Posts Tagged ‘young adults’

Alessandra Stanley, NYT TV critic recently reviewed the new HBO series Girls, which she writes is the “much anticipated comedy about four single women in New York.”  I have not and will not be watching that show but I found Ms. Stanley’s review of it rather enlightening.  What she finds to be the theme of Girls is that “[t]he economy fluctuates, neighborhoods blossom or decay, but men never cease to disappoint.”

Some 40 years after the sexual revolution, all this sex, immorality, and “freedom” for women has failed to improve the lives of young women at all!  Basically, Stanley declares the sexual revolution and feminism to have been an absolute unmitigated failure;  well, okay, she doesn’t actually declare that, but it is really her point:

Lena Dunham’s much anticipated comedy about four single women in New York, which starts on Sunday night, is worth all the fuss, even though it invites comparisons to Carrie Bradshaw and friends, and even though it incites a lot of dreary debate about the demise of feminism. There are obvious parallels between “Girls” and that earlier HBO series, but the theme of female friendship and romantic disappointment stretches back long before, all the way to the early 1940s and Mary McCarthy’s first novel, “The Company She Keeps.”       

One reason that “Girls” is unsettling is that it is an acerbic, deadpan reminder that human nature doesn’t change. There was a lot of sex in the ’60s, but not much sexual revolution. For all the talk of equality, sexual liberation and independence, the love lives of these young women are not much more satisfying than those of their grandmothers. Their professional expectations are, if anything, even lower.

That’s right, feminism is dead and despite all the sexual escapades, the lives of women have not improved.  Based on this television show, the lives of twenty-something women are unsatisfying, humilating…in fact, downright debasing.  The characters include the lead, Hannah who is described by Stanley as “unpleasant in ways that are only occasionally endearing” and a “parasite sponging off her parents,” and Jessa who “is a sexual free spirit but not particularly joyful.”  These girls are being portrayed as having all the fruits of the women’s movement, being freed from the expectation of marriage and motherhood they are free to pursue careers, relationships without commitments, and self-interested hobbies and leisure activities.  Why then are the young women of Girls so unpleasant, selfish, unambitious and unhappy?  Could it be that the fruit produced by the radical feminist agenda is not as sweet as we have been (repeatedly) told?

Perhaps becoming self-aware halfway through her review, Ms. Stanley admits that Girls portrayal of modern femininity might be seen as “a cautionary tale” but cannot bring herself to admit in print that this apparently accurate portrait has it’s underlying roots in the failure of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution.  Instead, she backs off her previous indictment and then takes a swipe at those of us who see and call the failure for what it is.  She sniggers:

The depiction of slacker life in New York, which includes tattoos, drugs, casual sex and abortions, is presented with wry humor, but it could easily be interpreted as a cautionary tale written by the religious right: the lifestyles of these modern women, untethered to responsibility, faith or morality, are parables that could scare Amish youth away from Rumspringa and wayward Mormons back into their temple garments.       

Har har, see what she did there?  She admits that all the drugs sex and abortions “could” be viewed as an indictment of the modern hedonism, but only by weird anti-cultural sects like Mormons and the Amish; you know, the “religious right”.  No rational religion would condemn all this sex and unhappiness, and the only good Christian for the Left is one that is shacking up with their significant other.  Only the fringe folks like you and me get all uptight about commandments and moral living.  I can hear her sniggering at her own cleverness, because of course nothing works better for the liberals like dismissing legitimate worries over the effects of immoral societies as dangerous fringe thinking.

One can guess what Ms. Stanley would make of the teachings of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, in which he correctly predicted the effects of contraception on the relationship between men and women. 

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

I don’t know if Ms. Stanley as read Humanae Vitae, but maybe the writer and star of Girls, Leah Dunham has because the “liaison”-the, er, sexual hookup- between the lead character Hannah and a character named Adam is described by Stanley as “debasing”:

Adam lets her visit his apartment for sexual gratification — his own — and ignores her desires; most of his sexual fantasies seem borrowed from video games and porn videos. He is just as callous about her feelings…

Pope Paul VI predicted the outcome decades ago, and was vilified, and shamefully much of the vitriol was from the clergy and laity of the Church.  However, he was right.  Contraception and the freedom of the sexual revolution did not advance the cause of women.  We have become things, objects, tools.

Here we have a cable series that is being described by people who profess to know these things as “gritty”, an “honest romp the through New York City’s social landscape [sic]”, one Huffington Post critic going so far as to compare her twenty-something woman writer experience point by point to that of the Girls main character.  I will assume that the HBO show is then, basically reality for many 20-somethings and that makes me sad for them.  In a world in which these girls can have attachment-free sex at any time, can pursue careers and self-interest leisure activities freed of the burdens of matrimony and motherhood…well, aren’t they supposed to be happy?  Didn’t they get what they were promised would buy them happiness?  Based on Girls, it would seem not.  As Ms. Stanley of the NYT portrays it, these women seem to be selfish, debased, joyless, ambitionless, and unsuccessful. 

