Next Generation Church

Recently, I had the privilege to talk with a group of college students at a Catholic university.  Bright, funny and hopeful, what impressed me most about them was how eager they are to embrace their faith and put it into practice in their lives.  I heard the words “authentic Christian faith” more than I can count and it was delightful.  They don’t agree on everything, naturally, but they share an energy and openness that’s both challenging and refreshing.  I came away from our conversation believing that the future of the Catholic Church is in very good hands.  But we have some work to do.  They need us, the “grown-up” Church to live up to our faith and they’re specific and forthright in what they expect us to do.
They need us to be Sacramental. Specifically, the Sacraments of our Church should be the center of our parish life.  They want Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist to be available as often as possible in every parish.  More than anything else, this is the one desire they all wholeheartedly shared.  They want the Sacrament of Penance to be available at more times (not just on Saturday afternoons) and they want to hear our priests preach more about the burden of sin and the meaning of repentance and God’s forgiveness in Reconciliation.  In fact, they talked a lot about the homilies we hear at Sunday Mass.  They want and need to hear the truth of the Gospels preached to us without compromise.  They want to hear that God is the answer to their questions and the healing for their hurts.  They want to be taught Scripture and the Catechism.  They long to hear that there is an objective reality, a real right and wrong, and that happiness comes from a living relationship with Christ and His Church.  They want to be taught about eternal life.  They need to hear that the purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God in this life and to be happy with Him in heaven.  They want our Church to worship God in His Sacraments, in prayer, and in study.  They want us to love Him by obeying His commands and to serve Him by serving others.  In brief, they want our Church to be very different from the everyday world.  They don’t need “contemporary” music or worship “experiences.”  They don’t crave rock bands at Mass or “cool” priests or the shallow self-affirmations of pop culture.
What they want and need—what we all want and need—is Jesus Christ.  We need the living God truly present in the Celebration and Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.  We need beautiful churches filled with uplifting music and holy images of  God and Mary and the Saints.  We need priests who respect and uphold the teachings of Christ and the Church and who fearlessly preach the truth of Christ crucified for our sins.  We need our churches and our liturgies to be a porta coeli, a Gate of Heaven, leading us into the unrelenting divine immediacy of God’s love and mercy.  These are the amazing, heartfelt challenges I heard from this group of young Catholics. I hope and pray that we can live up to what they expect of us and I look forward to that day in the near future, when they, and other young people like them, will be our parish leaders.

“Christ is knocking very hard at many hearts, looking for young people like you to send into the vineyard where an abundant harvest is ready.”  

     —Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day, Denver, 1993


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Patrick
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 20:23:52

    And there is hope. My son, a recent graduate of Franciscan University, embraces, along with his friends, a new orthodoxy–a movement of conformity to Magisterial teaching.

    I’m telling you, many of our youth are strong with the armor of Christ, which is a must, given the coming cultural and governmental persecution.


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