A special Lenten gift has been the opportunity to spend time with the young people of our diocese.
In three celebrations last week, we presented the Hands of Christ award to high-school seniors who were nominated by their parishes for their presence and service in their respective communities. The parishes recognized the fact that these gifted young women and men not only contribute to strengthening their church communities but also to carrying out the church’s mission to preach the good news.
The Hands of Christ program takes its name from a prayer composed by St. Teresa:
"Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth
yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good
and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now."
At the ceremony we present to each of the seniors a plaque on which the prayer is inscribed. We encourage them to take the plaque with them wherever they go next year — as a sign of the community’s respect and love for them, and as a reminder that we pray for them and ask for their prayers.
I cannot tell you what a joy it is for me, personally, to participate in these celebrations. To share the experience, to be with the kids is a living reminder of the ways in which God continually renews the life of the community. To be with their parents (and, very often, their grandparents) is a reminder that they have been the hands of Christ to their children (and grandchildren). To hear the words of those seniors chosen to speak at the celebration is to realize that they get it. They understand what it means to be the hands of Christ. And they express a willing commitment to embody that understanding in their lives.
This year our student speakers were Andrew Loso of Blessed Trinity (St. Margaret Mary), Appalchin; Carley Wenderlich of St. Lawrence, Greece; and Katrina Hossenlopp of Blessed Sacrament (Monroe-Clinton parishes), Rochester. It was a great joy to hear them. They teach well by their demeanor and their words. They held their peers (700 received the Hands of Christ), their families and their bishop in the palms of their hands as they spoke. Why? I think it’s because we perceived them to be people who seek to live the Gospel in a full and generous way.
My gratitude to our young speakers is centered on two themes they developed. One is that discipleship is a lifelong journey which continually challenges and calls us to deeper life, to conversion and reconversion. I have known that for a long time. But to be reminded of it by the seniors at the edge of adult maturity was most encouraging.
The second good gift they offered came in words which identified prayer relationships and service as being pillars and sources of a solid, sustaining spirituality. They were articulating well something I have always thought to be important. That is, that we find God and we find ourselves in the context of the ordinary events of life, in the connections we make with friends and loved ones, in our service to our neighbor, and in speaking and listening to God that we call prayer.
I am deeply grateful to all of our high-school seniors who received the Hands of Christ recognition — for their presence in and service to our communities now and for the great sign of hope they are for the future.
Peace to all.