But what do I know?  I am a cave woman, expected to be barefoot and pregnant by my Neanderthal husband.  At least, I’m pretty sure that the staff of the NYT thinks so.

[note: for whatever reason, my original essay got eaten and I’ve tried to recreate it from memory.  It’s late now and I am bummed because my original was much better.  Perhaps my memory will improve with sleep and I’ll edit this tomorrow.]

Read Full Post »

From the AP via msnbc.com:

An international series of protests known as SlutWalks, sparked by a Toronto police officer’s flippant comment …is taking root in the United States.

…SlutWalkers have danced to hip-hop, worn T-shirts with the word “slut” and held signs that read “sluts pay taxes.” Some women have skated around on inline skates in lingerie, while their male supporters wore shirts reading, “I love sluts.”

Billing their event as something for the “whole family”, organizers around the country are promoting “SlutWalks” to build awareness that “sluts pay taxes too,” and to the “slut shaming” that is apparently a big problem for all the um, sluts out there.  (Slut shaming, the Associated Press helpfully explains, is “shaming women for being sexual.” Thanks AP!)  I’m grateful to msnbc and the Associated Press for making me aware of this great injustice being done to people who, through fate or poor life decisions, are sluts and are being burdened with unwelcome shame.

There have been SlutWalks throughout the country (Dallas, Philly, San Francisco, Seattle).  They originated when a Toronto police officer advised a group of university students in a safety seminar to avoid dressing like sluts so as not to be victimized.  Apparently, this was incorrect advice and the officer has been reprimanded.  However, the outrageous comments of this Neanderthal barbarian has galvanized the previously silent slut population who are taking to the streets throughout North America.

Here is the 21 year old organizer of the Boston Slut Walk, (she must be sorta like a modern Susan B. Anthony)–

It was taking the blame off the rapist and on the victim,” said Nicole Sullivan, 21, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and an organizer of the SlutWalk planned Saturday in that city. “So we are using these efforts to reclaim the word ‘slut.'”

Well, good luck to all the sluts out there, reclaiming the word, “slut.”  It’s a shame (no pun intended) that the word ever got hijacked and used to describe, well, sluts.

The article contrasts these nationwide events with the Take Back the Night anti-sexual violence rallies, which are rather tame lame affairs in comparison.  Apparently, modern young women want to promote anti-sexual violence by dressing and dancing as, well…sluts.  And they have support among the more enlightened young men who proudly wear teeshirts and carry signs that say, “We love sluts.”  Yes, I imagine they do.

(At Take Back the Night’s official website, they don’t even have “We love sluts” teeshirts.  All they have are some boring “empowerment” and “break the silence” graphics.  *Yawn*)

In San Francisco, where the walk just developed “organically” (of course it did; isn’t everything in San Francisco “organic”?), the organizers think this would be a swell outing for daddies and mommies to bring the kiddos.

In San Francisco, SlutWalk organizers want to make their protest a family event.

“Singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends,” the SlutWalk SF BAY Facebook page announces. “Come walk or roll or strut or holler or stomp with us.”

So dress up your little girls as tiny sluts, pull a “I love sluts” teeshirt on dad and sons, and stomp on out to your local SlutWalk.  Because nothing, I mean nothing, deters sexual violence like running around in lingerie. 

You Satan will be so happy that you did.

Read Full Post »

I meant to post this closer to last weekend, but travel and illness kept me from it.  However, I am very happy that our namesake has been beatified.  Chiara “Luce” Badano was declared Blessed on Saturday, September 25, 2010.



Young Chiara Luce Badano has been an inspiration to me for the way she wholely, unreservedly and intentionally chose to accept God’s plan for her life.  Her joy is palpable in her actions of her life, in her words passed down to us, and in the very photos of her life, especially her long terminal illness.

Blessed Chiara Luce, pray for us!

(Click here to see the very moving video on her life and cause which Rome Reports has posted.)

Read Full Post »

I’ve been in conversations with my Protestant friends lately, particular one young evangelical I love.  I’ve been trying to get them to read the Bible.  Does that sound funny?  It strikes me as being not a little ironic, for the Catholic mom to be urging young Evangelicals to read the Bible.  They all own one…I’m just not sure how much actual reading goes on.  If you don’t count the apps that send a little out-of-context verses to their phone or the daily Scripture passage widget on their high-tech church websites (because we are evangelizing through the media, you know), I’m not sure they actually ever read the Bible. 

So, here we have Christians who genuinely love Jesus, profess a great faith, who ardently defend sola scriptura, and who do not read the Bible

So what is forming the faith of these youngsters?  What understanding do they have of their beliefs?  of Christianity and their own particular denomination / sect / bible church?  Well, where they are getting their religious beliefs from seem to be mostly two-fold:

  1. Church services which are a lengthy sermon (usually not much theology there) and worship music
  2. Contemporary Christian Music and … uh…more worship music

So the majority of the doctrinal teaching for many Protestant youth (and most Evangelical kids) is — as far as I can tell — worship music.   And today’s worship music either lacks doctrine or (in a surprising number of instances) contains bad doctrine.  There, I said it.  Modern Christian worship music is bad theology.  I used to think it was sort of repetitious and bland, saccharine and, um..repetitious.  Then I began to think more deeply about it and realized that actually, the music oftens conveys a bad theology.  It’s leading our Christian youth and young people down a bad path.  (I know I’ve promised the post about the dangers of the rising popular Christian music industry a gazillion times.  This is still not that post.  Sorry!)

