Archdiocesan attendees set ‘Ablaze’ by Holy Spirit at National Catholic Youth Conference
More than 10,000 young people, including close to 100 from the Archdiocese of San Antonio, gathered last month in Indianapolis for an experience of faith and community in the name of Christ. The event was the National Catholic Youth Conference, hosted by the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry.
The theme was, “Ablaze, Enciende el Fuego,” focusing on the Holy Spirit. The gathering featured music, reflection, reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration, a powerful closing homily from host Archbishop Charles Thompson of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and a keynote presentation focusing on the Holy Spirit by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS. The San Antonio delegation also had the opportunity to have a private Mass with Archbishop Gustavo at the headquarters hotel.
Pope Francis likes to say youth are the “now of God.” The Holy Father has often reminded the faithful that they need to keep in mind one fundamental reality: that they are the beloved sons and daughters of God; that God himself lives in everyone, and that the Holy Spirit has been given to all so we can be constantly transformed in His love.
“If we doubt this message about God’s unconditional love for us, all we need to do is take a good look at a Crucifix. There we discover proof of the immense love God the Father has for all of us; a love that did not hesitate to allow his Son to die on the Cross for our salvation,” said Archbishop Gustavo in his keynote talk to thousands on the field and in the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium. “Looking at the Cross we know we can get up every day and ask for God’s help with the words ‘Abba, Father!’ We know that his love sustains us and that his Spirit allows us to love Him and the whole human race with the same love He has given us.”
Archbishop Gustavo said we can ask ourselves why we don’t live lives fired up by the love of God. He followed up by saying that the answer to this important question lies in the fact that love is never forced on us. “It is always within our reach, and God allows us to notice it all the time if we pay attention to it; nevertheless, if we want to live our lives on fire, we need to say yes to God’s love all the time!” he emphasized. “We need to ask Him to send his Spirit upon us and transform us from within. Every day we must renew that encounter of love, knowing that Jesus and the Spirit will never fail us.”
The archbishop shared a story with listeners about a priest in San Antonio. This priest had already been in Hospital Ministry prior to the onset of COVID-19. During the last two years of the pandemic, he worked tirelessly and for endless hours, every single day. He acted as a true servant of God, ministering to the sick, anointing patients, baptizing dying babies. He provided peace, comfort to the families of the sick and dying as well as the hospital staff. At times he had to minister virtually and did not hesitate to wear the personal protective equipment required by hospital. He did not have fear in his heart but love on his face as he encountered each person. He allowed himself, through his faith, to be moved by the Holy Spirit.
“There are many stories alike during these difficult years,” Archbishop Gustavo assured attendees. “The same fire has to happen to all of us. The Holy Spirit will empower you to accompany the person that is being bullied at school or on social media. Your love will reach out to the person that is rejected for being different.”
He challenged the young people to ask God to make it happen. “Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us strength to recognize God in every human being! This is the upper room! Open your hearts to the Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, Come and change us!” he stressed. “May the Holy Spirit make himself present with all his strength in us so that nothing remains the same in our lives. If we let this happen; if we allow it to happen to us today and every day of our lives, we will understand that the Holy Spirit is always within us; that we need Him to be our better selves, to grow, to be Church, and to do good for God’s glory.”
Pope Francis recently talked about the important role that youth have to play in the life of the Church and the world in the encyclical letter Christus Vivit. He said: “Dear young people, my joyful hope is to see you keep running the race before you, outstripping all those who are slow or fearful. Keep running, ‘attracted by the face of Christ, whom we love so much, whom we adore in the Holy Eucharist and acknowledge in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters. May the Holy Spirit urge you on as you run this race. The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith.’”
The San Antonio prelate explained that the pontiff is asking us to build a synodal Church; to hear the call together, to act together, to serve together, to be faithful to God’s plan until the end. “Young men and women, we have been called to live with others as a community!
We are aware that our communities are afflicted by chaos. The pandemic and the divisions we experience make our common existence a difficult one. But it is there, in the midst of all that chaos, the Holy Spirit wants to shine and bestow his gifts.”
The archbishop acknowledged that even after having received the Holy Spirit, the apostles and Mary did not stop experiencing fatigue or facing all sorts of difficulties and challenges.
“The same thing happens in our lives. The world around us, packed with its ideologies and growing divisions, is constantly upon us,” he recognized. “When challenged by them, we must always remember that the Holy Spirit is with us; that thanks to our relationship with Him, we can bring new light into the world. We can face all political, economic, social and cultural problems in a different way. Discern well with the Holy Spirit. In confusing times call for his direction. Your vocation in the Church, Marriage, Priesthood, Religious life. He will help you.”
The Missionary of the Holy Spirit finished his reflection with some words from Pope Francis that summarize what God, his Church, and the world need from youth right now: “Young friends, don’t wait until tomorrow to contribute your energy, your audacity and your creativity to change our world. Your youth is not an ‘in-between time.’ You are the now of God, and he wants you to bear fruit. For ‘it is in giving that we receive.’ The best way to prepare a bright future is to experience the present as best we can, with commitment and generosity.”
Archbishop Gustavo challenged the young people to receive anew the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Allow the root experience of receiving the Holy Spirit to enrich your passion and love for Jesus Christ and the Church! Allow yourself to be burned with the great love of God!”