December 13, 2017

Young men could set the Church afire

Brothers in arms: Men branch out at the Young Men of God Conference.

“I have come to bring fire to the Earth, and how I wish it was already ablaze” – Luke 12:49, the theme of the Young Men of God Conference (October 13-15, 2017)

In 2000, a group of men recognised the crisis in young men today and sensed that the Lord wanted to initiate a movement of young men in Australia.

Young Men of God (YMG) is the result: a Catholic movement of young men witnessing to the world; an ordinary group of guys, who have come together with a common purpose and ever growing vision of the genuine strength and goodness that men can bring to the world.

The YMG Conference is now in its 15th year, and it impacts countless men’s lives, every time.

In the leadup to the conference I have been reflecting on the above scripture. With the NRL and AFL grand finals, and more importantly English Premier League and the A League about to start, we hear a lot of commentators talking about a player “being on fire”.

Camaraderie and self-discovery make for young men who drive sanctifying change in the Church and the world.

My favourite team in the Premier League is Liverpool. While their defence is causing me to have sleepless nights, in attack, there is a joyous energy and pure excitement each time the ball is given to their attacking players: Coutinho, Mane, Salah and Firmino. They are daring and adventurous in the way that they play, leaving fans and opposition to hold their breath in expectation of the erratic and the sensational.

This joyous excitement should be the men of the Church, an erring unpredictability, not because of an expectation of failure, but the ability to take on challenges and claim victories like none before.

Pier Georgio Frassati said much the same: “The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ”.

To capture the journey towards becoming fire, it is the words of an Old Testament prophet from two Holy women that gets me there.

In Jeremiah, we start off in our own creation, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations”.

Then St Therese of Lisieux steps in: “Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning who you want me to be and becoming that person”.

Praying over – and for – one another at a past YMG Conference.

And then St Catherine of Siena finishes it off: “If you are who you are meant to be, you will set the whole world ablaze”.

This has been my experience with YMG. Ten years ago, a mate of mine Ben Galea invited me to come along. It was the kick up the backside that I needed to take my faith journey to the next level.

For example, it was the first time that I heard someone say that pornography was evil, and yet acknowledge that the struggle was real. Battles that I was facing in my own life were no longer abstract, but shared with other men that I met.   As a brotherhood, we shared our stories, prayed together, sung worship songs, battled it out on the football field, and held each other accountable for making real change in our lives.

I knew God was always calling me back to Him, and there was an army of blokes ready to drop everything help me there.

Ten years on and I still come back year after year because I know the impact it has had on my life. In between annual conferences, we have local meetups in different parts of Sydney and across the country. This year’s conference features speakers Bishop Umbers, Karen Doyle, Sam Clear, Chris Lee and Ben Galea. It will be an incredible weekend, and I would invite the young men of this Church to join us.

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