Fr. Roy Cimagala .
ONE very gratifying task I do is talking with young people, usually those in the school where I work, and being given the chance to help them in some way. It’s amazing that just by inviting them for a short chat, they would already feel very happy and grateful. And that’s because they actually have a lot to share, if not, unload.
I realize that many of them have not had the chance of having some kind of serious talk where serious matters and issues are brought up. They may appear cheerful and carefree, but many of them actually bear some heavy load inside their heart. They actually need an outlet to vent their suppressed fears, doubts, etc.
They feel relieved that they, at least, are being given some attention, are listened to, and are helped to sort out things that have been bothering them. In fact, many of them would say they feel lighter after the chat.
It’s on these occasions when things are clarified, since the young people usually tend to exaggerate matters of little importance while belittling, if not ignoring, those that have crucial consequences. The challenge is how to make them see what are essential in life and what are simply incidental and instrumental. Many times, they confuse and reverse the two. Also they have to be taught about the proper sense of priorities.
It’s a task that requires a lot of patience and consistency. Follow-ups are necessary, since many of them would get enthusiastic only at the initial chat but would soon lose interest in the succeeding ones. Often they are held back by their misplaced sense of fear and shame.
In this regard, it is important that some degree of friendship and confidence to the point that they feel at ease in opening up, is established as early as possible and kept and developed along the way. They need to feel reassured always.
They need to be helped to know themselves better. They usually are quite aware of their strengths since they would simply enjoy them. It’s their weaknesses that they usually are not too familiar with. And if they know their weaknesses, they usually do not know how to handle them. This is where they need help.
Of course, the dealings have to be such that they would always feel understood and respected as they are, warts and all. If suggestions and corrections have to be made, they have to be done gently and in the proper time. They should always be made to feel good and encouraged even if some scolding is made.
There are, of course, a great variety of young people. And each one actually is a unique case. But the challenge is to identify the area where each one needs help. That’s because they may project many good qualities about themselves but often turn a blind eye on their weaknesses. They often do not know where the dangers lie given the way they are.
Thus, it is important that each is considered in our prayer so that the objective light of Christ can really show how each one is. It cannot be denied that I, for example, have my own biases and prejudices that can cloud the proper assessment of persons and things. We have to be guarded against these biases and prejudices.
Thing is it would always be good if we could help the young by motivating them to develop as fully as possible their potentials, suggesting and, if possible, opening new horizons for them, helping them make some kind of roadmap for this full development.
In this regard, we can never say that we can reach the acme of their development and that there can never be some errors along the way. What is important is that the young people can learn to fly on their own, so to speak, and would know what to do in any situation they may find themselves in. What is important is that they mature!
Always praying. Of course, St. Paul himself said so: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes 5,16-18)
And in that episode of Christ visiting the house of the sisters Martha and Mary, the primacy of prayer is again emphasized.
“Martha, Martha,” Christ said to Martha who was busy with so many things and was disturbed that her sister seemed to be doing nothing except to gaze at Christ, “you are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10,41-42)
If we realize that our life will always be a life with God, then prayer should be a constant thing with us since it is prayer that keeps that relationship going. That is the proper condition of our human life. Without prayer, we are actually not being human, not being a child of God as we should be.
Of course, we have to understand prayer not simply as reciting some vocal prayers and doing novenas and other devotions.
Prayer is simply the upliftment of the heart and mind to God, and this may not require words and some special acts. It may just be a sentiment, a certain awareness that we are with God.
That is why we have to learn how to convert everything in our life into a form of prayer. In fact, there should be nothing in our life that should not be an act of prayer, since there should be nothing in our life where we should not be with God. To be sure, God is always with us. We just have to learn also to be always with him.
This will require some training, of course, just as we have to learn the tasks relevant to all our human needs: eating properly, walking, cleaning ourselves, studying, working, etc.
Of course, in prayer there is something special since it is more a spiritual task than a physical one. And it links us with the supernatural world, with God, and not just with people and the natural world. The appropriate adjustments in our mind and attitude should be made.
That is why we need to spend time and conscious effort to learn to pray, beginning with the basic exercises like reciting some vocal prayers and on to the higher levels of prayer like mental prayer, meditation and contemplation. Hopefully we can graduate from simply doing the baby steps to becoming real experts and professionals in prayer.
Definitely we have to exercise our faith always. Thus we have to know and master the doctrine of our faith, something that will require time and effort. We have to internalize our faith and let it inspire and guide us in our prayer.
With that faith, we will realize that everything, in fact, can be a material and an occasion for prayer. Even our most mundane activities can be converted into prayer as long as we offer it to God, doing it with the best of our intentions and effort.
Everything can be made to give glory to God, to thank him, to expiate for our sins and to ask for favors. Remember St. Paul saying, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10,31) We would be praying that way.
Yes, even our problems and difficulties can and, in fact, should be used as a material and reason for prayer. When temptations come and when we fall into sin, we ought to pray to go back to God and ask for mercy. Things get worse when we run away from him, instead to going back to him.