Patrick J. Buechi/Staff - Dozens of teens and young adults pray before the Blessed Sacrament during a Youth 2000 retreat. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal led the retreat held at St. Leo the Great Parish in Amherst over St. Patrick’s weekend.
Teens from across the diocese and parts of Rochester gathered for a Youth 2000 Prayer Festival on one of the first spring-like days of the season. St. Leo Parish in Amherst hosted the Franciscan friar-led retreat.
The three-day gathering offered much prayer and adoration, along with Mass and talks on topics such as Jesus, characters from the Bible, and the 10 Commandments.
Brother Joachim Joseph Bellavance, CFR, clarified the meaning of sin in an eye-opening look at the 10 Commandments.
“Let me start off by saying we’re not a religion of ethics. We’re a religion of relationships. That is why we have God as our Father, a Father Who loves us and cares for us. We have Jesus, our Brother. The Holy Spirit unites us all. But in all relationships there are rules, rules to free us, rules that help us to understand,” Brother Joachim said.
He explained every sin associated with each commandment, admitting the first one is simple, “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no strange gods before Me.” He defined other gods as anything one places their belief in that is beyond themselves, such as the occult, ouija board and horoscopes.
“People ask me, ‘What’s your sign?’ I tell them this is my sign – the sign of the cross,” Brother Joachim said.
He broadened “Honoring thy mother and father” to include the whole family. Parents should set a good example for their children, and children should not fight with siblings. Children should also not move out of the house too young or remain so long that they become a financial burden.
The most complex commandment is “Thou Shall Not Kill.” Brother Joachim had a whopping 23 points to make with this one. Aside from the obvious, the commandment also covers being unjust with anger, neglecting to love thy neighbor, and encouraging others to view sinful material. He used “Jersey Shore” as an example.
Perhaps most relevant to the teens present was reckless driving, as not only can it cause death or injury via accident, it can also indirectly cause others to have accidents.
“A red light does mean stop; a stop sign actually does mean stop. Yellow light means slow down, not speed up,” he said.
He ended the presentation by reiterating that life with God is a relationship.
“What do you have to do to make your conscience truly say you really love God? Is He my all?” Brother Joachim asked. “Someone who brags about themselves will never bring someone else to Jesus. Be humble. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but take God very seriously.”
In small group sessions following the talks, the teens discussed their thoughts on the topic at hand.
“I like it a lot,” said Jacob Honan, 17, from St. Josaphat Parish in Cheektowaga, half way through the retreat. “I really like the speakers so far and I really like how it’s been really relaxed. I’ve been to other retreats where it has been really intense and stuff. But these priests have done a really good job keeping everybody cool.”
Andrew Rosien, 17, who hails all the way from Rochester, feels the retreat will shift the trajectory of his life.
“It changed my life a lot because I didn’t know there were that many ways the 10 Commandments (could be interpreted), how you can sin that many ways when it is only one sentence long, how there’s over 23 different ways to kill and how there is over six ways to commit adultery,” he said. “It’s kind of surreal. You don’t want to believe it but you do believe it. That’s the only way I can explain it.”
The 17-year-old said he would spend more time examining his conscience and trying to follow the commandments more closely and “learn how I can live my life better.”
This marks only the second time Youth 2000NY, a Bronx-based movement, has come to Buffalo.
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