The above tirade is my rambling way of introducing the real subject of this post, which is that our protesting Protestant brethren are still trying to bring Catholic practices into their Protestant lives.  It’s funny really. 

Here are three articles in this month’s Christianity Today:

Practically Theological
How churches are teaching doctrine—and finding eager participants.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey | posted 3/15/2010 09:33AM

The Lost Art Of Catechesis
It’s a tried and true way of teaching, among other things, Christian doctrine.
J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett | posted 3/12/2010 10:31AM

The Mind Under Grace
Why a heady dose of doctrine is crucial to spiritual formation.
Darren C. Marks | posted 3/12/2010 10:30AM

Although I’m being facetitious in my introductory comments, I want to make sure that I make it clear that I am actually very relieved to see that CT is tackling the problem of the lack of doctrinal teaching among Protestant Christians, particularly in the Evangelical movement.  I actually know one Christian young man who does not seem to understand that we believe in a Triune God.  Yes, yes, we need to love God, we need to burn for Him.  But we also need to know God.  Faith AND Reason.  If I hear one more time, “isn’t it really all about loving Jesus?” or “let’s not get hung up on non-salvation issues” or “it’s about Jesus NOT religion“, I’m going to throw my copy of the Catechism at their head.  All that love and fervor, yet no real understanding of the credos of their faith just leads to heresies and Joel Osteen. 

Yeah, I know — Go work on my big post I keep promising.  Meh.

Read Full Post »

Bishop Jackels of Wichita spoke recently at a Theology on Tap which drew 200 young adults.  (wow!)  Apparently taking to heart the words of St. Jerome (“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”), the Bishop not only urged the group to make Bible reading a daily habit, he gave everyone a copy of the New Testament!

This is absolutely fantastic to read about.  Cheers to the Bishop for his faithful guidance and living testimony.  It’s so good to see what good shepherds the Lord has sent us.  And good to read that two hundred young adults came out for Theology on Tap.

I’ll drink to that.  =)

read the article here:  http://cdowk.org/advanceonline/2010/02/18/bishop-jackels-urges-young-adults-to-develop-a-living-relationship-with-jesus/

h/t Catholic News Agency

Read Full Post »

Omigoodness, I’m so happy to see someone talking about this, and I’m thankful to the Catholic News Agency for reporting on it.  In addition to the accumulation of student loan debt, the article covers the some other influences which family policy expert Allan Carlson mentioned during his talk to the Family Research Council.    Mr. Carlson is the President of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society.  I don’t know that I agree with his recommendations but I am nevertheless happy that a dialogue is being started on this from a Christian perspective. 

Personally, I believe that we have gone too far in encouraging our children to delay marriage.  Sadly, I believe the long delay virtually assures the failure of abstinence until marriage for most folks.  Secondly, and I don’t ever see this addressed anywhere, but since when did higher education become a mandatory checkbox for employment? As far as I can see, higher education as almost become a glorified vocational program where kids who have no idea what they want to be go hang out for 5 to 6 years, accumulating huge debt, and delaying making vocational decisions.  All the while these so-called “institutions of higher learning” are making money off the student loans, fees and tuition charges.  If I were heartless and rich, I would open up my own little college, make the entrance standards really low, hire some B.A. graduates to teach and sucker some kids into going. 

Sorry…I wandered off into a rant.  Again.   :-P

Anyhoooooo…here’s the CNA article reprinted in its entirety.

Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2009 / 06:03 pm (CNA).- The “crushing burden” of student loans delays marriage and childbirth and encourages cohabitation, family policy expert Allan Carlson said in a lecture on Friday. He urged a pro-family debt relief program to help alleviate the financial stresses student loans can cause. Carlson, who is President of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, spoke at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

“In cultures around the world and throughout recorded history, the common practice has been to use dowries (the property brought by young women into their marriages) and other marital gifts to provide newlyweds with working capital at the beginning of their marriage,” Carlson wrote in a 2005 paper. “This cultural strategy has aimed at encouraging marriage, stable homes, and the birth of children.”

However, the recent practice of burdening young adults with substantial educational debt appears to significantly discourage marriage and childbirth.

At the FRC on Friday, Carlson cited a 2002 survey indicating that 14 percent of indebted students delayed marriage because of their loans, while 21 percent delayed having children. In 1988 these numbers were nine and 12 percent, respectively.

This debt can also cause problems in marriages. One survey which examined 41 marital problems and found that “debt brought into marriage” was the third most problematic issue facing newlyweds. Among respondents who had no children, debt was the second most problematic problem. Among respondents ages 29 and below, debt was named the most problematic issue.

Carlson suggested student loan debt has encouraged a “retreat” from marriage.

