By Celine Klosterman
MUSCATINE — Plenty of youths would like God to give someone they know an “extreme makeover,” they told presenter Mike Patin.
But maybe, he responded, God would rather make over how they see that person.
The Louisiana-based Catholic spoke at St. Mathias Church on Feb. 10 to about 250 middle school and high school students from parishes in Muscatine, Washington, DeWitt, Blue Grass, Wilton and Long Grove. His talk, “Extreme Makeover: Faith Edition,” was part of a three-day mission at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine. Patin, who’s been a presenter at Davenport Diocese youth rallies, also offered two other presentations in Muscatine for audiences of all ages.
At Patin’s youth presentation, the former teacher, youth minister and basketball coach shared three word puzzles designed to show how perception can change. After youths offered different interpretations of printed phrases, he cautioned against judging too quickly.
It’s easy to make snap assessments of people — perhaps of the student who dresses differently or listens to unpopular music, he said. But take time to get to know someone first, he advised.
Patin acknowledged stressors youths face from peers, parents and school, and got laughs telling stories of clashing with his father, fighting nerves to call girls and worrying about fitting in with friends.
He told how in high school he’d once planned to clean his room to impress his dad before asking to borrow the car. But before he started cleaning voluntarily, his father ordered him to do the task – under threat of being grounded. Suddenly, the chore no longer held Patin’s interest. “When your freedom’s taken away, you want to rebel,” he said.
Similarly, if a date demanded you call daily and give gifts, you’d feel less like doing so, Patin observed. The same principle holds true with faith. We must choose God, he said.
Continuing on the theme of choice, Patin discussed an argument he’d had with his wife, Marlene, while they were students and dating. She was upset that basketball practice left him with less time for her, and he snapped. “Don’t you dare make me choose between you and basketball, because you’ll lose,” he said.
Tearfully, she explained she wasn’t asking him to choose. “I just want you to include me,” she said.
God wants the same from us, Patin explained.
Jesus also wants us to know he has faith in his people, Patin continued. He described the plot of the 1977 movie “Oh, God!” in which God appears to a man, who later becomes a laughingstock after failing to convince anyone of the occurrence. After telling God he’s frustrated, the Lord explains he didn’t appear to get people to believe in God. He simply wanted to let the man know, “I believe in you.”
“I don’t care how messed up you think you are; God believes in you,” Patin said. “…Some of you think you’re the only freak in this church” – maybe you sit alone in the school’s cafeteria, struggle with a learning disorder, or deal with family troubles. “Well, guess what: They called him a freak, too,” he said, pointing to a crucifix. And Jesus hung out with people considered “freaks,” Patin noted.
Develop a friendship with God, he told youths. “It may change your life.”
Kyle Juszczyk, 16 and a member of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish, said he thought Patin’s talk was funny but most appreciated the insight in the presenter’s story about Marlene’s desire to be included. Karyn Klimes, 14 and a Muscatine parishioner, said she would apply lessons about perception and judgment to her everyday life.
Jake Hampton, 16, and Kryslynn Klimes, 15, also members of Ss. Mary & Mathias, said they were inspired by the idea that God believes in his followers. “No one’s ever really told us that before,” Kryslynn said. It makes having faith in the Lord easier when you know he has faith in you, she added.