Q: How should we help children in need?
A: I congratulate you for asking such a profound question, for the very nature of the question tells me you want to reach out to others your age. Of course, while you do not, right now, hold a steady job, other than being a student, your options are limited, but not necessarily ineffective.
I would suggest that you first look around you and identify those children in need. It is good for us, at times, to begin with those with whom we may be familiar.
You, also, may wish to contribute to or begin an outreach to other children. I recall, as a pastor, when the youth in my parish indicated that they wanted to attend World Youth Day in Australia that we attempted to find ways in which to raise money for such a project. The students collected paper as well as used inkjet cartridges. You would be amazed how much money they were able to raise for a successful trip to World Youth Day in Australia, all because they exercised ingenuity and creativity.
Finally, and most importantly, please pray for the children – not just in the Ohio Valley – but throughout the world who are living in very difficult situations. Our prayers do help others, even if we are not there to witness the end results. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,” which means, you and I have a role in bringing heaven to others.
Q: When we are dedicating prayers for someone, should we be focusing on them or God, in our heads while praying?
A: I apologize for my sense of humor, but the answer is: “Yes.” When you and I pray, we are in a sense, gazing on the face of God, even if we cannot see him with our own eyes. Nevertheless, we remember that prayer is raising our minds and hearts to God; namely, that prayer is conversation with God.
It is only natural that when we are offering prayers to God, such as for a family member or friend in need, we do picture that person’s face when we pray. It seems to me this is very appropriate, as we share that image of the person for whom we are praying with Jesus himself. We are sharing with a friend in Jesus another friend who is in need of Jesus’ mercy and love.
I hope this does not appear too complicated to understand. Remember, when we pray to God we are not leaving God a voicemail, text message or a tweet. We are in conversation with God in real time. Yes, really.
Q: How do I help somebody I know who is going to become a Christian?
A: First of all, the best way you and I can assist another person to become a Christian or Catholic or simply put, for us to evangelize, we need first to live our own Christian life. This may be a good time for you to discuss Christianity with that person, which also means you may need to do your own homework by reading the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church or the YOUCAT. I, personally, would begin with a prayer from the Bible.
In a similar way to this “Ask the Bishop” column, you may wish to visit with the individual in question and discover any questions he or she may have about the Catholic faith. It is not wrong for you to reply to a question, “I don’t know,” when you do not have the answer readily at hand. I, too, from time to time, perform some level of research in my writings or even in answering questions posed to me. I owe it to the other person to share the Truth of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, the Son of God.
Remember, because of our baptismal gift, you and I are ambassadors for Jesus. You need not be a member of the clergy or the consecrated life in order to share the Gospel.
As we are just days away from the beginning of the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday, may we keep each other in prayer as we begin the ascent of the Easter Mountain.
May your Lenten penances purify you and calibrate your life focus on Our Lord Jesus Christ and his self-sacrifice in order that you and I may have Eternal Life. May you and your families have a blessed Lenten season.
To “Ask the Bishop,” address questions to Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator in the Diocese of Steubenville Office of Christian Formation and Schools, P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952; email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or telephone, (740) 282-3631.