get more involved. All we have is now; we are not promised another day, so why wait? God desires all of you right here, right now, precisely at the age you are. There is nothing He wants from us more than to give ourselves to Him fully, in every phase of life we live.
We are all “saints in the making” and if we remember our daily call to sainthood then maybe, just maybe, we could all be “little s” saints of today, until we become the “big s” saints of tomorrow! You have so much potential and are more than capable of attaining this today. Seek grace through confession, holy friendships, prayer, and above all the Mass. You’re not too young for sainthood.
You can do it, VIVA CRISTO REY!