The marriage rate for women aged 20-24 declined 41.4 percent between 1984 and 2004. The rate for women aged 25-29 declined 19.4 percent. For men, the marriage rate in those cohorts declined 45.5 percent and 29.6 percent, respectively.

Cohabiting couples have increased from 1.6 million in 1980 to 5.1 million in 2004. This has significant effect on the family, as cohabiting couples are less stable, more prone to domestic violence and more prone to infidelity even after they marry. Children of cohabiting couples show the same level of well-being as children of single mothers, a much poorer well-being than children of married parents.

Carlson added that women who receive a college degree or above tend to remain childless compared to those without a university degree. The higher a woman’s qualifications, the less likely she is to marry or cohabitate.

If these women do marry, they are more likely to marry college-educated men. This means their debt obligation is likely to be twice as high as individual debt.

Student loan debt also has effects on health care costs, Carlson noted in the question and answer session after his lecture. Doctors who exit medical school with massive debt must insist on a large income to repay it. This pressures doctors to prefer specialized fields which pay more than general practice.

He added that young couples’ unrealistic expectations, like the supposed need for a $40,000 wedding or an expensive first home, also discourage marriage. However, he suggested, the decline in housing prices could help improve the marriage rate.

To assist young married couples and encourage childbirth, Carlson proposed that for each child born or adopted, the federal government pay off 25 percent of married parents’ outstanding student debt, up to $5,000 each for mother and father.

Student loan debt a ‘crushing burden’ that harms young families, expert says.

Read Full Post »

What's wrong with this picture of Catholic youth? Answer: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING

This post is about our Catholic youth.  It was inspired by reading the great article on “Catholic Subculture” that I will post below.  First, some thoughts from me.  [Warning:  Ranting to begin in 1…



I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt utterly frustrated with my church, our Mother Church, pastors, DREs, leaders, fellow Catholics, church families and parish councils because so many times they simply do not get it.  I have read comments on blogs that I admire (I’m looking at you, New Liturgical Movement) that denigrate the work of youth ministers, and indeed, the whole youth group idea.  To which I reply:  PEOPLE WAKE UP!

There is a culture war going on and if we Catholics don’t engage in it at the most basic level — our kids — then we are going to lose.  We absolutely  have to get in the war, on the frontlines with our children.  Some folks are.  It’s happening in pockets around the country.  Yes, those pockets are getting bigger, but they are still pockets.  My fellow Catholics, we need to evangelize our kids.  They need CATECHISM.  They need EVANGELISM.  They need ENTHUSIASM.  They need a personal relationship with Christ.  They need to feel the Holy Spirit in their lives.  They need to put God first in all things.  And they need LOVE.  But how?  How do we do this?   What aren’t we doing and what are we doing wrong?  And what do you mean, evangelize our kids?  They’ve been baptized and confirmed, good enough, right?  If that is not enough, what should we be doing?

We need to meet our kids where they are. 

Here are the fundamentals, the building blocks if you will.  These are things that should not have to be said, but apparently, have to be said:

*Talk to your kids about God.  Make prayer a priority.  Pray with them every day, throughout the day.  Have your kids ever heard you say, “Praise God!”, or “Thanks be to God!”, “Let’s offer that up to God,” “Turn it over to Jesus,”  “Ask the Blessed Mother for her prayers,” or “I’ll pray for you”?  Have you ever shown your kids how to discern and seek God’s will?  Have you ever told them to take a problem to God in prayer?  Ever asked them or others for their prayers for your needs?  What about the Rosary, is it a part of your daily life?  By praying openly with and in front of your children, you model for them the very foundation of a relationship with God.  Your kids have to learn this from somewhere and most Catholics simply aren’t teaching this.

*The Bible.  Open it up.  Carry it around.  Read it, quote it, tote it, note it.  If you don’t own one, get one.  If you don’t own one that you can mark in, you need one.

*How about Mass?  Are you happy to be going?  Is it a priority?  Do you make it an obligation, or an event?  Do you talk about it before or after?  Do you lift your voice in song, praise and response?  Do you rush in to find whatever seats are left or do you come early enough to pray, reflect on the day’s liturgy of the word, spend time in adoration or contemplation?  Could you leave home 10 minutes earlier to do that?

*What about catechizing your kids?  No, I don’t mean dragging them off to Religious Education for ninety minutes a week.  Parents:  if you think your kids are being catechized in their ninety minutes of class every week, I, as a 5 year veteran of catechism teaching, must sadly inform you–YOUR KIDS ARE NOT BEING CATECHIZED IN NINETY MINUTES A WEEK.   Ouch.  The truth hurts, I know.  It is hard for me as a devoted catechist to write that.  But it is true.  In my classes, I have been so desperate that I have basically opened up the mouths of my middle schoolers and poured the Catechism down their throats but there is only so much they can take in, after a long day of school and homework and extracurricular activities.  In other words, there are limits to the effect your Catechist can have, no matter how faithful, learned, and sincere he or she is. If you are not reviewing, teaching, and catechising at home, then your kids are not catechized.  Period.

