Maria-Pia Negro Chin

For the past three years, my hope has been that some columns could help at least one person along the way — by sharing testimonies or examples of inspiring adults, by offering opinions on ways to nurture hope and faith or by providing concrete advice for action.

As we enter more deeply into these weeks of Lent, here are several reminders that — in addition to traditional Lenten practices such as fasting and almsgiving — can help all of us, and especially youth and young adults, grow in holiness:

– Know that your worth comes from God. At World Youth Day, bishops reassured young people that they were loved by God, who knows everything about us (including our mistakes) from the beginning. One of them said: “You are not an accident, you have been planned by God. … This means that God from all eternity has had a plan for your life.”

Another bishop reminded World Youth Day participants that even when you feel lost, things get better when you get close to God, who “never abandons you.”

– Listen to your elders. Your parents, grandparents or the adults who lovingly raised you might seem like they are on a completely different wavelength, but they care about you, want to listen and have your best interests at heart. Times might be different from their teenage years, but human emotions are the same and your elders can give you some perspective on the present.

– You don’t have to have all the answers, and you can ask for help. Being a teenager nowadays is stressful, and those pressures and anxieties can breed unhealthy habits that can drive us away from God. But now is a good time to find tools to cope with stress and develop problem-solving skills. Reaching out to responsible adults — or better yet, to trained professionals like counselors or therapists — can help you get the tools and coping skills that (along with a strong prayer life) will benefit you in the long run.

-Speak up. You can call out friends or classmates when necessary. It is sometimes hard to stand up for what you believe in. Speak out when you witness someone bullying another person. It can be scary, but do say something. Don’t join the mob, and try to be kind to the person who is struggling.

– Listen and be humble. Try to understand someone else’s perspective and how he or she perceives the world. You might still have different opinions, and you may need to point out problematic opinions or behavior — but do so with love and respect for the person. Make informed decisions. Disagreements are part of life and you can have civilized conversations in trying to resolve them.

– Be kind to others. Make time to volunteer in some way and to dedicate time to causes or organizations you trust. Visit a home for the elderly, help at a community garden, go on a midnight run to feed people experiencing homelessness with your parish. And remember that those on the peripheries can include people in your own community who might be struggling, even those you might find annoying.

– Take on challenges. Don’t let fear of failure prevent you from taking risks. Don’t let failure discourage you from trying again. Failure and embarrassment are part of life, and they help us to learn and grow. Feed your faith and your courage, not your fears.

Lent is an opportunity to get closer to God and become the people he wants us to be. And our call to grow in holiness exists well beyond Lent. How will you start today?

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Maria-Pia Negro Chin is bilingual associate editor at Maryknoll Magazine.