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Passing on the Faith

January 31, 2010

Note: I wrote this post a few days ago and am just now getting around to posting it although it doesn’t seem finished. The reason it doesn’t seem finished, though, is that there is just so much more to say. Its possible that someone coming across this might get a little bit discouraged if they have slipped into one of these pitfalls. If that is you, don’t get discouraged. Just move on and work at communion with the Church. Still, others might disagree with these suggestions completely, which is your right as a free thinker. But please know that I wrote all this out of a great desire to pass on the faith to subsequent generations of Catholics and please consider my thoughts with charity.
In my earlier post concerning the Walk for Life West Coast, I mentioned how inspiring it is to watch the faith really take hold in the youth. At an event like the Walk for Life this is very apparent, but even as big as the march feels its still a very small sample size of young people. There is still a lot of work to do, and everyday opportunities to pass on the faith to the next generation passes us by. This makes me quite sad.

While I was on internship, every so often a mother would approach me and pick my brain a bit. They would ask, “What did your parents do to keep you so involved in the Church?” Try as they might, their kids just didn’t seem interested in Church… and if they were interested in Church, it wasn’t always the Catholic Church. It seemed as though a lot of these mothers felt like they had failed in their attempt to keep the kids Catholic.

I’m not a parent, and the truth is I don’t know how to keep your kids Catholic. When faith really takes ahold of a high schooler or college student, randomness seems like its the reason as opposed to some parenting method. That being said I think there are some things I can share that you should not do.

  • Don’t discourage questions. It is not the devil that causes questions to arise in the hearts of the faithful. It is God who places the questions, because he places in each of us a desire to know Him. Thus, when questions arise, even really difficult ones, the important thing to remember is that the very fact that these questions arise is evidence of God at work in the hearts and minds of those asking.
  • Don’t make Mass too worldly. This one can be a bit counter intuitive. We might think that because a person listens to a certain type of music at home or with their friends they might want to listen to it in Church. I don’t agree with this. It seems to me that young people go to Church when they find something that they can’t find in the world. Here, I need to mention silence. This world is loud and iPhones have only made it louder. Mass (and Church buildings) are one of the last places where silence really can be found. When Parishes try to attract youth by eliminating silence and replace reverent hymns with music that attempts to get heads bobbing they might actually wind up repelling youth. I was working with a confirmation group several years ago and after the rehearsal for their big mass I walked outside and heard a few of the students – mostly popular kids – making fun of one of the songs that was added in an attempt to impress them. We actually wound up having a really good talk and I admitted that I found the song annoying as well. I could go on and on about this but the lesson here can be summed up by saying that Christians need to make the world Holy, not make the Church worldly. Parishes shouldn’t rush into ‘youth masses’ expecting it work wonders. This stuff has to be discerned very, very carefully.
  • Do not impose your own issues you might have with the Church on your kid. That might sound really harsh, but I believe it is extremely important. These issues might be some kind of moral position of the Church, like its stance against abortion and the use of contraceptives – both moral teachings that actually (believe it or not) attracted me and many of my friends to the church when we were in college, when they were presented in a positive manner.

    The “ban” on women priests is another sore spot many have passed on to the next generation of Catholics. My heart goes out to anyone, especially a woman, who feels hurt by this teaching. But before you vocalize this to your daughters, remember that many young women are actually strongly opposed to women’s ordination. In fact, many young women are the biggest critics of the “Ordain Women” movement. I remember when our Bible Study in college touched on this subject. Many young women struggled with it at first, but after we continued to ponder the meaning of priesthood, and the meaning of femininity, I’d say with confidence that the vast majority of the young women not only came to accept the Church’s teaching, but actually found great joy in it and are more excited about their faith because of this teaching (perhaps if one of them drops by they can affirm this in the comments?).

    These are just a couple examples, but there are lots more. The fact is, voicing your own anger towards the church when unprovoked probably won’t keep your kid Catholic; it will probably just make them think you’re a bit strange for wanting to associate with such a confused, oppressive and backwards religion. The Catholic faith is not easy to live, and if there is something that makes it difficult for you to embrace the fullness of the faith, don’t allow it to fester. Face it head on. Our goal is communion – of mind, heart, and deed – and communion is something we always need to work at.

  • Don’t try to make church “cool.” It isn’t. Something you must always remember: It is not cool to be Catholic, nor will it ever be cool to be Catholic. That, is what makes it so cool to be Catholic.
  • That’s really all I can say right now. Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of things to avoid, I think it provides a general way of thinking about evangelizing the youth of the Church.

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    5 comments

    1. Great Points. Young people usually think it’s cheezy when adult institutions try to be hip. I know I did.


    2. Good ideas. I agree with all of them except the youth mass. The youth mass when I was in high school is what turned me on to my faith and shaped my desire to continue learning. It definitely can be poorly done, but it can also transform a congregation!


      • Yes, Shannon, youth masses (LifeTeen) can be a very positive thing for a parish. I hope to be able to celebrate this sort of Mass one day. But I’m not going to rush into it without making sure its going to be done well.

        I’ve been thinking about writing another post going more in depth here and flushing out my points. Stay on the lookout.


    3. I find the idea of women priests insulting. A part of the priesthood is really characterized by the fact that is was meant to be male. For women to desire priesthood illustrates a grave distortion in their view of the priesthood and the value of their femininity. They don’t understand the dignity of being female. If they did, they wouldn’t want to be priests. In essence what they’re saying is they want to be men. A woman can be a true priest just as much as a man can give birth to a baby. It’s just ridiculous and insulting. Wake up ladies! Real femininism means embracing what is feminine, not wishing for masculine characteristics and bashing men. Ugh, so twisted.


    4. Oh Val, you took the words right out of my mouth! Bryan, what a great post. I honestly think that by good men embracing what is truly masculine and women embracing that which is truly, uniquely feminine, we will be able to build each other and the Church up. I only wish that we as a society could recognize the beauty of God’s purpose for men and women more than we do – that we really are meant to complement each other – then we’d see a real revolution in the world.



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