My 19 year-old daughter has been given more challenges than most people in her young life. At thirteen she had to have brain surgery to correct a Chiari I malformation of the brain and at seventeen one of her close friends went missing. (She has still not been found.) Following these events my daughter described herself as broken. She felt weak and vulnerable.
Last weekend my husband and I went to see her receive her dark green cord at her Batizado in Capoeira, which is a form of martial arts. She was strong, beautiful and agile. My husband looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “She’s not broken anymore.” We are not one-dimensional beings. In order to overcome difficulties or grow, we need to attend to many levels of our humanness.
In my book, I laid out a C.O.P.E. plan to help overcome stress. I believe it is worth revisiting as it relates to the development of our students in youth ministry. The acronym stands for Catholic Faith, Opportunity, Physical, and Emotional. In short, if you want to be, as author Matthew Kelly says, “The-Best-Version-of-Yourself,” you need to work on all aspects of your life.
As my daughter trained her body physically, she grew mentally. She found a strength and joy she didn’t know she could possess. She has always been a devout Catholic, attending retreats, going to Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation regularly, but she needed to give attention to her physical needs too. Similarly, we can find opportunity to work on behavior traits and building virtues when we are struggling. We must attend to our emotional needs as well, looking for friends and spiritual leaders to encourage, guide and support us. When we ignore one part of ourselves we may find it harder to move past our difficulties.
My daughter has inspired me to become physically, spiritually, and emotionally stronger too. She opened my eyes to the opportunities to grow that were in front of me and God did the rest. I discovered today, that when I am working out (a relatively new phenomenon for me) I have time to pray the Rosary… several times! It also helps me to start my day a little earlier which affords me the opportunity to go to daily Mass. What a gift of spiritual and physically opportunity for growth! When I do this, I can better handle stress which makes me stronger emotionally.
Encouraging our youth to work on several levels of physical and spiritual health can lead to better balanced young people. This will produce better, stronger Catholics. God bless.