Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle speaking at Catholic University in 2015.
Each summer, high school students visit Catholic University to take part in Light the World!, an opportunity to explore the interaction between faith and culture through business, politics, sports, art, and science.
Like so many other things in the world recently, the experience moved online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that move had a silver lining. While the students weren’t able to experience the CatholicU campus, visit Washington’s museums or stadiums, or meet in person with Catholic professionals, they were able to interact online with speakers they wouldn’t be able to engage otherwise.
The last speaker the participants heard from was Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who logged in from Rome.
“You all look very young,” said the 63-year-old cardinal, who earned his Doctor of Sacred Theology degree from Catholic University in 1991, about 10 years before most of the participants were born. But he was quick to connect with them and to connect Jesus with young people.
“Please do not be afraid of the word ‘evangelization,’” he said. Just as they would call or text their friends when something good happens in their lives (someone they have a crush on pays attention to them, or they finally get a car), he suggested that the same spontaneous sharing should apply to sharing the Word of God.
“Having this high moment of being loved for who I am and being loved unto death — he even died for me and now he lives in me — this experience, I need to share,” he said. “And I share with my words, but I also share the good news through my attitudes, through my joy, through my relationships and the quality of my relationships, my values, my priorities, my engagement, my lifestyle, the projects I choose for my life. These are all expressions of the good news that has happened in my life. And for us, it has a name: Jesus.”
Based on the vision of great saints like St. Vincent Pallotti and St. Josemaría Escrivá, as well as the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, Light the World! seeks to show participants that “their faith is not separate from the life God calls them to live,” says Brian Rhude, program director. “Our presenters shared about the necessity of prayer, the importance of a relationship with the saints, and of the beauty of following God in the vocation he calls each person to.”
Cardinal Tagle also suggested that the participants never forget that Jesus — like them — was young, and will be eternally young. They should see this as a way to connect with him and his life.
“When he rose again from the dead, you see how young he was,” he said. “He looked for his friends again. He stayed with them. And he had a barbecue party with them. At the beach! The Jesus that we are following is young. And while you are young, please pattern your lives after him and you will be eternally young.”
Cardinal Tagle also commented on opportunities the pandemic has provided for people to recognize God’s work in the world and to use the time to reconsider one’s choices.
“This pandemic shows to us that we are really one human family. We hope that this pandemic … that it will develop into a general culture of caring. We are talking about a ‘new normal’ and I hope the ‘new normal’ is a general culture of caring.”
Other speakers included Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano; Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., director of the Vatican observatory; singer Matt Maher; lawyer Mary Devlin Capizzi; former MLB player Mike Sweeney; Nathaniel Hurd, international affairs policy advisor; and Catholic University faculty members Bradley Gregory (biblical studies), Nora Heimann (art), David Cloutier (moral theology/ethics), and David Elliot (moral theology/ethics).