Put Out Into The Deep


As a child, I spent much of the summertime on or in the waters of the Great South Bay along the south shore of Long Island. I loved crabbing and clamming, swimming and sailing. Because we went as a family to a small island accessible only by boat, I also learned how to operate small boats. Most of my experience was with family or friends in the protected inshore waters of the bay. Those waters could easily “kick up” in a good wind and form a “chop” that would rock the boat and make for bumpy progress.
Having grown comfortable with the waters of the bay, I still remember the first time that I felt the true power of ocean waves. I was in a boat about 20 feet in length. As we cleared the mouth of the inlet, the boat ceased pushing through chop. Instead, a boat that weighed more than 5,000 pounds was rising and falling on swells that were longer than the vessel.
Even on that day with fair weather, it was clear to me that this was something entirely different from my smaller world of the bay. While I could not have expressed it then, I think I understood that day that my perspectives and my interaction with the water would change forever. My respect became awe at the true power of the sea – a power that only revealed itself when I left the shallow bay behind and ventured into the depths.
Among my travels here in Rhode Island, I have had the privilege of meeting many of our young people. Some of them serve in their parishes or attend Catholic Schools. Others devote themselves to service work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society or an outreach program of their parish. I have visited the college campuses and Catholic centers as well. I know that our secular culture imagines that young people have abandoned God and the practice of the faith. Certainly many have done so. And yet, I keep meeting young people who have a deep sense of connection to God. I have been surprised by their profound questions, their boundless generosity, their zeal for service and mission, and their maturity.
Some of those I have met have been raised in families with little or no faith and yet the Lord has drawn them into friendship. The culture may tell a different story and the miserable shallows of social media might paint a grim picture, but my hope has soared in meeting these young disciples.
I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is at work. I wonder sometimes if the experience of the pandemic has unveiled for some young people the emptiness and hopelessness of the age. Perhaps it is an awakening that turns them to search the depths and helps them to be open to the promptings of the Spirit. Scripture teaches that God is not in the earthquake or the storm but in the whisper of a breeze. These young people have tuned out the noise and are listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd.
In this season of graduations and transitions, I find myself thinking much about the young. Their graduations rightly celebrate their accomplishments and milestones. Parents, teachers and speakers urge them on to the next chapter and offer them advice for a good life. All of this is right and good. But I also know that many of them will struggle with what comes next and the shallow waters of this culture will have little to offer them in the way of true purpose, meaning, or joy.
My prayer is that they will “put out into the deep” and know the true power that is the God of love. May that awesome power lift and astonish them, get their attention, change their perspective, and inspire them to faith.