Are you ‘Tough Enough
to be Catholic’?
By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register
Is it tough to be Catholic? According to Terry Clark, that answer is an adamant “yes.”
Clark, keynote speaker at the March 17-18 High School Youth Rally in Dodge City, has at once the cadence of a stand-up comic, impressive vocal talents, and a deep spirituality.
All of which lent to his appeal when speaking before 110 youth and 30 adult sponsors at the rally, held at Dodge City Community College.
The theme for the event was “Tough Enough to be Catholic,” which Clark, a father of four, addressed almost immediately. Next to him on stage stood a guitar, inviting kids to wonder just what kind of talent they were going to encounter.
“It’s really ambitious to think that we can be tough enough to be Catholic,” he said. “Because I think from my own experience that being Catholic is one of the toughest things ever. I think it’s really hard to be Catholic, to be what Jesus truly calls us to be, which is to follow him at all times. I think that’s really hard.
“I’ll admit that I have a lot of shortcomings. So, for me it’s really hard to feel like I’m always following Jesus 100 percent the way he wants me to.”
Prior to taking the stage, Diocesan Youth Director Steven Polley offered words of introduction to the many youth attending the rally, and he introduced members of the youth council.
As always with a new speaker, Polley had all the participants raise their hands toward Clark and offer their prayers of support for him before he began his presentation. Once on stage, Clark discussed three ways in which one has to be tough enough to be Catholic:
“One: You have to open the door to Jesus to be a part of your life, to let him in.
“Two: This is the most difficult piece, but I also think it’s the most worthwhile, and that is to ask for forgiveness. You’ll find no bigger advocate for the sacrament of reconciliation than myself, except for maybe the pope. I hear he’s really big on it too. I haven’t asked him yet.
“Three: Say ‘thank you.’ God blesses us in a lot of ways. So when we say ‘thank you,’ the blessings just flow out from God in amazing, amazing ways.”
Clark, Program Director for the St. Thomas More Center in the Diocese of Des Moines, admitted that when he was a teenager, the door allowing Christ entry “was locked as tight as you could possibly lock it. I didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. My Jesus was a Jesus who caused heartache and pain, and I blamed everything on Jesus. It was always Jesus’s fault when something bad happened. It couldn’t be my fault, for sure. I wasn’t tough enough. I just wanted to play the blame game.”
Later, while serving as a youth minister aboard a service trip to West Virginia, Clark met a troubled young woman – a girl whose story seemed sadly similar to the one in which an Irish girl recently was “bullied” into committing suicide. This girl, also an immigrant, chose to try to fit in by having sex and by getting drunk at parties, until her behavior eventually led her to begin cutting herself out of shame.
“’Terry,’ she said to me, ‘I understand that God forgives, but how is he ever going to forgive me?’ So I said, ‘Look, I’m pretty sure that God will forgive you and love you 100 percent because he’s never stopped loving you.
“There are two moments in your life, in my opinion, where there’s perfection -- that moment when you’re baptized and you are free of all sins, and the moment when you die and you go back to God. In those moments you’ll never feel more close to God.
“If you seek Jesus every single day, if you try to seek perfection, you’ll be close to it. You don’t have to be perfect; our goal in life is to try and reach those moments of perfection every single day, and when we do that we are so close to God that we can feel his breath.”
Throughout his presentations, Clark took to the guitar, displaying a vocal talent that once took him to Rome to perform for Pope John Paul II.
On Palm Sunday, the second day of the rally, Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore celebrated Mass with the youth in the “Little Theater” at the school.
According to Polley, “A lot of work by the Diocesan Youth Council went into preparing for and presenting this year’s youth rally. With the amount of time and work that was given by this group of young men and women, I was disappointed with the number or participants we had, especially after such a wonderful response to last November’s NCYC. But over the years we have tried to not get too hung up on the numbers and we minister to the ones who are present.
“With this in mind, Terry Clark did a wonderful job of sharing his story with the youth. Between Terry, the breakout sessions, time with God in prayer, Adoration and Eucharist, along with an excitement that seemed to run deep within each participant, I feel that this year’s rally was a success.
“Truly lives were touched and changed through the events of this weekend.”