Praying for young people

Published on 16 Jan 2019
A young woman praying.

In this personal reflection by Teresa McCaffery, she thinks about some ways to reflect on the lives of young people when we pray for young people.

This month the pope’s intention (in January 2019) was that young people should emulate our Lady in responding to God’s invitation to help Him.  It is Saturday and I say the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary...

The Joyful Mysteries

The annunciation – of course I can pray that young people get enough quiet space to hear God’s message. If they hear it, they will surely respond.

The Visitation – with a good idea in mind a young person needs a mentor, someone who has ‘been there’ and can share the joy and offer encouragement. I pray that they will find someone like that.

The Nativity – when you agree to do the will of God good things happen and people are amazed, make the most of it.

The Presentation - all the good we do is for God. If we do not present it to Him, we build empires of our own glory

The Finding in the Temple – Jesus is doing great, then along comes Mother to take Him home where He learns a trade. Our splendid spiritual efforts must be thoroughly grounded in the life of the world around us.

Sunday – the Glorious Mysteries

Resurrection – the project takes root in my soul and becomes visible, in a small way, to people who know where to look.

Ascension – I begin to grow spiritually, the love of God strengthens me as I reach up to him.

Descent of the Spirit – I become creatively active in helping others to find God.

Assumption – I am carried by the love of God and the fellowship of my community.

Our Lady crowned Queen of the Angels and Saints – that includes me! What could possibly go wrong?

The Sorrowful Mysteries.

The Agony in the garden – Many young people are troubled and confused. They may not have grown up in a stable home; they may not have been taught about the love of God. Unemployment, drug addiction and single parenthood are real possibilities. The world does not feel like a friendly place. And yet, with the right kind of help, they can grow out of their difficulties and become important friends and mentors for the next generation of lost souls.

The Scourging at the pillar – some young people will get a job, but they will not necessarily be happy. They may become subject to discrimination, harassment, bullying. The daily wounding stabs of unfair criticism make them thin-skinned and sore. They may flare out violently in self defence after an insult that was perceived rather than real, and strengthen the possibilities of further criticism and punishment. Such people need to be accepted with unconditional love and given a space in the community where they can feel safe. If that happens, they can become valuable members of the teams that aim to help minorities.

The crowning with thorns – Some young people will do well. They get a training and a job and rise through the ranks, but life at the top is not easy. Much will be expected of them; hard decisions must be taken. Workers must be taken to task, unions negotiated with, people made redundant… It is hard for them to remember how diligently they had to work to start with, harder still to understand those who do not seem to have the same work ethic. They must meet government guidelines and satisfy their shareholders. Conflicting needs and responsibilities prick the conscience from all sides. With a good upbringing, solid mentoring and a loving family they will be able to stay true to what they believe and create an environment in which others can grow.

The carrying of the cross – Some young people will find their possibilities sharply curtailed by the effects of trauma or illness. We may think that this is a cruel fate, but it is quite amazing to see how much good these sick and wounded people can do. Some people will reject them, wanting them out of the way, others will offer whatever little help is useful, but what is most striking is the amount of teaching and loving they can do in their situation. It is the sick and the dying who can teach us most about what matters in life.

The crucifixion and death between two thieves – Punishment is a cruel result of the presence of sin in the world. Judgement is for God alone and people who act in ways that annoy others should be corrected lovingly, and in private, so that they have a chance to understand the relationship between their own needs and those of others without loss of personal dignity. The authorities had no right to judge Jesus the way they did, and Crucifixion is a grimly cruel way of imposing the death penalty. Three people hung on crosses that day: one was angry about his treatment and wondered aloud why this man who called himself King could not give him a better deal: one realised that he deserved punishment and asked the King, who did have that right, to plead for him: one had done no wrong at all but willingly took punishment for the sins of others. To bear wrongs patiently is one of the seven spiritual works of mercy. It is very hard for young people to do that, but they have a very good example!

The Luminous Mysteries

The Mysteries of light are a later addition to the Rosary. Based on events in the public ministry of Christ they remind us of how our Christian vocation works out in practice.

The Baptism of our Lord – ‘You are My son, the beloved, My favour rest on you’. This affirmation of Jesus belongs to every baptised person. It does not distinguish between different ways of celebrating our love of God. We can all forget or betray our baptism but the God who loves us will never be far away from anyone who has been baptised. Young people just want to respond to God, they cannot understand why some baptised people should be excluded because of historical differences.

The Marriage feast – According the John the evangelist Jesus’ first public act was to provide wine for a wedding. A wedding is a family affair, but Jesus and His disciples are also there – two families, one earthly, the other spiritual. Jesus listens to His mother and gives instructions to a servant. These are practical actions and the result is a joyful celebration. The church recognises marriage as the sign of the way God loves us. He does not love a category or group, He loves individual people. Young people understand that human beings, unlike God, can make mistakes in setting up these relationships, which don’t always last.

The Transfiguration – This seems like something very special, a rare gift enjoyed by the few, but look who was there on that hillside.  Peter: practical, rather blustery and no-nonsense, possibly not the brightest but chosen to lead the community, James, working to protect and celebrate all that is good in our Jewish heritage, and John the beloved disciple. On the other side we have Elias: the prophet who was carried to heaven in a chariot and Moses: who led his people out of slavery in Egypt but was not deemed worthy to enter the promised land. That’s a pretty broad range. Every young person needs a strong felt experience to live in the memory and be drawn on in dark times. These may happen outside the church context for some people.

The teaching of the Kingdom – Young people are aware of injustice, and love to protest and fight for a good cause, but ‘love thine enemy, do good to those who hate you’ and the beatitudes, are the ground rules of the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is already established on earth, Mary has accepted the invitation offered at the annunciation, the apostles have listened to the teaching of Jesus and those who have been healed, freed from devils, or forgiven are already spreading the good news. These are the examples we must follow/

The Eucharist – Each set of five mysteries has a bridge to the next. Jesus, lost and found at the end of the joyful mysteries, points to His suffering, death and resurrection; His death on the cross brings about the Glorious mysteries; the image of Mary Queen of the angels and saints in heaven turns our thoughts to the kingdom of God established on earth. But the institution of the Eucharist brings the series to a full stop. In the Eucharist joy, sorrow and glory mingle, the wonder of heaven meets the kingdom of God on earth and each participant celebrates a personal relationship to God, and an individual task within the community. Work done, we rest together, then go forth strengthened and encouraged to continue the work.

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