Helping the youth discover God

THIS is a very challenging task for anyone who has the duty to give some spiritual guidance to young people. But once accomplished, you can be sure that a great good would have been served, and that the sense of fulfilment for both the guide and the guided would be incomparable.

I believe that the first thing to do is to offer prayers and sacrifices for them. It has to be made clear from the start that spiritual direction is an eminently spiritual and supernatural affair whose main means are also spiritual and supernatural. These means should never be relegated to second place.

Then the next thing to do is to win their friendship and confidence. This may mean spending time with them, knowing them more and more, and getting involved in their things just as they are slowly introduced to the world of the spiritual and supernatural. As much as possible, there has to be some agreement of a regular meeting so that this task is sustained.

And once this is attained, then a slow and steady effort of developing the directee’s spiritual life begins, first explaining the spiritual and supernatural realities. The doctrine of our faith and the morals that go with it should be explained in a way adapted to the mentality of the specific person guided.

What should be accomplished as quickly as possible is to give the directee a good picture of who God is and of how he is to us. He has to be convinced that God is a loving father, full of goodness, love and mercy, and that he is always with us—in us and around us, i.e., everywhere. He is never indifferent to us.

The directee has to be told that we are meant to be with God, to relate ourselves to him and to correspond to his loving, wise and merciful providence over us. We may have to show him how this is so by explaining the structure, so to speak, of our human nature and the world in general.

Obviously, the role of the supernatural faith has to be explained very well. The directee has to come to the conclusion that faith is a gift freely given by God, and with it we get to see things more globally and more objectively.

With faith, we are not inventing things or indulging in some fantasies. With it, we are actually in touch with reality in its most radical mode. With it, we are given everything to answer all our questions, to solve all our problems including the humanly insolvable ones, etc.

As much as possible, the directee should be led to experience something similar to what saints experienced with they discovered God for the first time. In the case of St. Augustine, for example, he described that encounter this way: “Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new…Lo, you were within, but I outside seeking there for you…You were with me, but I was not with you…”

The directee should be helped in overcoming his weaknesses—his doubts, laziness, instability, the consequences of his sins, etc.—as well as in developing the virtues like humility, sincerity, temperance, fortitude, fidelity, etc.

He has to be taught how to pray and to offer sacrifices, how to wage the unavoidable spiritual struggle against temptations and sins, and to always be aggressive in growing his love for God and for others.

He has to be made to realize the importance of a certain plan—articulated on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and moment-to-moment basis—that would help him keep a spiritual and supernatural bearing in all the situations and circumstances in his life.

A sign of success in this endeavour would be when the directee becomes self-propelled in his spiritual life with little guidance needed, and when he himself desires to help others in their spiritual life.