Those are the principle building blocks that parents provide for their child’s faith formation.  They are essential.  Do them.

Catholicism is not an adjective, a box on MySpace, the writing on the back of your dog tag, an interesting fact about yourself or an excuse to attend Mardi Gras.  Catholicism is our life, the one in this world to the one beyond.  It’s the universal church that Jesus left for us, the communion of saints. It’s our way to worship the Almighty God, our means of knowing our Lord, Jesus Christ, our conduit through which the Holy Spirit blesses us with sacramental graces.   Switchfoot sings, “This is your life.  Are you who you want to be?”  Well I tell you now:  THIS is your life.  Catholicism. 

Back to our kids.  We need to meet them where they are.  After we have invested (yes, its an investment, the best kind) in teaching the faith through example, through opportunity and through study, next we need to fill them with the Holy Spirit.  And this is where we are dropping the ball.  We need to move them.  We need to appeal to the very emotional states that they are in because if you haven’t realized it, teenagers and young adults are emotional, not altogether rational beings.  That is a scientific fact.  There is nothing wrong with that.  (There are studies on that, which I would go look up right now but I’m on a roll.)

How do we meet them where they are?  How do we appeal to their emotional side so that we can invite the Holy Spirit to work conversions in their hearts?  Simply, we minister to them.  Evangelical Protestants have been doing this since the Jesus Movement.  I am not suggesting that we completely copy the Evangelical movement.  Not at all.  I have some beefs with their approach.  But in my opinion we need to adopt the best of their ministries and bring it into our Catholic culture.   These approaches would be:

  • Vibrant and relevant youth groups
  • Music ministry for kids (no, I am not talking about a separate Mass)
  • Social activities
  • Mission activities
  • Massive youth rallies

Kids need other kids.  They need to fit in.  They want a group that reflects their interests.  Kids are interested in music and I’m sorry New Liturgical Movement, that music is NOT the Gregorian Chant.  (I think it is cool and so would a lot of kids but if that’s all we are offering to teenagers–“hellogoodbye.”)  Kids need to know where they fit into the world.  They need to feel like they are making a difference. 

Here are some Catholic groups that are “getting it”:

If the kids in your parish did not attend NCYC, why not?  do you know?  Does your priest even know that it happened?  what about the DRE?  If not, your parish probably needs a revival.  Perhaps you are the person to do that.  Perhaps I am.  Maybe I’m called.  Maybe you are.  Are we listening?

I promised you the awesome article, didn’t I.  Well, here it is.  This is speaker and author Christopher Stefanick, Director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Denver Archdiocese, writing about NCYCPlease read this article!

Catholic subculture

The Gospel isn’t communicated in a vacuum.  It’s communicated through culture.  When a Catholic culture is lacking, the Church organically creates subcultures, drawing in and redeeming aspects of the culture it’s in.  This is happening among our youth today.  Youth ministry has formed a redeemed culture born out of generation MTV with its own stages, its own rock stars and its own brand of rebellion.   

The nation’s largest “concert for Jesus” happened the week before last at the National Catholic Youth Convention (NCYC).  We brought 55 youths from the Archdiocese of Denver and I was privileged to speak there.  I was blown away.  It’s rare to walk into a 20,000-person arena and be unable to find a place to sit.  A few thousand more filled an overflow arena with jumbo screens.  This event, like many of the larger events in Catholic youth ministry, had all the trappings of a high-end, secular, rock and roll production, except the packed arena was there to glorify faith, hope and charity instead of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. 

The stage was filled with Catholic “rock stars.”  Before his keynote telling teens—for the 10,000th time—to wait for sex until they are married, veteran chastity speaker Jason Evert got a standing ovation.  Matt Maher, who is probably the first Catholic to hit the top of the charts on Christian radio stations, had the teens cheering until they were hoarse.  They all knew his songs.  Steve Angrisano, Catholic of the Archdiocese of Denver and a popular speaker and singer/songwriter, hosted the conference.  None of these men could walk 10 feet at that conference without being asked for an autograph.  They are Catholic subculture rock stars, and in a culture so starved for good role models, what a wonderful thing! 
What’s even better is that the ultimate rock star being celebrated is Jesus Christ and the communion of saints.  One speaker held up a rosary and mentioned Mary’s name and it produced a deafening cheer from the crowd.  During one high point of the conference more than 20,000 teens knelt in silent adoration after which they processed behind our eucharistic Lord through the streets of Kansas City, Mo., in silence.  That image is indelibly etched into my memory.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It was a virtual army of youth following their king in the heart of the modern world! 

In MTV culture, rebellion is a virtue.  Teens born out of this Catholic subculture have a beautiful brand of rebellion all their own.  In a sex-saturated world, they wear chastity and the respect they give to the opposite sex like a badge of honor.  According to recent statistics, 95 percent of upperclassmen who are virgins are proud of it!  In a self-serving culture, devout Catholic teens want to stand out by serving the poor.  One teen from our archdiocese, Sami Freese, shared with the entire conference about the joy and freedom she found by sponsoring and then visiting a child she sponsors in the Philippines.  In an irreverent culture, teens want to stand out with ancient practices of piety.  They think it’s cool to bow, kneel, altar serve, burn incense, and sing ancient songs to God with their hands lifted in prayer.  Generation MTV teens want to rebel and make a name for themselves.  What better way to do that than by being holy!  There’s no more profound rebellion than the one given by the saints and martyrs.  

