“The best instrument to evangelize young people is other young people.” So claimed Pope Francis visited Rio for World Youth Day. He continued by quoting Joseph Anchieta, a Jesuit Blessed. Joseph Anchieta was sent from Spain on mission to Brazil at the age of nineteen.
When one is with the Lord, one cannot be afraid.
In following the Lord, there cannot be reservations.
To serve is the condition proper to one who follows Christ, who came in the midst of men not to be served but to serve.
The July 1, 2010 edition of the Catholic Review published an article of mine. In it, I wrote an article related to the fears of young people that hold them back from full membership in the Church. In this Halloween season, I offer them again with revisions for readability.
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“So, if the “Zombie Apocalypse” occurs, what skills will you bring into the new future?”
It was a confusing question. The family was sitting down for a picnic dinner. My young adult children initiated a verbal game play of Zombie Apocalypse. It was “What can you contribute to the general good?” sort of game… which is not an uncommon young adult sort of question.
What did zombies have to do with it? They are a staple of horror films. , Zombies are formerly dead characters walking this world. They mindlessly attempting to consume the life and flesh of the living.
My eldest daughter explained her understanding of the game. “We have grown up with so many real-life villains.” They have from Columbine to the 9/11 terrorists to Hurricane Katrina to British Petroleum. (An update could add the economy downturn and ISIS.) Zombies, she explained, pretty much reflect them all. She then offered a profound Christian message without any Christian context. “The game reminds us that we must all share what we have with one another.”
The zombies of my own youth came to mind. The back-up dancers offering a staggered step in Michael Jackson’s video “Thriller.” The dance choreography was slow and stilted in gate. Those zombies wee emotionless in their steps and slightly menacing.
This summer many parishes and schools took young people travelling. They were off to summer youth conferences, leadership camps, and work-camps helping those in need. There, they attempted to live within the model of the early Christian community. They devoted “themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
In these moments, these young people experienced the Church Pope Benedict XVI discussed in his instillation homily in 2005. As he became the 265th successor to Saint Peter in a centuries old faith, he proclaimed “…The Church is alive. And the Church is young.”
As these young people returned to their own parish communities, this is a good time of assessment for us. Are they returning to a Church that is alive and young? Or might they be scared by a Church that resembled the slow, lifeless, faith of the undead?
As faith communities, there are many things that we can do to ensure that the vitality and vibrancy of our Church.
- We must find more ways to inform, form, and transform the faith of parents. They are the first witnesses of faith for young people. Whatever kids understand about the Church was likely both taught by and caught from their parents.
- We must make a commitment towards greater inclusion of young people into the ministries of the Church. This is especially true within our communal worship.
- in ministering with young people, we must find ways to elicit the passions of their summer. Do we engage their energy, passion, and skills towards making a meaningful difference in the world? Pope Benedict encourages young people to make “definitive choices” about their lives and faith. We should do the same.
As Church, we need to recognize that young people are ready to engage. These Zombie Fighters will defend against that which assaulting civilization. They will respond to all which is hostile towards human life. Young people must recognize the Church as alive and young. We cannot risk sending them the perception that we are a lifeless zombie culture.
From their summer experiences, hundreds of young people returned to parish pews. They look at the Church through new eyes. They ask “What can you contribute to the general good?” Our response must match the rhythm of their lives, be expressive in our response, and sorta reassuring for the future. Let us consume the fullness of life together with the One that we might have life more abundantly. (John 10:10)