In the summer of 2012, we had a vision of youth ministry in our Archdiocese of Cincinnati. We saw youth groups all over the Archdiocese that were separated from one another all on their own island. They were like the 12 tribes of Israel in a divided kingdom with no one to unite them and their mission. Then we saw, a vision of these tribes coming together around Jesus Christ risen in the Eucharist just as the tribes came before the lamb in the book of revelation.
We came together and felt our Lord calling the youth groups in our city, these separated tribes, into the unity of living under the light and the power of the lamb of God - Jesus - risen and fully present to us in the Eucharist. Encounter is our effort, through the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit, to unite the youth groups of Cincinnati together in Jesus - fully present to us in the Eucharist. If your parish is not involved in this unitive and Eucharistic ministry and would like more information please contact us here.
Yours in Christ,
The Encounter Team
According to the Catechism:
The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."201 In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained."202 "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present." CCC 1374
The Catechism goes on further to say that:
Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession." CCC 1378
1. Why Adoration and not just invite teens to Mass?
2. Why so charismatic?
3. Why the strong emphasis on emotion?
4. What model do you use as your basis?
Sadly, for many teens today, Mass is not seen as the source and summit of the entirety of Christian life, as was recognized by the Second Vatican Council. We also recognize that there is a creative tension at work here. There is a great witness in attending Mass as a family, praying together as one, and supporting the mission and ministry of the parish to which these young people belong. We do not want to interrupt that.
Further, paragraph 1072 of the catechism says "The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church": it must be preceded by evangelization, faith, and conversion. It can then produce its fruits in the lives of the faithful: new life in the Spirit, involvement in the mission of the Church, and service to her unity.” Because the liturgy requires that initial call to conversion and discipleship to lead teens back to a fuller participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we engage the Rites of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction, which flow from the celebration of the Eucharist.. This engages teens on a different level, to help them to recognize that the Eucharist they receive truly is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This Encounter with the person of Christ in the Eucharist leads them back to a more fervent worship of Him while at Mass. They become involved throughout the life of the parish, bringing that energy and zeal that has always marked the life of a teen into the heart of the parish, to revitalize, to energize, to renew all that the parish is doing.
We recognize that teens and young people are not the Church of the future, they are the Church of the present. We want to light them on fire to be living witnesses of the power of Christ to their families, their peers and their fellow parishioners. We believe that this worship of the Lord in the Eucharistic Species is a key way to accomplish this in the life of our teens today.
Why so Charismatic?
Too often the word “charismatic” is taken in too limited a sense. The word, coming from the Greek charismata (“gift”/”spiritual gift”) has a longstanding tradition in the Church denoting any gift of God’s love to the Church, the greatest of which is her source of life, the Eu-charis-t. The word “Eucharist” itself is “thanksgiving.” At Confirmation, the Church invokes the Holy Spirit for an outpouring of spiritual gifts - the Gifts of the Spirit - which all Christians are called to exercise on a daily basis.
More often, “charismatic” refers only to praying for and exercising “extraordinary” gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are listed in 1 Cor. 12, and may or may not result from a praying for Baptism in the Spirit (Acts 1:5).
The Charismatic Renewal Movement is a legitimately recognized movement within the church, which has gained papal approval in the years since Vatican II, and Encounter does nothing to discourage people from praying for an outpouring of gifts from the Holy Spirit. However, at no point during Encounter is this prayer for “extraordinary” gifts expressly called for by leaders or invited amongst participants, in this sense, Encounter is in line with Lumen Gentium 12, which states that:
“Charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.”
With this said, the particular charism of Encounter is really just that: a call to Eucharistic faith in the Catholic Church, and a life-changing encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ, really and truly present in the Eucharist (CCC 1374). As such, we invite those present to adore and worship the Blessed Sacrament, and through the prayer of praise, open them to experience a breakthrough in their own lives (CCC 1378).
It is the case that certain forms of prayer have become attributed with “charismatic prayer.” However, charismatic prayer (which is most typically referred to), would involve participants practicing “extraordinary” gifts, such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc.
Praise and worship music is not a strictly charismatic form of prayer (Cf. Psalm 95, 100, 150). Intercessory prayer is described in the Catechism (2634-35). The difference at Encounter is that we actually pray the intercessory prayer on the spot, instead of promising “to pray for you” at some point, privately, in the future. We encourage vocal prayer, as does the Catechism, which calls vocal prayer essential to the Christian life (2701) and the form of prayer most readily accessible to groups (2704). We encourage teens to pray freely with their bodies, which again is prescribed by the Catechism, which says: “The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corresponds to a requirement of our human nature. We are body and spirit, and we experience the need to translate our feelings externally. We must pray with our whole being to give all power possible to our supplication” (2702). Bodily prayer also has a great tradition amongst the saints, of which St. Dominic is a great example (http://www.fisheaters.com/stdominic9ways.html). To form life-long disciples of Christ, we feel it is an important dimension of Encounter to teach young people about these methods of prayer.
