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So many young people today struggle to find meaning, purpose, work and even God’s love! “...envisioning a positive future requires quite a bit of optimism and hope – qualities not easy to find today!”.

These words may sound like something a somewhat cynical adult might say, but they are the words of a young person, one who is just starting along life’s path, one who cannot see or experience the many different options open to him - options he struggles to see. And he is not alone.

Many young people today suffer in the same way.As Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, we share our healing charism with such young men and women. We strive to give them hope and the courage to look for the new beginnings which are always present, even though very small. Sharing our experiences on a deep level, and our own journeys helps them realize that they are not alone. Young people feel affirmed when they learn that their peers share the same ideals, and also have their ups and downs However, they are thirsty and inquisitive to a greater degree than we originally thought: they willingly search for answers, but they are not happy with just any answer. They seek the truth on a challenging, unsettling, and eye-opening journey that makes them both smile and cry.

They sense a God who reaches out to them gently and constantly, and is a companion on journey of anyone who is seeking a true and beautiful meaning in life. What follows are some of their impressions which we collected at the end of a gathering with young men and women at the Community in Casetta Nova: “What struck me the most? The use of salt as a symbol of what we need to add to our lives, that ‘something more’ we need in order to grow in the love that Jesus teaches. I also was touched by my choice to open myself to ‘building my house on a strong foundation’ -- on those concrete essentials in our lives.”“In these days, I experienced what it means to truly live with people, and this touched me deeply.” “We played, joked around, danced.

Moment of sharing and creativity at the Community of Casetta Nova And I realized that we become ‘a fan of Jesus’ through others. We also ‘reflected’ together to understand what friendship is, who is a friend, and especially what kind of friends we ourselves are! I realized that in order to be a good friend, I need to share, to forgive, to dialogue, to be free -- and to be courageous.”Their thoughts and needs challenged us to seek -- and to develop -- uncharted paths to understanding the Word of God. We know that young people are thirsty for the Word -- and also we know that they find it in the living force that animates their relationship with God.

So we created an approach to discussing Scripture that taps into this knowledge. We described it with a ‘new’ phrase, “The Cre-Active Word.” It is a five-step program that links Gospel-based prayer with creative expression. The Word is read and, after being prayed, meditated upon and welcomed, is then expressed in ways that involve all the senses. The lectio divina on a Scripture passage is followed by a creative activity – different each time - such as working with clay, interpretive dance, dramatization, writing... These dynamic activities, combined with the Word of

God, deeply touch and transform the lives of those who agree to’ lend their bodies’ to the Word. Comments from the young people include: “This afternoon, we saw with our eyes, listened with our ears, touched with our hands this God who became flesh among men and women, and who whispers to them the ancient and still new question, ‘Where are you?’ These are simple words that take me – and every person – by the hand, with my fears and joys, triumphs and insecurities. Step after step the dance of life is composed.” “For me, the question ‘Where are you?’ meant, ‘Where is the center of your life? Where is your heart?’

During the interpretive dance, I felt my insecurities coming out of my body and I realized that everyone was open to receive me, both those who were looking at me and those who were dancing with me. Now the Lord sets me ‘on the ground’ of who I am, and invites me to walk with Him to meet the desire for freedom that I have within.” “I found myself facing tough issues – and to think that I was looking for answers, not questions! I trusted the Sisters and let the prayer to the Holy Spirit awaken me from my slumber.

A group of teenagersA group of teenagers

Getting in touch with myself, my relationships with others, and sharing among us brought a new self-awareness.

I experienced having given and received a free gift!”

“Praying the Word and embodying it in a dance helped me to be in God’s presence as a whole person, not just as a head but also as heart, legs, hands... body, as a woman.”

“Dancing the Word after listening to it, reading it, and meditating on it, helped me enter in sync with my body -- to listen to it and express how it feels through movement. It was beautiful but also a bit difficult to tune in to myself and my body. And then, with the body of a different person, choosing the same step to express it for both of us. I also found it meaningful to re-discover trust.

Letting myself be watched by another made me realize how much am I ready to trust. Leading my dance partner made me realize how much I am trusted.” … and thus Life blooms anew!