In your years here at St. Katherine of Siena School, you probably hear of such saints as St. Agnes, St. Thérèse “the Little Flower” of Lisieux, Pier Giorgio Frassati and Kateri Tekakwitha the young Iroquois saint. But here are some other names with which you might not be familiar:
Andrew of Phú Yên of Viet Nam who was the first martyr in Viet Nam. He loved teaching young people along with his Jesuit friends in the 1600s.
Pedro Calungsod was another person who enjoyed instructing young people in the faith along with the Jesuits priests who were doing the same in the islands of the Philippines. He was killed by a tribal chief who was jealous of his popularity and his potential influence on the young people.
Josephine Bakhita was a Sudanese slave. Her owners brought her to Italy as part of a business deal. They placed her “for safe keeping” with the Canossian Religious Sisters who would not release her when the owners came back to reclaim her. She converted to the Catholic faith, joined the sisters where she served religious community, in simplicity, joy and holiness, until she died in 1947.
Marcel Callo was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II in France. He was a man of great humor, creativity and talent who used theatre to encourage his fellow prisoners as well as to use his contacts to clandestinely have Mass said in the prison. The Nazis later thought that his approach was dangerous and transferred him to Malthausen Concentration Camp.
Francisco Castelló Aleu – was involved in the “Federation of Christian Youth,” a young adult movement that was active during the time of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). At one point, his efforts helped to grow the group from 140 to 645 members in three years. Seen as a threat to the Spanish revolutionary forces, he was executed for his faith in 1936.
What is interesting about these people is that all of them were young and several were close to you in age (teen-age students or people in their 20’s or early 30’s). Their faith was not necessarily “cool” nor did it make them popular. Nevertheless their faith encouraged them to ask themselves two questions:
- WHO’S MY REAL BFF?
- ARE YOU SERIOUS?
In today’s Scripture readings both light and salt are mentioned. One of the main functions of salt is to season food, to give it taste and flavor. This image reminds us that, when you received Baptism and Confirmation, your whole being was profoundly changed, because it has been “seasoned” with the new life which comes through a personal relationships with Christ (See Romans 6:4). But what exactly does that “look like?” St. Paul explains:
- And therefore you should clearly be showing a way of living and thinking that is different from that of your contemporaries.
- “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you may discern what is the will of God and what is good (Romans 12:2)
- Once you get into high school, in this secularized age, many of your classmates, “friends,” team-mates – and even your so-called BFFs – will think and act as if God did not exist and will begin to be attracted to irrational and destructive forms of behavior. They will also want you to go along with them in this. You must show that your faith is a personal decision which involves your whole life.
For a long time, salt was also used to preserve food. So God asks you the question: ARE YOU SERIOUS?
- If your Catholic faith is a “good thing” for you, is should be a good thing for other people as well. Why not share it? As the salt of the earth, you are called not only to preserve the Catholic faith, which you have received but to help pass it on to others.
- In particular, St. John Paul II said that “Your generation is being challenged in a special way to keep safe the deposit of faith” (cf. 2 Th 2:15; 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14 and see John Paul II”s Message To Young People on announcement of World Youth Day in Toronto, paragraph 3).
- When the light fades or vanishes altogether, people no longer see things as they really are. In the heart of the night we can feel frightened and insecure, and we impatiently await the coming of the light of dawn. Many young people in high school feel this way. You are being called to be a light to you friends.
- Your personal encounter with Christ bathes life in new light, sets you on the right path, and sends you out to be his witnesses.
As the Holy Father said to young people at that time,
Let the Gospel be the measure and guide of life’s decisions and plans! Then you will be missionaries in all that you do and say, and wherever you work and live you will be signs of God’s love, credible witnesses to the loving presence of Jesus Christ.
Audio version of the homily is here: