In Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, we read, “Beloved, let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. . . Do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tim. 4:12, 14).
It’s good advice for all of us, no matter what our age—most particularly, the adjuration not to neglect the gifts we have been given, however it may manifest: to preach, heal, cook, train, write, etc. Our gifts were never meant for ourselves alone, but for service to the Body of Christ, no matter what our ages. What has been gifted to us in youth may need to be seasoned, yes, but never ignored or put aside or outright stalled, because—as in the lives of Blessed Carlo Acutis and Blessed Chiara Badano amply demonstrate—our years are fleeting, and we may never be given enough time to come into the world’s estimation of readiness.
A few years ago, I had the good fortune to enjoy a terrific meal in Rome with a number of Catholic journalists from different countries. At some point I betrayed the weird sort of situational ingenuousness that has (at times) convinced others that I am naïve in matters of faith. I am not naïve, but I will say my faith is artless and often can seem simplistic. I just figure if I believe what I believe, there’s no need to complicate it, even though I know that, sometimes, it can make me sound almost childish. In any case, whatever I had said caused one dinner companion to give me a stunned look. “You are so strange,” she said, but I could almost see her mental rolodex flipping through synonyms, looking for the English word she really wanted. She struggled with it for a while and then shrugged. The best she could come up with was “unguarded.”