Letter to a young man on combating six lies

Larry Smith

As a young man, you are embarking on a great adventure, to find your place in the world. Unfortunately, the world will tell you many things along the way, so that it’s difficult to separate the truth from the lies.

Lie #1: Look out for Number One. In pursuing your own needs, you always find yourself longing for more. But when you stop and help someone else — be it a family member or a complete stranger — you will feel true accomplishment because you are fulfilling the design that God placed on your heart. To help people in need — that is the mark of a true man.

Lie #2: Your worth is based on money. Money can be a great blessing or a great burden. Scripture is replete with warnings. “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10). Notice the warning is specific to the “love of money.” Money without a foundation of faith and family — and loving God first — is shallow and unfulfilling. Money can’t buy you happiness. The greedy pursuit of it can completely ruin your life.

Lie #3: Whoever dies with the most toys, wins. Use the toys you have to experience the joy of life that God intended you to experience. But if you focus on the toys, and not the people that you’re experiencing it with, you’ll lose sight of your purpose in life. What should be a gift from God can become a set of chains. Because when it comes to toys, you can never have new enough, shiny enough or fast enough. Materialism is a construct of the devil, tempting us to always seek more, more, more of meaningless things. Ask yourself: Do you want to have it all? Or do you want to give it all?

Lie #4: Sow your wild oats. Society says it’s OK to be promiscuous. That’s the legacy of the Sexual Revolution, which has been a wrecking ball through generations, causing much misery, fear, doubt and even death in the form of abortion. You were made for more. When you have sex outside of marriage, you’re committing a mortal sin. Instead, be a virtuous warrior. Listen to the words of St. Dominic: “A man who governs his passions is master of the world.”

Lie #5: Delay marriage as long as possible. Our culture tells us that independence, and the ability to do what you want, is the most important thing. Don’t believe it. When a man says, “I do” to his bride, he takes responsibility for his wife and for the creation of a family. Or, you may be called to be a priest or religious. How will you discern God’s plan for your life?

Lie #6: Prayer is boring because nothing happens. The world throws every conceivable kind of noise at you to prevent you from getting closer to God, from taking time to be with Jesus Christ in prayer and to sit quietly alone in His presence — in adoration. It’s when you finally do that that you begin to truly understand the meaning of life and your purpose in it.

P.S. To women: are you helping men to be men? Husbands, sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and male co-workers all need your prayers and intentions to live out their God-given missions.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Visit online
at ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

COMING UP: Getting ready for Synod-2018

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The headline on the March 3 story at the CRUX website was certainly arresting — “Cardinal on charges of rigged synods: ‘There was no maneuvering!’” The cardinal in question was Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, and not only were his voluble comments striking, they were also a bit disconcerting. Did I simply imagine the uproar on the floor of the Synod on October 16, 2014, as bishop after bishop protested an interim report generated by Baldisseri and his colleague, Archbishop Bruno Forte, that did not reflect the discussions of the previous two weeks? Were the complaints about the suffocating Synod procedures Cardinal Baldisseri outlined prior to Synod-2015 an illusion? Didn’t thirteen cardinals write Pope Francis in the most respectful terms, suggesting alterations in those procedures to ensure the open discussion the Pope insisted he wanted?

But, hey, memory is a tricky thing, and this is the season of mercy, so let’s let bygones be bygones and concentrate now on Synod-2018, which will discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment. Those are very important topics. The Church in the United States has had some success addressing them, despite challenging cultural circumstances; so perhaps some American leaders in youth ministry and vocational discernment could be invited to Synod-2018 to enrich its discussion, on the Synod floor and off it (where is where most of the interesting conversations at these affairs take place).

Curtis Martin is the founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), which is arguably the most creative campus ministry initiative in the post-Vatican II Church. FOCUS sends recent college graduates back to campuses as missionaries and has had such success in the U.S. that FOCUS missionaries are now working in Europe. There’s a lot the bishops at Synod-2018 could learn from Mr. Martin’s experience.

Then there’s Anna Halpine, president of the World Youth Alliance: a network of pro-life young people all over the world, who witness to the joy of the Gospel and the Gospel of life in an extraordinary variety of social and cultural settings. WYA has also designed and deployed innovative educational programs and women’s health centers that, building out from the Church’s teaching on the inalienable dignity of the human person, offer life-affirming alternatives to the moral emptiness of too many elementary school curricula and the death-dealing work of Planned Parenthood on campuses. Surely there’s something to be shared at the Synod from this remarkable enterprise.

Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa was the director of campus ministry at Texas A&M for eleven years, where St. Mary’s Catholic Center has set the gold standard in traditional campus ministry and created a model for others to emulate. Over the past twenty years, Konderla and his predecessors have fostered more vocations to the priesthood and religious life than that school with the golden dome in northwest Indiana, while helping many Aggie men and women prepare for fruitful and faithful Catholic marriages. Bishop Konderla would make a very apt papal nominee to Synod-2018.

Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, has taken up the mantle of the late Dr. Don Briel in creating a robust, integrated Catholic Studies program on his growing campus. Shea’s goal, like Briel’s, is to form mature young men and women intellectually, spiritually, and liturgically, so that they can be, in the twenty-first century, Pope Francis’s “Church permanently in mission.” He has things to say about how to do this, and Synod-2018 should hear them.

Then there is Father Thomas Joseph White, OP, a banjo-playing, bourbon-appreciating theologian of distinction who (with his Dominican brother, Father Dominic Legge) has created the Thomistic Institute, to bring serious Catholic ideas to prestigious universities across the U.S. The Institute’s lectures and seminars fill the intellectual vacuum evident on so many campuses today — the vacuum where thought about the deep truths inscribed in the world and in us used to be. Father White is being redeployed by his community to Rome this Fall, so he’ll be a #64 bus ride away from the Vatican. The Synod fathers should meet him, and perhaps he and Cardinal Baldisseri, an accomplished pianist, could jam.  

So by all means, let’s have “no maneuvering” at Synod-2018. But let’s also have some American expertise there, for the good of the whole Church.