Wearing a T-shirt with “It’s All God” emblazoned on the front, a Catholic hip-hop rapper warmed up the crowd before Archbishop José Gomez’ welcome to more than 1,000 Catholic school students attending the first-ever Prayer Breakfast youth rally held on the Cathedral Plaza Sept. 16.Joe Melendrez’ rousing set of hip-hop beats/rosary raps and a stirring testimony by a FOCUS college campus missionary preceded Archbishop Gomez’ greeting to youth from 50 schools and parishes seated at outdoor tables set up for next morning’s Prayer Breakfast at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Calling the event a “wonderful moment” of getting together as church, the archbishop commented that the plaza’s bell chimes marking the 5 o’clock hour were reminders that the cathedral is a house of prayer for all people. “As we come together as a family, it’s important to be able to understand that every single moment of your day, you can talk to God and listen to God and have that conversation with God, and that’s what’s going to make a difference in your lives,” said Archbishop Gomez.“As you continue praying and enjoying your life and having fun, just make sure that you dedicate time every day to talk to God,” he said, jokingly adding that the students could even send “Twitter” messages to God and listen to God’s responding “Tweets.”Keynote speaker and renowned Catholic evangelist and author, Matthew Kelly, who also spoke at the next morning’s Prayer Breakfast, told the assembled junior high and high school students that his teenage life dramatically shifted after he humbly asked God for guidance during a church visit before school one day in his native Australia.“I had this problem in my life I was dealing with, and I remember just looking up toward the tabernacle and just in a simple prayer in my heart saying, ‘Listen God, I’ve got a problem here, what do you think I should do?’” “That question changed my life forever,” said Kelly, calling it “The Big Question” where “we finally have the courage and wisdom to turn to God and say, ‘Hey God, you’ve got all the answers, what do you think I should do?’“Usually, when we’ve got a decision to make, we go to just about anyone who knows just about nothing about just about nothing, and we ask them what they think we should do, don’t we? “All the time,” he continued, “we’ve got the ‘Big Guy’ who’s got the answers to every single question and we don’t go to him for advice. That’s the Big Question, [it’s] when we come to God and say, ‘Hey God, what do you think I should do in this situation in school, at home, in my career or with my friends?’”Most people, said Kelly, can make their whole way through life and never ask the question, “and that’s why most people don’t have what you’re looking for: lasting happiness in a changing world. And the reason they don’t have it is we get distracted sometimes” in the “culture of relativism we live in.”“We live in a culture which says there are no absolute truths — that’s an absolute lie,” said Kelly. “God has this incredible dream for you; he wants you to become the best version of yourself. God wants us to live that dream out. Every day, a hundred times a day, you choose between the best version of yourself and some second-rate version of yourself. “A good friend is someone who helps you become the best version of yourself, and they’re hard to find….The meaning of friendship is that friendship is designed so we can help each other live God’s dream for us.“Any time your life is not making sense,” he pointed out, “chances are you’ve lost sight of God’s dream, and the easiest way to get it back, just do the next right thing you can do to help you become the best version of yourself…and live a life of virtue.”Having self-control, he added, is another factor in achieving the happiness God wants for his children. “If you’re not willing or able to delay gratification, you can’t be successful in anything worthwhile,” such as relationships or careers or a great marriage,” he said.“Our lives change when our habits change,” he stressed. He urged the students to “step away from the culture” and make a commitment to spend ten minutes a day sitting with God in prayerful silence. “It’s a serious message, but young people are capable of incredible things,” said Kelly. “What are young people capable of?” he asked in parting. “Incredible things,” responded the youth in unison.“It was an incredible event,” said McKenna Daniel, who recently graduated with an MBA in film producing from John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego. “I think it was really empowering, especially when the kids stood up. Matthew Kelly really got people to get out of their seat, not only physically, but, I think, spiritually as well, getting them to literally take a stand for what he was saying and make it their own.”“I liked Matthew Kelly when he was challenging us to do better next time we have the chance,” said Karla Vasquez, a student at San Gabriel Mission High School. “Even though I may mess up one time, I know I’ll have another opportunity to do better.”“I loved the dancing, and I liked how they made it interesting for the teenagers,” said Mollie Gallo, a sophomore at St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs. “It was more fun instead of just talking, talking, talking. They really involved us a lot, and I enjoyed that.”Immaculate Heart High School student Claire Barnes commented that she liked the rapper, Melendrez. “I especially liked the rap because I think his focus on Mary really was nice,” said Barnes.Christian Lopez, attending with 30 fellow seventh and eighth grade students from St. Christopher in West Covina, said the event was inspirational. “I really liked the Catholic rapper. He was really good and Matthew Kelly was really motivational.”Hugh Mohun, a 17-year-old student from St. Augustine Academy in Ventura who was among those dancing in front of the stage during the rap program, commented: “I was really jazzed because it’s great to see so many Catholic kids out today, praising God and being thankful for what they have. I was really excited to see Joe Melendrez for the first time.”Master of ceremonies Kenny Lund, whose parents Allen and Kathie Lund began the Prayer Breakfast nine years ago with Tom and Margie Romano, expressed his appreciation for the debut youth rally.“These are not the leaders of the Catholic Church of the future — these are the leaders of the Catholic Church now: the youth, how they are in their high schools, in their grade schools, in their college,” said Lund. “They are so, so needed.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0920/youthrally/{/gallery}