Senior strengthens faith by attending NCYC
I recently embarked on a pilgrimage to the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) looking for two things. First, I wanted yet another affirmation of the call to the priesthood. Second, I yearned to feel the enthusiasm and joy that characterizes the young church.
In a matter of three days, I found both desires fulfilled in addition to experiencing the peace, mercy and joy found in confidently saying, “Here, I am Lord,” with thousands of young people.
From the first moment of NCYC to the very end, there was a rich symbolism interwoven throughout the conference. Before NCYC, I had never heard of the band “For King and Country,” and so I was amazed at the level of musical and visual aesthetics exhibited by their performance.
One song in particular – “Proof of Your Love” – struck a chord in my heart and articulated an innate desire to model my life entirely after Christ, for the lyrics – “how you lived, how you died, love is sacrifice” – are nothing less than a challenge to love as Jesus did and to suffer with him.
At the opening session, an altar was built from the rocks that participants had brought to the conference from all over the U.S. This was a moving reminder of how the church is composed of living stones that have jagged, rough-hewn edges and smooth, carefully crafted stones that seem wholly incompatible together, but – united with Christ who is made present at the altar – the stones take on a unitive and catholic dimension. As Catholics, we are united with Jesus through the successors of St. Peter, who inherit the title Petros or rock.
Mary is a beacon
Two final instances vividly stand out in my memory. First, the Marian procession was a stirring event that was prefaced by a passionate talk on the Marian dimensions of Christian vocation. During the procession, I was reminded of a beautiful quote of St. Thomas Aquinas: “As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary.”
As with adoration and Mass at NCYC, sacraments and religious devotions take on a higher level of transcendence and beauty with such a large crowd assembled, which reminds us of the heavenly host of angels and saints that await our arrival in heaven.
Second, while Matt Maher sang with great fervor and love, 23,000 teenagers reverently knelt before the Blessed Sacrament – offering their hopes and anxieties, their blessings and faults, and their song and silence.
These two final instances are evocative of St. John Bosco’s remarks with Michael Rua after witnessing his proverbial “Two Pillars” dream, which states, “Only two means are left to save her (Holy Mother Church) amidst so much confusion: devotion to Mary most holy and frequent Communion.”
Over the course of the conference, Indianapolis became a new Jerusalem, burning with love for the Lord, and the Lucas Oil Stadium became the new Upper Room where the disciples of Jesus gathered from all over the United States to receive God’s presence and be sent forth.
Cuong Tran is a senior at Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero.