By Fr. Nilo Lardizabal
A lot of people come to me for advice or counsel, but most often they do so in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. Not that I give the best advice but at least on my part, I am able to lend an attentive ear to their groans and sighs, which make up the bulk of why they come to me in the first place.
One cold December night in Baguio three years ago I agreed to hear the confession of seven young college ladies. They, along with forty other female classmates, were having a three-day retreat at the time. Tired and worn from the day’s work, I was hoping to rest early in my cold room. Nonetheless, I agreed to give them the Sacrament of Reconciliation after dinner.
At exactly 8:00 o’clock I was in a small oratory, quite sure that I would be finished by 9:00 so I could take a much-deserved rest. Minutes passed… At 9:00 p.m., there were still some girls lined up for Confession, so I went on. And on and on and on until 2:30 in the morning, for so many girls had decided to receive Confession, even non-Catholics! By the time I was finished, I felt like the living dead, like I was anesthetized and could feel nothing. The worse thing was I had to wake up very early the next day to celebrate Mass at 5:00 for the same people. It was a miracle that I made it, inch by inch, to the altar.
I still laugh when I look back at those days. But I do reflect a lot too on the many concerns of young people everywhere. Hearing their pains and struggles, they are caught up – naturally – between maturity/adulthood and childishness. Added to these struggles are very serious problems relating to family, sexual orientation, even the Faith. Many are wandering, are asking, and have seemingly lost their way.
As a young priest, I always wonder where these dilemmas are rooted. What is happening to young people? How come many are rebellious, or angry, or sexually perverted? Why are there many who are indifferent to others? Are we embracing a point of moral decay and a destruction of values? I am not speaking of religion as that lies on a different level; I speak from the personal level, a region attuned to the level of how young people think and act. What is happening?
After hearing from a lot of them, one glaringly obvious need is for COMMITMENT. Many are seemingly satisfied with temporary pleasures and sights. It seems as if it is enough to satisfy the senses without giving much thought to the consequences of actions. Many seem to not care at all, hence the steady rise in teenage pregnancies, unstable relationships, broken-hearted individuals, and worst of all, the destruction of life.
There seems to be no desire for commitment in the first place. I cannot help but empathize with individuals who wail and sob during Confession because of these errors in action. Thus, in a ray of hope, it is the young people themselves who say to me quite plainly that materialism, indifference, artificial contraception and other methods are harmful and contribute to the demise of commitment. I think commitment involves a constant decision to stick and cling to what is naturally good and right. Real commitment involves genuine responsibility for the other.
Now, in order to further seal this commitment, another point seems necessary, a CHOICE FOR THE GOOD. We definitely have that gift to choose from among many options, good or otherwise. But I have seen and heard many young people who would knowingly choose that which will harm themselves and others. It is a strange phenomenon. Kids today are not ignorant; they know what is going on and how to do things, even more so than adults.
Parents, study life, faith and others are sometimes replaced with DOTA games, the Internet, the works. They may know more of games and sites than who their relatives are. Let us help guide each other; PRUDENCE is a key value. Too much of anything, even the good, can prove harmful too. Young people know how to choose what is good; sometimes though they do not see others (fellow young people) choosing it.
At my final Mass with that retreat-class, I asked the students why the number of penitents ballooned from seven to 40+ individuals. They told me that the first seven came out of Confession looking refreshed and revitalized; it was as if a heavy burden was removed from their aching backs. (And rightfully so because they gave it all to me!) Because of this, the rest followed suit. I think it is not only about the spiritual aspect. Each individual must do his or her part to make life worth living. This does not mean doing what one wants all the time; we all need to be reminded of Commitment and Choosing the Good.
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