WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Bob Rice not only talked to the youth but he sang his message to the young people.
SPRUCE GROVE — Sometimes young people want to compartmentalize Jesus, allowing him into their lives only when it's convenient for them.
"Hey, God, you're really good with the God stuff, and you made me feel good at a retreat day, and I enjoy you on Christmas and Easter," said Bob Rice, associate professor of catechetics at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
"I'll let you into my life on Sunday morning, but don't interfere with my Monday. Don't tell me how to live my life or have relationships or how I should be as a student."
Rice was the guest speaker at Holy Trinity Parish's ninth annual youth rally, held March 19 in Spruce Grove. More than 200 youth from Grades 7-12 throughout the archdiocese attended.
Rice shared a Gospel story about Simon, a man who knew the fishing business well. Simon recognized that Jesus was an important man, but he did not want Jesus meddling in his area of expertise.
When Jesus told Simon to venture out on the deep waters of the Sea of Galilee and cast out his fishing net, Simon sensed that Jesus did not know much about fishing. The fishermen had already been toiling all night and caught nothing (Luke 5).
"Sometimes this is the same answer that people give Jesus when it comes to the details of our lives," said Rice.
Simon drew in many fish until his net broke. For a fisherman, he should have been ecstatic with this result. Instead, he cried because he realized that all he had ever sought in life amounted to a pile of fish.
Rice asked the youth, "What are you fishing for?
"Are you like Simon, going out in the night and casting your nets in all the wrong areas, wishing if only you had that, then you'd be happy? If only I was smarter, if only I had more money, if only I was taller or shorter, if only I was funnier or more popular, if only my parents hadn't broken up."
In the midst of our deep frustration, Jesus shows up and says follow him and he will make us into something spectacular.
The fun and interaction keep some youth returning to youth rallies year after year. For others, this was a new experience.
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Andrea Bedard, left, and Carlee Pilla do hand motions during an interactive song.
"I've never been to a youth rally before, and I wanted to try it. I thought it would be good, and I like it," said Sarah Simpson, a Grade 7 student, who is a member of Edmonton's St. Clare's Parish.
The consensus among young people was that the highlight of the youth rally was Rice's three hilarious but inspiring talks. He ministers to more than 10,000 people each year at conferences, giving talks, teaching workshops, leading worship and performing his own music.
Rice's message really hit home with Simpson. "What I got out of his talk is that I should focus more on Jesus in my life," she said.
The rally's theme was, This One - in reference to Jesus. Many times young people pigeonhole Jesus, or have a religion component to their lives that is disconnected from other aspects of their lives.
"One thing Jesus continually preached is that he wants a relationship with us. When you're in a relationship with someone, that relationship knows no boundaries," said Rice, comparing a relationship with Jesus to that of marriage.
"My wife and six kids are in a different country, thousands of miles away - that doesn't nullify my marriage. Wherever I am, I'm married. Whoever I talk to, I am always a husband and a father. That's the same thing Christ is inviting us to have in our faith, that wherever we are, we are Catholic and followers of him."
Solange Vilesak is a Grade 7 student who attends Holy Family Parish in St. Albert. She decided to attend the rally because she knew from past experience that she would be inspired.
"I wanted to spend more time with my friends. I went to a youth rally before and I liked it because of the speeches. They really inspire me," said Vilesak.
A professional chef prepared a meal for the youth. Some said they enjoyed the music of the praise and worship band, Anaphora. The youth played interactive games, met new friends, and learned more about the purpose and effects of Confession.
Vilesak also enjoyed listening to Rice, a dynamic speaker, musician, improv artist and youth minister. His humour, personal stories and extensive knowledge of the faith resonated with her.
"He's funny, and I like him a lot," said Vilesak.
The first youth rally at Holy Trinity Church was in 2003, with about 80 youth attending. The day featured a live band, guest speakers, small group discussions, Mass and a dance. Since then, the rallies continue, bringing in exciting speakers and attracting more youth, some years as many as 230.