Once we are ready to reach out to those suffering from addiction, abuse, or any other pain, and we have discerned that the Lord is calling this ministry, it is good to take inventory.
Each community has a different demographic with different resources available, so it is always helpful to do a bit of research. For example, if you notice a need to help adolescent girls struggling with body image – take a look at what is already offered. Are there workshops, educational resources, therapists, dieticians, or other organizations and providers that can help? Are there professionals and volunteers that can join your initiative if you are starting something yourself?
Another tip, especially for adolescents and teens, is finding positive influences to counter the negative messages they are constantly receiving. I have heard of modesty fashion shows, group exercise classes followed by body image talks, cooking classes, fun runs, and other group activities aimed at building self-esteem and promoting self-care, in addition to providing the spiritual component which is the most essential piece. The key is to find a strategy to replace what is destructive e.g. media, magazines, clothes, and replace those negative influences with believable, relevant, and genuinely positive influences that will speak to the age group and culture.
Most importantly, your role as a catechist, youth minister, parent, etc. is to love them where they are wounded- to be Christ to them. Just as Christ has come to us and revealed His love for us, we are now called to share this Good News. The challenge, as I am sure all of you know, is to “re-propose” these truths of the Gospel in ways they can hear it, amidst the ear buds, “beats,” and bluetooths.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but this culture- more than anything else- needs to hear that they are loved, that they are loved with the “flaws” they may see in themselves, and even despite the flaws other people see in them. Underneath the make-up, clothing (or lack-thereof), dyed hair, piercings, tattoos, and bad attitudes is a wounded and lonely heart. Underneath the quiet, seemingly perfect kids who “have it all together” is a heart trembling from uncertainty and potential failure. Every person in this world craves love, and as “missionary disciples,” to quote a Pope Francis-ism, we are called to offer that love we have first received.
Being who you are, comfortable with how God made you, and living with a spirit of joy and gratitude is the best gift you can give. The Lord fills a heart prepared to receive Him, transforms it, and makes it a Tabernacle to whom those who need the Lord can find a home. I pray that the light of Christ which dwells in your hearts becomes a source of grace for all of those you encounter.