While teens are invited to pray before the Lord as they feel moved, they are never forced. Throughout the movement of the Encounter event, the worship team utilizes vocal prayer as a means, or “initial form” of contemplative prayer (CCC 2704), and the introduction of periods of silence and repetitive lyrics, sung quietly and meditatively (similar to Taize prayer), allows the teens who are ‘there’ do dive deeper into the well-spring of the Mystery of the Love of Christ.
The evening ends with some time in small groups so that teens can begin to wrestle with the content of the evening in an intellectual way so that they do not remain just on the emotional level.
Throughout the evening, the leadership team reinforces the reality that this is an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, and what happens for your friend sitting beside you is not necessarily meant for you. Let Jesus work with you as He will. Also, throughout the event, there are trained and experienced floating prayer teams that are on the look out for teens that are becoming overly emotional so that they can intervene and bring their focus back to the Eucharistic Lord.
Why the strong emphasis on emotion?
Spend any time with teenagers, and you know that they are essentially emotional creatures. Especially today, this is where they live. Also, in coming to know someone, there must first be an emotional connection and response. This is what gives that initial impulse to move forward and to seek the other, as other. (See the extended reflections on Eros in Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est.) It is also to be remembered, as mentioned in the previous response, that the faith response involves the whole person, not just the mind or the soul of that person. Human beings are a complex interplay of reason, emotion, intellect, heart, will, sense, etc. As the Encounter Team, we seek to engage the young people in all these various dimensions. Again, we stress that this is an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, and that encounter is unique for each person. So while one person might have a strong emotional reaction, another might be sitting quietly in the love of the Lord. We stress that both are legitimate responses to an encounter with Christ.
We are also keenly aware that while teens engage in emotion, we do not want them to stay at the merely emotional level, for again, the faith response is much deeper than this. To that end, after the encounter with Christ in the Eucharist, we draw them into an intellectual response by engaging them in small group encounter. Our methodology sets this time aside so that they might be able to give context to the emotion that they might have felt during the prayer experience. By then engaging it in an intellectual way, we hope to drive home the point to the teens that the faith response is not merely emotion, but is engaged by reason to consciously affirm the positive response to God’s own initiative.
What we have seen in the lives of the young people who have attended Encounter is some dynamic shifts in perspective on the role of faith in their lives. One young lady has started a Bible Study at her school, with over 80 of her classmates joining. We have seen young men begin preparation for entering seminary and young women apply to religious life. We want to train these young people to evangelize their peers so that they can draw others to the well of mystery that is Jesus Christ.
What model do you use as your basis?
We seek to bring the young people to the Lord. As such, we freely adapt from several models that we have found to be the most effective to bring teens to Jesus Christ and help them to grow in wisdom, knowledge and love of Him. We are convinced that Encounter can form a bedrock of faith and helps to drive them outward from the self in service to their brothers and sisters in Christ. Because we are a limited ministry, we cannot necessarily provide the service and outreach programming, but we rely on the good works that are being done by other parish youth ministry programming and the Catholic High Schools in the area to help the teens find that necessary element of service so that they might truly experience the joy that comes from finding Christ in the midst of the poor, the needy and those in need.
By relying on what others are already doing well, but spelling out that need for our teens to be men and women of service, we hold up the example of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Prior to serving the needs of the poor and marginalized, she spent hours in intense prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. It was out of the deep communion she experienced with Christ in the Eucharist that she was only able to recognize Christ in the presence of the poorest of the poor.
Because we are limited in what we can do at the present, we have chosen to focus our energies on what we know we do well, while at the same time pointing our teens to other groups and organizations that do service well. As a team, we continue to be amazed by the generosity of our teens in that so many of them are already plugged in to the many service opportunities that are already present in their parishes and schools. We certainly want to continue to encourage this involvement as we feel it gives the teens a greater sense of collaboration across the breadth of the Catholic world.
Some of the various models from which we have adapted aspects of Encounter include Steubenville, the Discipleship Road Map from FOCUS, elements of LifeTeen, YDisciple, etc. We believe in taking the best of all that is out there and bringing it to our teens so that they can have a strong and diverse experience of Jesus Christ.