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Author: Paul Masek

I’d planned on publishing this blog a lot sooner, but I kept forgetting. Because when you get old, like me, there are two things that go: the first one is your memory… And I can’t remember the other one.

Not too long ago, I was at a churchy gathering, promoting what The REAP Team does. And I was taken by surprise when a friend of mine (who, ironically, is older than me) approached our display table, looked me straight in the eye, and sarcastically said, “You would think that they would have someone a little bit younger promoting youth ministry.”

My friend was teasing me, of course, as my friends often do. And since I knew he was teasing, his comment didn’t sting too badly – but it did sting a little – because his comment touched on a fear that can grow a bit stronger in my heart with every passing year. That fear is based upon a lie that I used to believe: namely, that only the young, hip, and trendy should be doing youth ministry. That lie is the sin of ageism, and when we believe that lie, everyone loses.

I have a confession to make: I’ve always secretly kind of loved those mosaics of the face of Jesus that are composed of pictures of parishioners from the parish directory. And I think it has something to do with an experience I once had – and which I dream of having more often.

During my first visit to one of the Catholic schools here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that everyone who I walked past in the hallways – staff members and students alike – looked me directly in the eyes, smiled, and said hello. What was even more stunning was the realization that such a thing had never happened to me before, even though I’ve visited countless Catholic institutions.

At the end of that particular retreat day, while we on the team were processing the day with the school’s principal, we mentioned to her how blessed we all were by the warmth and kindness of everyone we encountered. Her response was simple, yet profound:

“I regularly remind my students and faculty that Jesus is present in everyone we meet, and that if any one of us ever passed by Jesus in the hallway, I would hope that we would look him in the eyes, smile, and say hello.”

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