The third and final day of Catechesis was coming to a close, and the pilgrims were alive and buzzing… singing the World Youth Day theme song, laughing, taking pictures with one another. The mad dash for the food bags had begun, and I stepped back to take it all in and heave a sigh of relief. It was finished!
A young man approached me, “Sister, can I ask you a question?” “Yeah, sure…do you want to step outside?” His openness was apparent, and I knew his question would be a personal one.
“What’s your name?”
“Ah, Michael means ‘Who is like God?’ Your name is a question. Because there is no one like our God! How awesome… so, how’s it going?”
“Sister, I read Pure Manhood. I read Pure Womanhood. I read Sent.” He was referring to the materials we had handed out at the beginning of each day according to its theme. “I know I need to stop having sex with my girlfriend and I don’t know how to tell her. What should I say when I go home?”
I blinked, feeling incredulous; pausing in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I was amazed and totally blown away by his humility! What strength and determination I saw in the eyes of this young man. Overjoyed and excited, I grabbed his shoulders and shook him hard; we laughed and exchanged a high five. I put my hand to my heart. What good tidings, tangible grace! “What a man!” I said to him, “I am so proud of you. God is going to totally honor this decision.” He smiled, and agreed, laughing at my exuberant response.
I asked seriously, “How do you think your girlfriend will respond? What are you most afraid of?”
“She’ll think I’m breaking up with her, or I don’t love her any more…but I do love her, and want to marry her one day.”
In an instant, it was as if I was talking to my own brother. And he wanted to be a man who does God’s will. He wanted to protect this young woman he cared for.
“Well, let’s start there…reassure her of your love for her. Tell her how much you love her and how you want to protect her purity, her relationship with God and that you haven’t been doing that. You’ll need to apologize. Can you do that?”
He was eager, and replied, “I went to confession and everything.”
“Tell her, no more fear of pregnancy, no more feeling used or rejected. You want to love her heart, and you want to be able to commit to her fully and cannot do that right now. Do you want me to write this down?”
He nodded and we stood there, putting to words his desire for purity, for a new beginning, for a relationship rooted in Christ, in prayer.
“How old are you Michael?”
We talked about dating as discernment for marriage, how sex before marriage blurs your ability to clearly discern and makes you feel distant from God. It was so very beautiful. I told him to begin praying every night for his future spouse, wherever she was and whoever she was…to pray for her purity, her relationships, that she would be a woman of faith, in love with Christ. He had been bolstered by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and asked for extra copies of the books for his girlfriend so they could talk about it.
“Michael, do you realize that you’ve received a grace? Do you see that? Do you know that God has touched you?”
He looked at me, opening his hands, “I was thinking to myself, ‘What if I hadn’t come to this site?’… I never would have read these.”
After promising to pray for one another, and a last word of encouragement, he headed back to his group and I wandered over to my dear sisters, almost in a daze. So much effort, prayer, and planning had gone into preparing for these pilgrims, for these sessions of catechesis. Hours and hours of meetings, phone calls, e-mails, organizing…and if it was for Michael alone, we would do it all over again. How many stories of grace will go untold? We’ll never know. But as Sisters of Life, consecrated for Love alone, loving purely and intensely in reparation for offenses against life and love, we are certain… nothing we do for love of Jesus and for love of our brothers and sisters can ever again be considered casual or small.
Sr. Bethany Madonna (SV novice)