OTTAWA – Unplug from the Internet, take out those ear buds, take some time to be still and rediscover the love of God – and make that prayer time and stillness a habit if you want to effectively share the Good News with young people.
That was the message 300 Catholic youth ministry leaders from across Canada took in during the March 9-12 Canadian Catholic Youth Ministry Network conference on the theme: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46.10).
Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast gave an opening reflection on the conference theme, followed by Eucharistic Adoration at St. Patrick's Basilica.
Prendergast asked, "What does it mean to be still? Can we be still today?"
The archbishop used the story of St. Patrick's conversion in Ireland to bring home the importance of solitude and contemplation in meeting God.
The Confessions of St. Patrick echo those of St. Augustine, when St. Patrick said God was always after him and he didn't know it, Prendergast said.
St. Patrick grew up in northern Britain, the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest, but as a young adult he was not at all religious.
"He did not know Jesus Christ," the archbishop said. "That shows that the transmission of the faith is not only today's issue, but a perennial challenge."
Captured by Irish raiders, St. Patrick was pressed into slave labour. It was during quiet moments spent in a meadow that the knowledge and love of God began to dawn on him.
"He was still and began to learn of God," Prendergast said.
The distraction of technology can be the thing that takes us away from our deepest selves, he said.
He urged those present to unplug, take out the ear plugs and enjoy silence, especially before the Blessed Sacrament.
The Lord of history, the Second Person of the Trinity is "present with us in a very small wafer of wheat" in the monstrance, he said.
Patrick escaped to Britain, but he was profoundly changed, and could not go home again in the same way because home is not the same anymore, he said. He did not forget the Irish, and eventually returned to lead them to Christ and the beginnings of Christian civilization.
Jesus wants us to be in his presence and to sense it everywhere, whether it is in the tabernacle, in the monstrance, in the poor, in the person who came to talk with you, the archbishop said.
Prendergast asked the hundreds of young people gathered in St. Patrick's Basilica to imagine themselves at the foot of the cross with Mary and the beloved disciple and "imagine what he would say to you."
"Jesus tells you what you need to hear: I forgive you; I love you; you are mine; go in peace."
He urged those present to go confidently and boldly before the Father, citing Jesus' agony in the garden as an example of how frank we can be about our fears and concerns.
"Come as you are and don't be afraid to say 'Father take this cup from me,'" he said. But in the end, he urged them to follow Jesus' example and say "Not my will, but thine be done."