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Jesus, University Students and a New Year

January 2, 2009
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It's a fair question: why would 600 students spend five days of their Christmas break at an religious conference? And just what attracted three archbishops, along with many priests? What could be newsworthy here to merit the attention of our Salt + Light cameras?
As tipsy revelers filled Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square, a different kind of celebration was occurring one block away in the Marriott Hotel. There, college-aged Catholics were singing praises to God at the Rise Up conference, organized by an evangelistic university student movement called Catholic Christian Outreach.
The main draw, in my estimation, was the students' fresh, joyful spirituality. For those of us who have long since completed our education, there's something recognizable in their witness. They resemble you and I, perhaps many years removed, not long after we first welcomed Jesus into our lives...
cco-2.jpgDo you remember? It was when you recklessly invited God's will--heartaches, uncertainties and all--conscious that you and Jesus were embarking on a momentous adventure. You still believed people could change, so you saw your aggressors as souls in need of healing and mercy, rather than obstacles in your way. You were unaware of ideological factions in your parish, or at least you knew then that such political concerns were less important than the higher cause of worship that brought you together. You were convinced that good deeds done for the Lord should always, always be commended.
This thoughtful, faithful group of students made me wonder how and when I began to regard such ideals as unattainable and naive. As the praise & worship band rung in the new year, I longed to rediscover the holy high principles of these commendable youth.

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