What Is Youth?

Anyone who knows me can acknowledge that I enjoy working with young people. I love them, and am very concerned about their well being. I love working with them because I enjoy their vigor for life, their tireless search for meaning in life, and their enthusiasm about discovering what the next day, week, month or year holds. The desire to look for meaning in life is analogous to the attempt to look for the meaning of a text; just as we want to know the meaning of a text through the author’s view, we refuse to accept life’s meaning without God in it. God is the author of life, and we want to know life’s meaning through His own eyes; that is a sign that we bear the stamp of God, His seal. I want to be part of your life, my dear young friends, because I want to accompany you in this exciting journey of finding that meaning.
With that being said, I want to dedicate the next few posts to them in the hope of addressing some of the issues they face daily in life. I hope these posts prove useful to their needs and help answer some of their questions.
Youth is not only a period of life that corresponds to a certain numbers of years, it is a time given by Providence to every person and given to him as a responsibility. During this time, every youth searches, like the young man in the gospel (Mark 10, 17-31), for answers to basic questions. No youth want to be like Ivan Ilych in Leo Tolstoy story who thought he could live life as if it has no meaning. No one wants to approach life as having no meaning like Meursault in A. Camus’ The Stranger to only face the cruelty of his mindset later. Youth is when we look for answers to our questions, and the meaning of life. It is when we look for God with our whole being. It is when we ask whether we can experience God’s existence. It is when we want to know why there is evil, or why people do bad things. It is a period where we have time to question why food, video games, time with friends, TV shows don’t satisfy our deepest longings. My dear fellow young friends, the fact you are asking these questions means that you are looking for something deeper. It means that you don’t want to settle for something shallow. You want answers and you want truth. Youth not only searches for the meaning of life but also for concrete way to go about living it. You want to try things and are very adventurous. It is my conviction that every mentor, parents, and pastors must be aware of these characteristics. They must learn how to identify them in young people.
Are these questions simply empty dreams that fade away as we become older? No! We were created for something great, for infinity. That fact does not erase with old age. As I have quoted multiple times from my favorite Saint Augustine, “our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you”. Because human beings are made in the image of God, we do this in a unique and special way. We reach out for love, joy and peace. So we can see how absurd it is to think that we can truly live by removing God from the picture! God is the source of life. To set God aside is to separate yourselves from that source and, inevitably, to deprive yourselves of fulfillment and joy. Without the Creator, the creature fades into nothingness. In the very asking of questions lie the search for God. Don’t settle for anything other than the truth.
If at every age of this life people desires to be his own person, to find love, during his youth he desires it even stronger. However, the desire to be one’s own person must not be understood as license to be anything without exception. It is the time to engage in discussion and learning to discover what it really means to be free. I guarantee that rationality and the grace of God are sufficient to lead you, dear young friends, to see that there is no freedom outside the Gospels. Unlike what many have said about you, my dear friend, I know that you are willing to be corrected. You want to be told yes or no and be explained the reasons behind it. You need guides, and you need it close at hand. That’s why you turn to authority figures as a search for human warmth and a willingness to walk along the right path. Listen to those wiser than you.
So, if there is a problem of youth as many have argued, it is profoundly personal. In life, youth is when we come to know ourselves. It’s a time we are deeply hunger for communion. It’s a time we come to realize that life has meaning only when we come to freely give ourselves as a gift. That is the origin of all vocation— priesthood, married life or a career. However, many young people are not seeing that today. Utilitarianism ad hedonism are in the forefront of all newspapers and every internet page. They have very few good examples to live by. So the deeper problem is an adult problem rather a youth problem. It is time when adults need to step up to build a better future generation.

For this reason, dear young friends, I encourage you to strengthen your faith in God. You are the future of society! During this beautiful period of your life, I urge you to study hard and be passionate about the truth. Christ is the ultimate answer to the questions you are asking. He is the true love you are so much in love with. Make him the background of your search. Make Him your point of reference. Many people have no stable points of reference on which to build their lives, and so they end up deeply insecure. You don’t want to be one of them. There is a growing mentality of relativism, which holds that everything is equally valid, that truth and absolute points of reference do not exist. But this way of thinking does not lead to true freedom, but rather to instability, confusion and blind conformity to the fads of the moment. As young people, you need a solid point of reference to help you to make choices and upon which to build your lives. you need direction like a young plant that needs solid support until it can sink deep roots and become a sturdy tree capable of bearing fruit. Christ is that support. Don’t be afraid to entrust yourself to Christ. An important day in your young life, dear young friends, is the day on which you become convinced that Christ is the only friend who not disappoint you and on whom you can always count.

The Inner Fight!

If you have been following my posts religiously, you should notice how I have been emphasizing that we have a God shaped vacuum in the deepest of our self that can only be filled when we turn our heart and mind to God. I have said times and times again that the way to fill that empty fountain is to wholeheartedly surrender ourselves to God, the pioneer and the perfecter of everything we do. The point I want to accentuate here is that I believe that the vacuum we have in our soul is created by our Creator to keep in touch with us. It is actually very important to continue to have that vacuum in order to continue to be thirsty and hunger for God, and so search Him ever more intensely. Without the need for God, there would be an African desert inside of our soul that would never be quenched. We would constantly be yearning for something that could never be found. I believe it is God, in His unfathomable mercy, that creates that great divide in us to help us in this valley of tears in which we find ourselves.

This generation is probably the first generation where human nature is looked down upon. Every generation before us understood that we are a certain way, and there is a certain way we need to live in order to best fulfill the being that we are. From antiquity to the modern time, all understand that we have an inner conflict. Some knew better how to deal with it, but they at least understand that we have it. Nowadays however, even though we are experiencing the conflict, many prefer to ignore it. And that’s alarming.

Thomas Aquinas understood the conflict thus: between the spirit and the flesh there is a continual combat that needs to be dealt with by prayer and fasting. Ovid, the Roman poet, saw the same war in himself as well. He wrote, “I see the better thing, and I approve them, but I follow the worse”. St Paul too understood it very well when he wrote, “the good that I want to do I fail to do, but what I do is the wrong that is against my will” (Roman 7, 28-9). Pascal truly understood the nature of man’s emptiness when he wrote, “the cruelest war that God can wage against men in this life is to leave them without the war he has come to bring”. That war is present in every human soul, and I believe it is to our advantage that it is there. It is an inner conflict between our desires and the principles by which we set for ourselves to live; it is a war between our emotions and reason, grace and nature, doing this and that…. It is an inner conflict between the actual and the ideal self. That is a good thing; it keeps us going; it allows us to strive to be the best-version-of-ourselves and reach holiness.

Whatever forms that conflict takes, it can only be resolved in isolation; only when we remove ourselves from the noise of this world to completely surrender ourselves in mind, heart and soul to God by telling Him how much we hunger and thirst for Him, and how without Him we are a failure is that longing satisfied. I believe that conflict is almost necessary for our spiritual and human development. The way we handle it can perfect our nature and help us attain the true greatness for which we were born. It reveals our true character. It is not permissible to give up that fight. It is through fire that gold is tested. We want to say like St Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4, 7) so we can be told, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and receive the reward of eternal life” (Mat 25).