Then we hit the homily. Okay, right. The little boy, about age 10, in front of me turned to his mother and asked, "What is Father talking about?" What was he talking about, sex and sexuality. As there were a significant number of teens at this Mass and word spreads quickly after Mass (blame texting and iTouches), I felt a train wreck coming. Oh, and did I mention that about three-quarters of the kids have exams this week? Right.
Then there was the question nagging me since earlier in the week. A teen in our area was brutally attacked. I hadn't heard from any in the youth group regarding this. I wasn't sure what level of impact it would have on the teens. Sometimes these things don't really sink in, others it is the center of their world.
With no little trepidation, I went to unlock the youth room after Mass. I took solace in making Monkey Bread for the kids and waited for the first ones to show up. First boy to come in, had come straight from a funeral. Next kid to come in was petrified about a math exam. The rest trickled in. Quickly the decision was made to go to Plan B: Movie night. These kids needed to unwind and be able to just be for a while. Luckily I had both Narnia movies in my bag as I was working earlier on the retreat.
Then it came time to wrap up. Our small group chatted a bit after I made some announcements. A senior girl spoke up. She asked us to keep the teen who was attacked in our prayers. In turn, I see 'my' teen on the verge of tears. I assure her we will pray and we finish the night.
I walk up to the girl, ask the simple question, "How are you doing?" Unsurprisingly, this leads straight into tears. Yet again, my heart broke. With tears dampening my shoulder as she cries into the hug, there's not much I can do beyond let her know my door is open and my cell phone is on. Her father comes to pick her up momentarily and she is out the door.
Then one of the first year boys comments about my expression. I reply, "I'm worried. I worry about you guys. And times like this break my heart."
"Really, you worry about us?"
"Yes, of course I do. I have seen enough to know that you guys have to face so many difficult things. I worry that you will be put in danger like A (the girl who was attacked)."
"Do you worry about me?"
"Have you ever seen me in danger?"
"No. But if I did I would do whatever was within my power to help you."
"Oh. Have you ever called the police?"
"No, but I have had to call Social Services."
It was one of those nights.
Now on my day off, I'm checking email, Facebook, and the local news to see what is going on with the teen. I'm mentally preparing for various contingencies and constantly in prayer.
Yes, I worry.