 As I looked at the sea of teens, joyful to be standing for Jesus Christ and celebrating our ancient faith, I wondered, “If our Lord can change the world with 12, what can he do with 22,000”?  Maybe we won’t be a subculture for long. 

20,000 youth following our Lord in procession through the streets of an American city.   If that doesn’t make you stop for a moment….here’s a picture that WILL make you stop:

22,000 Catholic kids in the NCYC Eucharistic Procession through downtown Kansas City

NCYC is an example of meeting kids where they are.  Evangelizing to our youth.  It can’t only happen one week a year.  We need to immerse our kids in the Catholic Subculture that Christopher talks about.  In our parishes, in our dioceses, we need to CREATE a Catholic Subculture.  It’s a mission, it’s an apostolate, it’s a calling.  It’s one heck of a great opportunity.  I hear Jesus calling.

Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.Mark 10:49

For more on NCYC:

Roman Catholic Cop

Catholic Youth Ministry Blog

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seaton Youth

My Catholic Voice

Read Full Post »

Atheist Press? No, it stands for “Associated”….just like it’s written.

“You should always try to make friends, but there are certain things about religion that can’t be tolerated,” Gress said. “Basically, the intolerance of religion can’t be tolerated.”

This is the wonderful voice of “science and reason” as the Atheist Movement likes to phrase it.   Heh heh.  I doubt that kid knows he said something moronic.  Here are some other non-starters that I read in the AP story, Atheist student groups flower on college campuses.

In another sign of growing acceptance, at least three universities, including Harvard, now have humanist chaplains meeting the needs of the not-so-spiritual.

Huh?  I don’t suppose it is fair of me to assume that Harvard University knows that a “chaplain” is a religious clergyman who is attached to an institution, chapel or military branch.  How can a “chaplain” be non-religious?  Of course, we are modern here, let’s just hijack the definition of “chaplain” and it’s HARVARD, gosh darn it, and they can do whatever they please.

“The goal,” said Andrew Severin, a post-doctoral researcher in bioinformatics, “should be to obtain inner peace for yourself and do random acts of kindness for strangers.”

Severin calls himself a “spiritual atheist.” He doesn’t believe in God or the supernatural but thinks experiences like meditation or brushes with nature can produce biochemical reactions that feel spiritual.

Why would atheists be doing random acts of kindness for strangers?  what is a spiritual atheist?  Why doesn’t he call himself a “biochemical atheist”?  Does this post-doctorate know how …well…foolish he sounds?  is he post-logical, too?

You know, I think what bugs me most about this entire article / movement is its nonsensicality.  Is that a word?  Are Christians allowed to just make up words, too?  Well, I did and the word is nonsensicality and under its definition are the examples:  “spiritual atheist, “humanist chaplain” and “intolerance of intolerance”. 

With the growth has come soul-searching — or the atheist equivalent — about what secular campus groups should look like. It’s part of a broader self-examination in the atheist movement triggered by the rise of the so-called “new atheists,” best-selling authors who denigrate religion and blame it for the world’s ills.

Should student atheist groups go it alone or build bridges with Christian groups? Organize political protests or quiet discussion groups? Adopt the militant posture of the new atheists? Or wave and smile?

There are just all sorts of Wrong with this quote.  I’m going to stick with this:  I want to know what Christian groups are ‘building bridges’ with the Atheist student union.  No doubt, looking for that so-called common ground that Pres. Obama assured us we share.  Um, what common ground do Christians have with Atheists?  Uh…um…uh…I dunno….gay rights?

The club worked with a Methodist church on a gay rights candlelight vigil, a gesture that would make some atheists cringe.

And some Christians, too.  Those that are ..um…Christian.  I am so happy to see our Methodist brethren building bridges with the Atheists on something that they both agree on.   (Is anyone else taking notes?)   Speaking of taking notes, here is another fun little observation:

Bodnar, an ex-Catholic married to a Buddhist, recommends the local Unitarian Universalist congregation, a haven for a grab bag of religious backgrounds and a few members of the ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society.

Oh alright, I admit that I already knew about the problems with the Unitarian Universalists.  But its fun to note that it is a church that atheists feel perfectly comfortable recommending to other atheists.  Hint:  if your church is on the reco sheet for the Atheist and Agnostic Society, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

Of course, that bastion of Catholic teaching [cough cough…sorry, got something caught in my throat] Notre Dame is in the article too, with helpful advice for ’emerging atheists’:

Christian Smith, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame and a principal investigator on the youth and religion study, said campus atheist groups are better off without militancy. Young adults are taught their entire lives to be nonjudgmental, that different points of views are OK and that there is no one truth, he said.

