Set Them Ablaze!

By Father John Donovan/ SUN contributing writer
I will start with; I don’t like crowds!

About fifteen years ago, while the Parochial -Vicar at St. Anthony of Padua in Endicott, I stated to the liturgy committee that I had an idea. My suggestion was to surround the church building, parking lot and rectory with luminaries for Midnight Mass. Throughout Advent, several conformation candidates assisted me with filling nearly five hundred white bags with sand and kitty litter. The dust from the effort in the rectory basement permeated the building and reeked havoc upon my allergies. The odor of the kitty litter haunts me to this day. Yet, the image of ushering the celebration of light in the midst of darkness, the incarnate God, by making the parish grounds a beacon of hope on the hill inspired the effort. December 24, 10:30 PM the bags were in place. At 10:40 PM the candles were placed at the bags. At 10:50 PM the candles were to be lit, and placed in the bags so that as people arrived at 11:00 PM, to get their seats and hear the choir they would be greeted with the warmth, the embrace, the vision of God’s light in the world. At 11:05 PM, winds gusting to 40 MPH arrived. The luminaries were not just lit, but ignited, ablaze. Kitty litter and sand were gusting about the grounds. Two bushes looked as if they were greeting Moses, rather than Christmas worshippers. The fire chief arrived for Mass and called to have a truck in position. Needless to say it was not the image I had hoped for and asked the members of the liturgy committee, that if I ever start a sentence with; “I’ve got an idea!” stop me there and do not let me proceed.

I said to Bishop Moynihan and Sr. Eileen McCann, (Director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese), “I’ve got an idea!’ The National Catholic Youth Convention, November 13-16 in Houston, I should go. My role to promote vocations should place me in the midst of our youth, 140 teenagers from the Syracuse Diocese are going, they should know and see the `vocation priest!” They agreed. The party of 169 from our diocese will be in the midst of 21,000. As I stated in the beginning, I do not like crowds, I did it again.

However, 21,000 teenagers identifying and being enthused about their faith. Imagine the energy, the hope and the light in our world in time of so much doubt. I will be reporting back about this experience in two weeks. Without a doubt in my mind, it will not be about the angst of being in crowds, but the rather how your youth will have illumined a city with their belief that the incarnate God will guide them and lead our world to better times.

As I conveyed my angst to a woman the other day, she too was filled with the excitement that our teens will respond through faith to be of service to our Church and world. She stated; “set them ablaze with love of God so they will be willing to serve in the vocations of priests and sisters.” Given the imagery of the opening story, I would rather a few Mother Teresa’s than Joan of Arcs, however, I trust that the Spirit will illumine those paths. Keep us in your prayers.

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