Young people and prayer: rediscovering the beauty of intimacy with God
Undoubtedly the Santiago meeting was beautiful, as shown in the participation of the youth. However, the preparation encountered various problems and setbacks that made the journey difficult. Perhaps one aspect that required the most work was helping young people to rediscover the beauty of prayer. Many are used to going to church for meetings, for time to have fun in groups or for missionary activities, which greatly enrich them and somehow differ from other pastoral activities. But what good are my activities without communicating with God regularly? I think that during the preparation and the meeting itself young people gradually found their own answers to this question. And after the journey many realized that it was also necessary to rest in the Spirit.
All the parishes I was in charge of had a similar experience. At first it was difficult to try to put together the words "prayer" and "young". It was perhaps asking too much. I took part several times in meetings where young preparation teams met – and they listened to me, though a few years ago I was rather a skeptic. I think this helped me to understand and not to give up. Even many priests did not believe that young people could respond to an invitation to pray.
Five months later, God had changed something. All the parishes rediscovered, before December 8, the beauty of prayer and its importance – regardless of whether there are Taizé songs or not. I am speaking about prayer without a special title, a moment of intimacy with God. I even believe that the events that happened during the preparation, like the rescue of the miners and the bicentennial celebrations, made possible the reconciliation of youth and prayer.
At the meeting itself, young people confirmed what they had discovered during the preparation. They also realized that in other countries young people are also looking for moments of "rest" and reflection just like them.
In short, for me the hardest part was trying to convince young people that we can also find joy in prayer, that we can meet with others, with God, with ourselves, so that there is also beauty in prayer.
God calls us to be free
Throughout these five months of preparation, I saw and experienced so much. It is difficult to become aware of everything that the experience gave me; however, a few weeks after the meeting, I can share some of what I learned.
I learned not to want to figure out everything in advance, and I realized that the less we look to the future with our own ideas, the more we have the openness necessary to accept with serenity what ultimately happens. Indeed, throughout the preparation, many things did not go as I expected—teams did not progress on schedule, appointments were canceled....
I learned and lived out what trust really means—a word often used but difficult to implement. In Santiago, I experienced what it means to trust one another, that is to say, to tell them “I believe in you” and give them a responsibility. To give them the opportunity to be active in the preparation. That is not always easy, because people are not necessarily the way we would like them to be. I learned to trust, but also know how to be detached.
I discovered a bit more a sense of community and teamwork. This is not a form of life that is automatic; you have to make an effort and be attentive to others. We were ten international volunteers, with volunteers from Chile. It was a new form of work, because for once there was no competition and judging among us, contrary to what we were used to in our daily lives. So even if I did not always understand the way the others worked, I had to trust them and accept the different approaches!
I experienced perseverance and patience. Indeed, five months may seem short, but in preparing the meeting each day, sometimes the time felt long!
I could see in Santiago an expression of “popular” and patriotic faith, which personally I was not used to. Many processions for Mary, devotion to the saints, Masses for the bicentennial of independence.... It must be said that at first I looked at such events as an outsider. Then, gradually, I came to see that they reflected a deep and sincere faith.
Finally, what I remember is the daily prayer. For me this regularity in prayer was new. I took from it the conviction that God calls us to be free. By being free, anyone can open themselves to his presence and become truly happy.