Dignify and Deploy 16: Equipping Young Saints 1
‘Don’t be afraid to be saints! This is the liberty for which Christ has set us free…Dear young people, be won by Him!’ St. John Paul II
God created Karol Wojtyla to be the greatest youth leader ever. He was a solid artful guy won over by Christ and Church as a young man; his faith developed under the fire of Nazi then Soviet oppression. He understood freedom-in-Christ at a profound and far-reaching level. As pope, he amplified that freedom for young people around the world.
Faith under fire—John Paul lived that truth and articulated it with an actor’s panache and accessibility. He did so in youth gatherings around the globe throughout his papacy. These ‘World Youth Days’ may be his greatest legacy. The clarion call for youth to become heroic in Christ envisioned multiple millions, literally. The Philippine gathering of 7 million broke the world record for persons gathered in one place ever. He gave the party; youth came.
Rather than dumb down Christianity into ‘sin management’, John Paul majored on identity and destiny. He understood the indignities trying to take down youth; he summoned them to be truer, more authentic, freer than any worldly counterfeit. How? Through the One who gave all to gain them!
Drawing upon the core values he had lived and conceptualized, John Paul gave youth a bracing challenge to counter the culture of death by fighting for the lives of others. We must know our own dignity, underscores John Paul. Yet we can only integrate that dignity by advocating for the dignity of others. ‘This is not the time to be ashamed of the Gospel,’ he declared in ’93 to Denver’s biggest crowd ever. ‘Challenge what tries to crush life to the full like the first apostles who preached Christ to every town and city…now it is your turn: preach it from the rooftops!’
Freedom to know and declare Christ. Feeding the hungry. Caring for exiles. Loving others chastely. Fighting for the unborn. By appealing to the fullness that Jesus offers the surrendered, John Paul overrides the ‘victim-speak’ that now drives a generation. He called youth to make history by aspiring to moral heroism. To South American youth caught between communism and military dictators, he preached: ‘History is written not only by what happens outside of us--it is written first on the inside, in human consciences, through moral defeats and victories.’
His point: we are made for more, and capable of achieving more through Christ Jesus, one conviction, one hard choice, two steps back then three forwards, at a time. For John Paul: ‘Yes’ to Him—the fullness of God in humanity--is the threshold of freedom and dignity for all.
‘If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze!’ John Paul’s closing line of Rome’s World Youth Day, the biggest pilgrimage (2 million youth) in European history, 2000.
“Help us God to arise into a greater vision of our destiny and to train others to do the same. Work deeply in us the truth that our dignity hinges upon dignifying others. Strengthen us in weakness to try again—harder, stronger, more lovingly and more inclined toward the other. Re-envision how we envision our young.
Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”