Dear young people in the Diocese of Wilmington,
You are called to be saints. Yes — saints. Each and every one of us is called to holiness, to sanctity, to sainthood. Sainthood is our life in Heaven with God, a never-ending lifetime of joy, peace and love. This is where the Catholic church points us. This is where Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads us. This is what Pope Francis reminds us: the Lord “wants us to be saints and not settle for a bland mediocre existence” (Gaudete et. Exsultate 1).
Young people, I write this letter to you because four years ago I settled for that “bland mediocre existence.” My faith was lukewarm. I sporadically went to Mass and I barely made time for prayer. After twelve years of Catholic school, I “knew” my “faith” but I kept God at a distance. I certainly experienced the cost of that self-induced separation. This manifests itself for each of us in different ways. For me, afraid to face my own hurt and loneliness, I turned to sin — lust, self-pleasure and unhealthy relationships.
On the surface of it all, I don’t think any of my friends or relatives would have called my existence “bland” or “mediocre.” I was actively involved in my high school, had good friendships, and was heading to Duke University in the fall, hoping to study neuroscience and become a doctor. To the outside world, this was a life full of flavor.
However, once I arrived on campus, I quickly realized how directionless, purposeless, I really was. What was success to me? Money? No. Happiness? Well what is happiness? Self-fulfillment. Well, then, who am I? … I couldn’t answer this question. I didn’t know my desires, my passions, my heart or myself … I didn’t know the depth of my identity. Who am I? Where am I from and where am I going? I couldn’t answer these questions … but thankfully, I didn’t need to answer them on my own.
Young people, I write this letter to encourage you that wherever you are in your faith journey, rejoice in who you are. Give thanks. Give thanks because our God is a God who is love. Rejoice because God is our father and through your baptism you are a son or a daughter of this most high God. I wish that someone had told me that during my baptism, God calls out to us, like he does in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel: “You are my Beloved Son,” “You are my Beloved Daughter,” “in you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). God delights in me an in you. Not just in the Church or your parents … but in you. This is the bedrock of our identity as Christians. We are children of God … “and if children, then heirs…” heirs of the Kingdom with Christ, called to be saints (Romans 8:14-17).
My friends, I write this from the depth of my heart because I want you to know that you are loved. I want you to know that your life has value and purpose. And I want you to know that the Church needs you. This call to holiness is not some blanket invitation to another community pool party. No. This call is personal, particular. God may be calling you to be a father or a wife. He may be calling you to a priest or a consecrated religious sister. Whatever it is: you have a purpose. And wherever this call takes you, you are never alone.
And how desperately God wants us to hear his voice. More than we could ever imagine living into our vocation as priests, mothers or single people, God desires that very life vocation for you and for me. Spend time listening. Spend time in silence before Jesus’s real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Spend time listening to words of Jesus in the Gospel. (God delivers on His Word and Promises.) And if you don’t know what to say, how to pray or where to go … ask. Ask him. Ask your priests, family members, friends, me … anyone. There’s no response to the questions we don’t ask. Young people, your future is full of hope, Heaven is on the horizon. And if you’re ready, this journey renews itself today.
— By Luke Duchemin
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