In a morning breakout session, Bishop Frank Caggiano shared these nine rules or, more aptly, life lessons he said he has learned in working with youth and young adults:
1. Language matters. What is the language we use with them and about them? Come to them as brothers and sisters. Use first names. How do you engage truth, beauty and goodness with everyone you meet?
2. Ask questions. Often in our ministry, we are giving answers to questions they are not asking. And the questions they are asking, we are not answering. By asking questions, the question creates the relationship that will allow the person to trust you.
3. An image is worth a thousand words. We need to unlock not simply the power of the Word, but the power of the image. Whether it’s video, social media or a photo. Our forefathers built cathedrals at a time when many were illiterate. Build virtual cathedrals.
4. Get to the point. Give them the truth. Don’t mince words. Walk with them. Get your hands dirty with them. Be honest, direct and say what you have to say.
5. Create holy curiosity. Engage them in service. Then ask the questions, “Why are we doing this? What difference does it make? What’s the lasting value?” This leads to the question, “Who do you say that I am? Who has asked us to do this?” With the question made real, seeing poverty up close, seeing broken lives, then we can walk with them catechetically and give them language to their experience that will lead them to the altar.
6. One person at a time. Encounter each person, and ask yourself not only what you can give to them but also what they can give to you.
7. Build courtyards. Pope Benedict referred to the courtyard of the Gentiles in the temple that King Herod built, a meeting place where Jews and Gentiles could both be side by side before the Jews were allowed to go further into the temple. Benedict’s observation was that to go from inactivity and indifference to full participation, we need to create a courtyard that will allow them to go one step in with the hope that they will go more steps in. And that courtyard can be built a thousand ways — from a friendly face to a pastor who rents a bus and goes to the mall on Ash Wednesday and offers ashes to the cafes that some dioceses have created. That’s where listening happens, relationships happen. And if you’re going to build a courtyard, unleash the power of Sacred Scripture. It is our hidden weapon.
8. Let all the voices speak. Some of the most profound conversions into the church are through the rediscovery of the Church Fathers. They are the commentary of the Sacred Scripture. All of these people were struggling with the same questions we are struggling with now. And let all the voices sing — praise and worship is great, welcome cultural music of the church and all its varieties, the chants of the church, welcome all of it into the life of the church.
9. Don’t be afraid to play with matches. Unleash the fire of the Holy Spirit. He’s going to lead us forward. And that means we might get burned every once in awhile but that’s OK. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. The Holy Spirit will guide us if we are willing to follow his lead and love each other on the way.