Monday, November 22, 2010
“Mother and Teacher of all nations—such is the Catholic Church in the mind of her Founder, Jesus Christ; to hold the world in an embrace of love, that men, in every age, should find in her their own completeness in a higher order of living, and their ultimate salvation. She is ‘the pillar and ground of the truth.’ (1 Tim. 3:15) To her was entrusted by her holy Founder the twofold task of giving life to her children and of teaching them and guiding them—both as individuals and as nations—with maternal care. Great is their dignity, a dignity which she has always guarded most zealously and held in the highest esteem.” wrote Blessed Pope John XXIII in his encyclical letter “Mater et Magistra.”
This word of wisdom is needed today by all the shepherds in charge of the sheep of Christ. As a mother the Church looks with maternal love to her young ones. She teaches them the truth as she received it from Christ and carried it in her memory throughout the ages. However, many obstacles seem to stand against the youth coming (or coming back) to Church:
1. Many of them are confused about religion in an environment that promotes materialist atheism. Some join sects or spiritualist groups to make up for their perceived loss of faith.
2. Many of them go to church from time to time only to participate in weddings of friends, baptisms of children, or funerals of family members. The Church for those is an old institution that does not fit with the culture of the day.
3. Attractions abound around the youth both young adults and younger. The Internet has made it possible for global digital communications but also for global pornography, fantasy games, and gambling. Security on the Internet social networks has become a major concern for businesses, individuals and families. Technology is like anything else. You can use it to commit criminal acts or to do good things. Individualism has crept into the minds and actions of our youth. The youth “text” their peers rather than phoning them. Behind this trend there is a philosophy of spending and getting results the fast way. They have no time for much thinking. If this trend shows
anything, it is that youth are becoming lonely even though they may claim otherwise.
4. Since the introduction of artificial contraceptives in the 1960s, young adults have increasingly used them ignoring the teaching of their mother Church as expounded by Pope Paul VI in “Humanae Vitae”. This has reached phenomenal proportions with up to 70% of teenagers today having sex by the age of 17 without marriage. With the legalization of abortion, more youth are drifting to committing the sin of killing their children in the womb. Or to avoid abortion while having “safe sex” they are encouraged by the secular authorities to use condoms.
5. Legalizing divorce supported by radical feminists has made it easier for married couples to seek their own selfishness outside of marriage. Children of single-parent families are less able to succeed in their lives compared to children of heterosexual committed married parents. See the article “Is There Hope for The American Marriage?” published in July 2009 in TIME magazine here: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1908243,00.html
6. The economic hardship faced by advanced economies in the globe is also having an impact on the youth. Educated youth are not finding good jobs and less educated youth are finding it hard to survive without parental support. For many years, the experimentation with drugs has been widespread in schools including Catholic schools. Peer pressure cannot be discounted when dealing with young adults and younger. The psychological effect of peer pressure is seen in universities, colleges, and schools.
A close look at the above issues should help us in identifying the mother’s role to guide her children.
The role of the Church to bring back her young adults and younger ones is about communicating with them in their own language while teaching them her ever-abiding truth in the way they understand it for each generation speaks and understands according to its culture. One of the major initiatives is “World Youth Day” initiated on a global Catholic level by John Paul II. Certainly this initiative can be replicated at a modest level in each diocese and parish. A plan for each diocese can be elaborated along the following lines:
- The Church is a community of the faithful. A major element of the faithful is the youth. The youth should experience the need for their presence in the Church as their mother would treat them with dignity. The youth should have an essential role in all aspects of services in the Church. Examples include service of the Mass every Sunday whether as choir members, candle carriers, ushers, or offering-collectors; charitable works such as food-bank collections and distribution (see St. Vincent de Paul); visiting sick and senior people in senior homes and sharing with them in their lonely lives; sponsorship of Christian refugees from Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
- The Church is not only a mother but also a teacher. In that sense, weekly teaching of the youth and younger generations is necessary. The most important teachings recommended are living moral values. These include how to live today as a moral person. Teaching must be based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (See http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm) and the Second Vatican Council (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/index.htm). The teaching should link Christian life to the great mysteries of faith: The Trinity; Christ; The Creed; The Sacraments; Saints as moral examples. Today’s issues need to be discussed in the light of the Church’s teachings (See http://www.todayquestions.blogspot.com/) The youth should participate in preparing/presenting some of the topics। Use of technology as tools of teaching where possible is encouraged (projector/screen, Internet access).
- A life of prayer and fasting is important for a personal Christian development and for the community. Young generations should be encouraged to participate in Lent and Paraclisis prayers/Holy Rosary prayers. The effectiveness of a mission is dependent on the prayer life of its members and their spiritual growth. Many examples can be given from the fathers of the Church.
- The Church should emphasize the communal aspect in social activities that bring together the young with the old. The person develops in the community not only spiritually but also socially, in good entertainment, and above all in love.The Church should not shy away from inviting its well-educated young adults to volunteer some of their time in order to help parishioners in their jobs and lives. Examples include physicians, lawyers, engineers, information systems professionals, nurses, insurance agents, teachers and others. A monthly meeting in the parish could be a starting focal point.
- The authority in the Church is invited to be a Christian example to the young as is the mother to her children. Moreover, the Church must raise its voice in all controversial political matters that affect the young and the old alike.
There will definitely be more and better opinions about how to help our youth build their new selves, their families, their Church, their society and the world Let them start and continue this journey by the power of the one who said “I am the Resurrection, the Truth, and the Life”.