Dr Edward Edezhath, A pioneer of the Jesus Youth Movement gives us a glimpse of the growth of the Movement.

What I like about Jesus Youth movement is its insistence of the six pillars in the life of all its members. I am eager that everyone in my diocese have this lifestyle.” Bishop Robert Muhiirwa of Uganda heard about the movement at a conference in Rome and he was specially attracted to it by its emphasis on a lifestyle of active life and mission. Jesus Youth is called a lifestyle for a committed Christian and at the heart of this proposed daily plan for life is its six elements, namely, prayer, word of God, sacraments, fellowship, evangelization and option for the poor.

Why this focus on a lifestyle? To talk a little bit about the background, the Charismatic Renewal came with an emphasis on an encounter experience as well as on the use of certain gifts of the Holy Spirit called Charisms. People who attended a retreat or renewal seminar very often had a life changing experience. One very positive result of the renewal wave was that a large number of people came to experience such a radical change and more and more people were getting attracted to such seminars and retreats. But there is a not so desirable side to it. People get focused on flashy gifts, answered prayers and healings and as result, sometimes, spirituality is seen as a magical affair and a quick fix to get material benefits.

A mature Christian attitude should not be focused on receiving all that I want, but on taking my cross and following Jesus. Of course many people begin their walk with Jesus experiencing a ‘real’ God who answers my prayers. But that is only the beginning. A person who wants to grow as a disciple of Jesus

A mature Christian attitude
should not be focused on
receiving all that I want,
but on taking my cross and
following Jesus

has to learn after the example of the Lord to lay down one’s life and be committed to the path of the Lord. In other words growing as a Christian is learning to walk a path. With this in mind the early Christians called it ‘the way’ (Acts 9:2). Of courseJesus himself is the Way (Jn 14:6) and He wanted his followers to embrace his ‘narrow way’ (Mt 7:14). Hence in Jesus Youth we challenge people to live the narrow way and follow the path of Christian perfection.

Was it always six pillars?

People often ask, “When and how was Six Pillars formed?”, “Was the number always six?” It has evolved over time and early on, we didn’t have this list of six.

In the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) we have what is called the Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS) to enter into a new life of personal renewal. The 7-week seminar usually has a day of presentation each week followed by days of personal reflection and assimilation. On the fifth week the participants are prayed over for infilling and on the 6th week the presentation is on “growing in Spirit”. Based on the pattern of life of the early Christians that we see in Acts of the Apostles (2:42) the 6th seminar puts forward four essential elements of Christian living – prayer, study, service and community. It is often represented as a Wheel Diagram (to know more, google for “Life in the Spirit Seminar Wheel Diagram”). Early in our journey in renewal, we all learned about a path for Christian growth with the above mentioned 4 elements.

The early 1980s brought in another  wave of deepening in the renewal  and we started talking of a set of  ingredients of daily living called the  ‘Constants’. Fr Gino Henriques became  the Chairman of the Charismatic  Renewal Services in India and he  brought in a youth friendly approach  and a series of teachings well suited  for them. These constants included, 1.  Ongoing repentance, 2. Daily personal  prayer, 3. Regular Sacramental life, 4.  Daily time for word, 5. Prayer meeting,  6. Personal pastoring, 7. Regular  Inner-healing, 8. Ongoing infilling,  and 9. Commitment to Evangelization.  This longer list helped people to have  a detailed plan for developing well  founded Christian habits in life.

A few years went by and we were  then talking about 5 essential elements  in our Christian walk. Taking the cue  again from Acts 4:42 the list included  Prayer, Word and Fellowship, but under    breaking of bread started mentioning  Sacraments and sharing the word or  evangelization. Thus by 1990s in Jesus  Youth we had these 5 ingredients for  regular Christian life.

In early 2000 we were asking how  we missed the emphasis on ‘service’.  Finally it was in 2004 that Jesus Youth  leaders decided that a sixth element  has to be added and Option for the Poor  was included in the list. There were a  few significant thoughts that led to this  step. For Jesus, the poor and suffering  were very close to his heart and His  heart moved with compassion when  he saw them. He taught that when we  do something for the poor truly we are  doing that to the Lord (Mt 25:40). The  Church also challenges us continually  to be closer to the poor. Through all  these reflections, a sixth part was  added to the essential elements of  Jesus Youth living.

This set of six pillars form an
essential plan to build a life
of holiness in every Jesus Youth

FAITHFULNESS TO THE PILLARS 

If in the late 1970’s we were using  the image of wheel and talking of the  need for 4 spokes for a balanced Spirit  filled life, now in Jesus Youth we talk  of strong 6 pillars that should hold up  this building of our life with the Lord.  Then we used to speak of 4 spokes,  but now we talk about 6 pillars. And  these simple images are beautiful  ways of committing to our memory and  daily living the essential elements of  walking with Jesus and growing into  the Lord’s image and stature.

Fundamentally, we are talking about  forming essential habits in life. ‘Habits  maketh the man’. With many unhealthy  habits people become weak and sickly;  by cultivating Gospel based habits we  grow in holiness and maturity. This set  of six pillars form an essential plan to  build a life of holiness in every Jesus  Youth. An encouraging community,  supportive friends and some system of  guidance are the foolproof methods to  ensure faithfulness to these habits in  one’s life.

Then again, there is a danger of  focusing on a couple of these and  forgetting the rest. As broken pillars  threaten the stability of a building,  forgetting some of these elements may  give a life without sufficient balance.  And finally, our personal growth is  linked to a deepening in relation to  these pillars. The movement offers a  number of support systems not only to  be committed to the six pillars, but also  to grow deeper in them. Of course each  of these is mutually supportive and the  faithful exercise of one pillar will help  deepen the other.

Dr. Edward Edezhath, Cochin,India
Dr. Edward Edezhath, Cochin,India

Dr Edward Edezhath, is one of the pioneering leaders and animators of the Jesus Youth movement. A senior lecturer in St. Albert’s College, Ernakulam, India, he lives with his wife is Audry in Cochin, India. They have three children, Ralph, Nicole and Aidan.