||The "burning bush," atop which rests the Blessed Sacrament, stays lit as Eucharistic Adoration continues through the Saturday night of the YOUTH 2000 retreat, held at the Bishop O'Connor Center February 26 through 28. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
MADISON -- "What do many of you listen to?" Bishop Robert C. Morlino asked during his homily at the Youth 2000 retreat February 27, naming off popular artists like Lady Gaga and Ludacris and gaining laughter from the youth.
"You can't listen to these things with your heart -- because you turn it up so loud, you can't even listen to it with your ears," he said. "This culture is so noisy, as you listen to Lady Gaga or Luda -- there's no way to have a listening heart, because that drowns out everything else."
A heart that listens is one that listens for God's word, the bishop said. "To have a listening heart is to be quiet, because Jesus speaks in a whisper."
There was plenty of quiet at the YOUTH 2000 retreat February 26 through 28 at the Bishop O'Connor Center in Madison. That quiet, most often in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed atop the six-foot high "burning bush," was interspersed among and within the talks, Mass, workshops, music, and Rosaries that drew the focus of the weekend towards the Eucharist.
This is the second year YOUTH 2000 was held in Madison. And while this year's retreat drew a slightly smaller number of youth, it was "absolutely" considered a success, said Patrick Delaney of the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
"If you talked to the kids, you heard they grew closer to Christ," Delaney said. "They got to know Christ and the Church; they learned what it means to be Catholic. They were catechized on the sacraments and the sacramental life, they prayed, and they had fun.
"Anytime we see 250 young people opening their hearts to Jesus Christ in Eucharistic Adoration, the sacrament of Reconciliation, the Holy Mass, and sound, funny, catechetical instruction, we can thank the Holy Spirit for a wonderful success," he said.
The diocese is already looking to schedule another YOUTH 2000 retreat for the coming school year.
Getting closer to God
YOUTH 2000 is an "international spiritual initiative" born out of Pope John Paul II's 1989 call for a "Decade of Evangelization." It seeks to bring youth closer to God through the celebration of Mass and Adoration of the Eucharist.
The weekend featured 40 hours of Eucharistic Adoration, opportunities for Reconciliation, Mass, talks by priests and Brothers, testimonies by young people, small group discussions, music, and times for group and individual prayer.
Sponsored and organized by the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, the retreat was led again this year by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal from New York, with the assistance of the Schoenstatt Sisters, and many dedicated volunteers and chaperones.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, who had helped at last year's retreat, and one of the Franciscan Friars were unable to attend due to a large snowstorm in the northeast. Fr. Eric Nielsen, co-pastor of St. Paul University Catholic Center in Madison, pitched in to offer a talk during the day on Saturday.
Seeking one who whispers
In his homily at the Mass on Saturday, Bishop Morlino drew his theme from the Gospel of the day and from the theme of Pope Benedict XVI's annual Lenten retreat -- that in order to realize their full potential, people need to listen to others and especially to God; they must have a heart that listens.
In order to have a listening heart, though, we need silence, he said.
"In order to find Jesus Christ, we have to be looking for one who whispers the most important thing we'll ever hear," Bishop Morlino said. "The one who whispers, 'I love you.' The one who whispers, 'I am God.' The one who whispers, 'You are saved.'"
He acknowledged that silence could be boring -- "and it can even be depressing if you're listening to it alone," the bishop said.
But silence is not boring or depressing if we're not listening to it alone, he said: "if together we're waiting to hear Jesus whisper the best things we could ever hear."
A listening heart is one that obeys, the bishop said.
"Love is obedience, love is humility, and love is forgiveness from the heart," he said.
That is exactly what Christ's suffering and death on the cross was about. "Obedience, forgiveness, humility -- it's all wrapped up there."
"When you're caught up in communion with Christ at the altar, with Jesus in Adoration," the bishop said, "you're in communion with Jesus Christ, the obedient one, the humble one, and the forgiving one whose forgiveness is absolutely without limit. We're caught up in communion and we're transformed by Jesus Christ."
Hearing a call to holiness
At the end of the weekend, following the closing Mass, youth spoke of their experiences at the retreat. Some spoke of attending the retreat unwillingly, because they "had to be there," but the experience soon became something more.
"I felt I'm here, I've got to get this done," said one attendee for whom the retreat had taken the place of a Confirmation retreat. "But then something happened. It was real -- I wasn't going through the motions anymore. Jesus was here, and I really felt it."
In describing those especially moving moments, they spoke highly of Adoration, particularly of the healing service held on Saturday night in which the Blessed Sacrament was borne in procession amid the circles of kneeling attendees, allowing everyone a chance to touch "the cloak of Jesus," the cope, as he passed by.
"In Adoration last night, people were bawling," said one of the youth attendees. "And when Jesus came in front of me, I cried for the first time in two years. Nobody experiences that kind of love except in Adoration."
Several of the attendees even indicated that they are discerning a call to the priesthood or religious life. During his homily, Bishop Morlino spoke to the young women present asking them to consider becoming like the 16 young women from the Diocese of Madison currently preparing for vows. He spoke to the young men, as well, placing his zucchetto on the heads of several -- and even passing it down one whole row of young men -- as a call to the priesthood.
"Pray about it, talk about it -- be quiet, and listen to God's call," the bishop said. "The material is right here. I wouldn't even call it raw material -- it's refined material, ready and waiting for Christ."
For more information about YOUTH 2000, visit www.youth 2000usa.org
For more on the Franciscan Friars or Sisters of the Renewal, visit www.franciscanfriars.com or www.franciscansisterscfr.com