“Emerging adults are just not into trying to make other people be or do something,” Smith said. “If I were advising atheists and humanists, I would say their long-term prospects are much better if they can successfully create this space where people view them as happy, OK, cooperative, nice people.”

 In other words, want to proselytize…er…attract more students to your atheist movement then stick with the reliable formula:  Act. Like. Christians.  I love it!  the entire point of Atheism is to deny all supernatural explanations, events and beliefs.  So what are the new Atheists doing?  Proselytizing, finding their “spiritual” atheism, being tended to by ‘chaplains’, building their communities, acting like Christians and er…soul-searching.  Did I sum that up correctly?

Oh, and in case you were mislead by the AP’s headline (which I am sure was not intentional) [cough cough..sorry], the writer throws this in at the bottom of the article:

On most college campuses, secular groups take shape when non-believing students arrive and find a couple-dozen Christian groups but no home for them. It isn’t that atheism is necessarily growing among students — surveys show no uptick in the number of atheist and agnostic young adults over the last 20 years.

 Associated Press, I want to thank you for yet another well-researched, timely and completely unbiased news article!

note:  all emphasis and coughing mine.  Sorry about the coughing, I seem to have my gullibility caught in my throat….

Read Full Post »

This is an excellent article from Jeffrey Tucker on The New Liturgical Movement blog.   The comments are also challenging.

The youth movement in Christianity is close to my heart.  I have observed it in Evangelical circles and bemoaned its near-absence within Catholic circles.  Yet, as Mr. Tucker observes, the Big Worship Event is not all that its cracked up to be and as at least one commentator remarks, it is not bearing fruit within the Evangelical churches, who are also losing their youth at a surprising rate.

What I will say about this topic, which I admit I contemplate daily as I discern God’s call for my own ministry work, is that there seems to be required a balance of the two extremes:  yes, youth respond to the loud, exciting and sometimes hormonally driven Big Worship Events.  But as Catholics, we absolutely must feed our children as we feed ourselves:  with quiet and intense and personal prayer and contemplation, and a clear emphasis on the sacraments.  My major beef with American Catholicism is that (with the exception of parishes here and there) our Catholic youth are COMPLETELY IGNORED:  they aren’t being fed at all.  If you think that dragging your teen to mass every Sunday is feeding his or her soul adequately, you need to seriously step back and look again.  Anyway, read this article.    Oh, and read about Catholic HEART Workcamps again.  ;-) 


Friday, November 20, 2009

Some thirty years ago, evangelical Christianity threw itself heavily into the business of marketing itself with a series of hip slogans such as “I Found It” (a stranger is supposed to ask what this means, thereby opening an opportunity to share the Gospel). Along the same lines, there was the Good News Bible with a newspaper-theme cover. More recently there has been the WWJD campaign. Dozens of other kitschy campaigns have come and gone.

Part this new sensibility, even a core part, was the cultivation of a specific youth sector within the church. The idea is born of the baby boom: there is some kind of generation gap that makes it difficult for young people to comprehend things in the same way that older people do. Thus must we concoct special sales pitches to show the youth that Christianity is for them. Of course we need youth ministers too (an aging guy who wears jeans) and a host of programs to show off that Christianity is not just for stodgy fuddy-duddies.

This effort almost always means adapting the shape and form of existing secular youth culture — which itself is a modern invention — and baptizing it with Christian themes and messages. The rationale is that if we do not create a Christianized copy of the prevailing youth culture, we risk losing the youth entirely.

If the kids are going to attend rock concerts, better that they be Christian rock concerts. If they are going to go to rallies and parties and scream their heads off about crazy stuff, better that they be Christian rallies, parties, and scream fests. Better to get high on Jesus than methamphetamines. That’s the rationale.

The “youth retreat” was born at some point in this process, and by “retreat,” I don’t mean a time of quiet contemplation, spiritual reflection, and careful discernment. The retreat almost always involves the display of a series of would-be teen idols who sing and speak and tell jokes, and eventually get around to presenting an emotional story of their own conversion. These eventually morphed into huge national conventions with massive commercial sectors within them, with teens encouraged by parents to travel hundreds of miles to experience the spiritual high that comes with huge religious gatherings.

The heady mixture of presence of Christian rock-stars, encountered in the context of a thorough mixing of boys and girls on out-of-town trips, can lead to strikingly emotional experiences. Kids return telling of their new-found commitment to religion and also of the intense new friendships they have developed with others on the trip. Parents feel a sense of relief that at least these kids are hanging around with other Christian kids and not fraternizing with the seedy sectors of life.

Catholics were late to this approach to “selling” their faith to the youth but with Mass attendance dramatically down from decades ago, more and more people are getting in on the act. In the digital age, this involves heavy use of film and video shorts that promote bacchanalian scenes of fun, laughter, loud music, and inspiration of some sort or another.
And it does all make difference. The kids return home with a new countenance, and a new love of God and a new love of their neighbor, though the young can be rather confused about how to sort it all out.

They report on their changed lives. And this effect lasts for about six months on average, at least that’s my strong impression. In its wake follows some degree of disillusionment, failed romances, and the status quo ante.

