Three days of preaching. Three days of singing. Three days of gathering for the Lord. For three days St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo welcomed Father Arthur Cavitt who in turn invited others to "Walk by Faith, Walk in Faith, Walk through Faith."
A Buffalo native who graduated from Bishop Turner High School, Father Cavitt now serves as executive director for the St. Charles Lwanga Center in St. Louis, which promotes Christian spiritual formation within the African-American Catholic community.
On Oct. 15, the second of three evenings, a special youth night took place, with a youth choir and a preteen doing the first reading. Father Cavitt gave a sermon fit for teens, preteens and those were well past their teen years, dealing the troubled youth. He disputed claims that young people today are a lost generation.
"Hopefully, when we leave here we will be in an affirmation that these young men are contrary to stories that we see and hear in newspapers and on the news," he said with animation and intensity. "We would hear continually in churches and in the barbershop and in the hairdresser and all of these other places, that we have a lost generation. Do these people look like they are lost? Does this choir look like they are lost?"
Father Cavitt does admit that we live in a world where young people are in need of direction and implored the parents, grandparents and primary caregivers to guide their children by setting a positive example for them. Children learn both good and bad behavior from watching their parents interacting with others.
"They didn't lose their sense of direction by eating Cheerios in the morning. They didn't learn how to cuss by eating Frosted Flakes in the morning. They didn't learn bad behavior and do not learn bad behavior by oatmeal and fruit in the morning," he said. "It is those adults who are calling them lost who are responsible for the example that we show them. In this place we want to show something very contrary to what it is that we keep hearing."
Throughout his sermon, Father Cavitt encouraged the assembly to read with him from the Bible. In Jeremiah 1:4-8 the Lord tells Jeremiah that he is not too young to spread His message. Father Cavitt told the assembly, that included Boy Scout Troop 139, they also are not too young to do God's work.
"Notice that this is God speaking to a young Jeremiah to tell him that you got what it takes. You got what it takes for Me to have you do what I need you to do," Father Cavitt said. "Choir, you have what it takes to inspire our hearts musically. You got what it takes to be rhythmic. You got what it takes to be innocent and open to inspire us. Say not you are too young."
Father Cavitt asked if the kids are sick and tired of being lied to and let down by adults. This caused a buzz in the assembly.
"When you had an adult tell you not to do something because it was the wrong thing and you found out the adults were doing it themselves. Doesn't that make you sick and tired of being sick and tired?"
This created a larger buzz.
"It is a message to say not that I am too young here. I am not too young to learn from you and you and you, and pick up the same speech pattern that you have; or to learn how to respect a woman or not, like we do; or learn that womanhood is based on some woman in their life who shows them what it is, or not, to be a woman. Say not they are too young. They are beautiful sponges, even as we are in senior life. In senior age we are affected by what people give us or do not give us."
Father Cavitt did not let the youth off easy. He let them know they should still honor their mother and father, using Luke 2:46-52 where young Jesus wanders away from His parents in a temple during Passover, as an example.
"Young people, even as you are sick and tired of being sick and tired of being lied to, even as you are sick and tired of being sick and tired of hypocritical behavior around you, there still is this responsibility for you to give some honor to the people who are taking care of you, to the people who are loving you, to the people who are nurturing you, to the people who are providing love to you," he said. "If it ever comes to the case where there is something awful happening to you in your family, those very people can be held accountable, but it is still up to you to respect them, to hear them, to listen to what it is that they are telling you and to appreciate the care and love that they are giving you."
Father Cavitt ended his sermon by leading the assembly in a pitch perfect rendition of "Ohh Child" by the Five Stairsteps.
The revival, which has become an annual tradition in the diocese, was sponsored by the Office of Cultural Diversity's African-American Commission.