Mary Kaye Falcony
Connecting Faith and Life
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (Timothy 4:12).
Ever since I can remember, I have found great joy in being in the company of young people. When I was just a youth myself (19), I was hired as a part-time youth minister at my parish. Little did I know that this experience would set me on a path in ministry that would bless my life for over 40 years.
In that time, I have had the privilege of encountering countless amazing young people. Their lives were led with depth and conviction, and an openness to life’s possibilities. Over the years, I have been asked many times why I work with teens. For me, the answer is simple – accompanying them on their journeys has always been life-giving and an inspiration for me. In the midst of all that the teenage years may bring, they see the beauty of life even in inconspicuous of places.
All this was brought to mind as I was introduced to the stories of three young men – Carlo Acutis, Brandon Blursworth and Christopher Gregory. Each died in their youth; Carlo at 15, Brandon at 22 and Christopher at 19. Even though their earthly existence was not long, the beauty of what they left behind will be woven into the fabric of many lives that will come after them.
The details of their stories are very different; however, how they lived out their stories are similar in that faith was a constant for each. Carlo Acutis was a typical youth growing up in Italy. He liked soccer, computer games and teaching himself how to be a programmer. Carlo also filled his days by going to daily Mass, helping the poor in his community and developing his website on Eucharistic miracles. The latter may seem out of the ordinary, but for Carlo, it was not; this was his life. He lived with the gospel as his guide. Carlo was beatified on Oct. 10, 2020.
Brandon Burlsworth grew up in Harrison, Arkansas; and as a youth, announced that someday he would play football for the Arkansas Razorbacks – and he did! This announcement to his family seemed no more than wishful thinking, but Brandon was determined and put in the work to make this a reality. In the movie “Greater,” Brandon’s story was told; and it was not just about football but also about how he lived. Those who knew Brandon spoke of how the movie is “a true depiction of his nature and his unyielding commitment to always put others before himself.”
Christopher Gregory, a freshman at the University of Loyola New Orleans, became an organ donor when he died from a brain aneurysm at 19. Five of his organs were donated, including his corneas and tissue. His story is told in a book written by his dad titled “All My Tomorrows: A story of Tragedy, Transplant and Hope,” and in the movie “2 Hearts.” One of the recipients, Jorge Bacardi, established Gabriel House of Care, which provides long-term housing for transplant patients and families. Christopher will be remembered as a young man who was fun-loving, kind, compassionate and in his death gave the gift of life.
Each of these young men lived the gospel in their own way and left the world changed by their presence. Just as their lives left marks, hundreds – if not thousands – of other young people do the same each and every day. They are telling the story told 2,000 years ago with their lives. I thank God for their witness.
I ask that you pray for the special young people in your life and ask God to bless them with his grace.