In the worst case, the effects of an event like this can actually backfire. By comparison to the massive youth rallies, the home parish seems rather staid and dull. Where are the rock bands, the great speakers, the beautiful boys and girls aching for new relationships, the inspiration that the rally dump on us by the buckets? Clearly there is nothing in my hometown parish that can compare to that.

The eye begins to wander to other sects that can provide or at least attempt to provide that unrelenting stimulation that comes with youth rallies. They do a much better job of it than Catholics. It may not last there either and it might be just as superficial but at least they make a go of it. On this front, the Catholics can’t compete. And if the basis of your spirituality is the longing for media stimulation and artificially inflated spiritual highs, Catholicism is going to be marginalized at some point in their quest.

For Catholics, this is a very serious matter. To be Catholic in today’s world requires a great deal of social sacrifice. It nearly always has in the modern age. We don’t have the right friends in the right circles. Our parishes don’t have commercial venders selling lattes and we don’t have health clubs. What’s more, the Roman Rite doesn’t lend itself to the unleashing of loud guitars and would-be rock star improvisations. There are no personality cults in the Roman Rite. The entire structure actually does the opposite. It buries the personality and directs attention toward eternity.

From a marketing angle, (more…)

Read Full Post »

"We're the kids in America" -- Only a small part of the many teen participants at the Dayton CHWC in 2009

I want to blog today about an organization that only recently came to my attention but from what I have seen looks to be something that I fully support.  The organization is Catholic HEART Workcamp.  They organize one week summer youth volunteer camps thorughout the U.S., usually in poor, urban and under-served communities.  The kids at the camp work hard and pray hard.  All the camps include spiritual dimensions.  CHWC was started by former Youth Ministers Steve and Lisa Walker, who were inspired by their participation in non-denominational workcamps, which they enjoyed but those camps lacked a Catholic spirituality and perspective.  Because the camps were nonetheless  a positive and life changing experience, Steve and Lisa were called to offer a Catholic Workcamp.  Their first year, there were only about 100 participants but it has been growing ever since.  In the summer of 2009, 450 parishes and 10,500 adult and teen campers registered!!!

Parents, Religious Educators, Catechists, Youth Directors:  I urge you to prayerfully consider becoming involved with this organization, either through inter-parish promotion, participation, volunteering yourselves, hosting a camp, leading your groups to a camp or simply sending your own kids to one.  This is the type of activity that young American Catholics have needed for a long time.  I think each of us adults would do well to support–in any way–positive, faithful activities for our teenagers and young adults.  And one of the very best parts of this particular opportunity is that by working with CHWC, we are helping our neighbors, right here in America.  (I have some opinions about that.) 

From the FAQs on the website is this nice explanation of what these camps do:

The HEART of CHWC is to gather and celebrate our Catholic faith.  Workcamp participants are inspired to grow deeper in their walk with Christ.  Through service, prayer, and the sacraments, camper participants are renewed in their love for our Catholic faith and are motivated to return to their home communities to serve on a local level. CHWC…..

  • Inspires participants to live out and answer their baptismal call to serve
  • Respects the dignity of the human person
  • Cares for the poor and elderly
  • Loves one’s neighbor
  • Responds to the Gospel

Here is the Mission Statement of CHWC, also taken from their website:

Our Mission is Twofold…..

First: To share the love of Jesus and serve the neglected,   brokenhearted and marginalized in any way needed.  The Catholic HEART Workcamp mission is to revitalize communities and beautify homes for the elderly, disabled and those who cannot afford needed repairs.  Our goal is to inspire participants to serve in their local communities.

Second: To empower participants to live as disciples of Christ through serving others.  To foster the spiritual growth of each participant through the sacraments, Catholic faith sharing and prayer.

Camps are hosted throughout the United States and are offered at levels starting with 7th grade, but the majority of camps are for high schoolers.   One director of a Catholic HEART Workcamp said in an interview with the Tennessee Register:

The Catholic HEART Workcamp gathers faithful minds and charitable hearts for the good of others. The benefit for everyone involved, said Camp Director [of the Nashville Branch] Brian Reinhart, is “to be a part of helping people put faith into action, to build relationships with people you’re not usually exposed to.”

While the kids pay for the camp and sleep in sleeping bags on gym or parish floors,  many report life-changing experiences.  It’s hard work but it is also fellowship, worship, music and fun activities.  Several Catholic musicians travel from camp to camp all summer long.

To see if there is a camp for you, click here.

Finally (I saved the best for last)– a treat for you:  a beautifully filmed video of CHWC made by the talented, young Catholic behind LikableArt, Cory Heimann.  He’s a graphic artist, videographer , and Franciscan University graduate student.  And he’s the reason I heard about Catholic HEART Workcamps in the first place.  Thanks, Cory! 

 These Hands

P.S.  Support Cory’s work!  Order graphic designs, web layouts, logos, teeshirts, mock-ups and video segments from him!


These could be your kids! To insert your teen into this volunteer work, visit heartworkcamp.com


Read Full Post »