Youth invited to make prayer a priority

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Middle school and high school students spend time in Eucharistic adoration as part of the Ignite Youth Rally at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Superior April 24. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff
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Middle school and high school students around the diocese were offered an experience to encounter Jesus in a deeper way through regional youth rallies. Through praise and worship, fellowship, guided reflection and Eucharistic adoration, they were challenged and encouraged to go deeper in their faith.

The Diocesan Office for Catholic Formation had teamed up with Twin Cities-based Partnership for Youth for organizational aspects of the youth events, so parish catechetical leaders could be more present for their spiritual experience. During Fall 2018, rallies were held in River Falls and Medford and a third took place in March in Eagle River. The fourth and final Ignite youth rally was held at St. Anthony’s Church in Superior April 24.

Following an opening activity and a pizza dinner, youths were welcomed back into the church with song led by Nate Reinhardt. After singing, Reinhardt shared his definition of worship: “My response to God’s revelation.”

He invited participants to “lose your composure; something we are very, very good at in Minnesota and Wisconsin – buttoned up, reserved.”

Fingering the guitar as he spoke, he asked youths if they had the courage to respond to God outside of their social norms, to go outside their comfort zone to respond personally to God more than worry about how those around them are acting.

“When we worship, when we respond to God, we have to be like a kid in a candy story,” he said, describing the exuberant reaction seeing so many good things there for the asking. He invited them to join in the lyrics of Cory Asbury’s “Reckless Love of God,” entering into the meaning behind each word.

Fr. David Neuschwander, a diocesan priest serving Superior-area parishes, presented a keynote address calling on the youth to tap into their own experiences of when “You nailed it, you know things are right and the way life’s supposed to be.”

Sharing his own story as a high school student, drawn more and more to prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, something that started with adoration during religious education classes, he said, “Peace came over me and things just felt better and more right. I realized that God was slowly filling my heart in a way I’d never experienced before.”

His life was “going really, really well” – he was talented, popular and had good friends – but “Prayer started bringing me to a place where I realized there was more, that God had something more.”

The young priest challenged the audience to commit to three things as resolutions from the rally.

The first was prayer. Fr. Neuschwander asked them to spend more time in prayer, whatever time of day worked best for them.

“If you do (spend more time in prayer), you’ll start filling yourself with a deeper sense of that perfect shot – just rockin’ it and doing well.”

As a prayer aid, four young men handed out cards from Fr. Neuschwander. One was a prayer card with a drawing of his hands holding the Eucharist with the Sacred Heart front and center; on the back was a quote by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, used on his ordination cards. It ends with “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

The other was a Dynamic Catholic card with a seven-step “Prayer Process.”

The priest expressed further conviction on the need for daily prayer, commenting on the recent tragedy of a local young woman who had died by suicide.

“God is a good Father. Give any worries and anxieties over to the Lord. He wants to help you carry them,” he said, and acknowledged that when we encounter real struggles, we need to turn to friends, parents and mentors, “but especially to the Lord.”

His second request was to binge watch YouTube. After a short pause, he added a clarification, “Binge watch Catholic speakers on YouTube.” He named Fr. Mike Schmitz and Bishop Robert Barron, but said that just searching Catholic speakers, they would find inspiration and motivation to stay close to the Lord.

Lastly, he asked the youth to “really give yourself to the Lord (during) adoration,” and to seek to experience God in that direct way.

Iterating that God wants to give deeper peace, even in the midst of difficulties, Fr. Neuschwander concluded, “I’m convinced the Lord does amazing things in our lives. God wants to call all of us to something special in our lives, something that fills us and something that allows us to get to the end of the day, nailed it!”

After exposition, there was silent adoration and then accompaniment by the guitar and singing.

To end the night, Kory LaCroix, who had given the rally’s introduction, powerfully encouraged the youth to pursue holiness.

And to do so, he said, “We don’t need big experiences and flashy moments, perfect families or even parents who bring us to church.

“The Lord has given himself to you at baptism,” he emphasized. “He has given himself to you – in every Mass, in every church, we encounter our highest dignity.”

He stated, “Our prayer lives need the Eucharist; this is our highest form of prayer … where we discover and receive all that God calls us to be … (Where we hear God say) I delight in you right now, as you are.”

LaCroix ended with the image of a father, the Father of the universe wanting to hold each person there, to have them place their heads on his heart.

“Remember that He is with you and working in your heart if you let him … My hope is that you wake up with the expectation that God is going to do something wonderful. He’s just waiting for your glance.”

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