It's a Friday evening and Tim has just finished work. On his way home he decides to go a half hour out of his way to check out a Catholic young adult group a friend told him about that allegedly meets every Friday night at 7:30. Like many things in his hectic life, he only decided to go last minute. When he arrives at the church at 7:30, he's disappointed to find the group isn't there. He asks some parishioners just leaving the evening Mass if they've heard of a young adult group at their parish, and they are clueless. So that the trip isn't a complete waste, he grabs dinner at a local restaurant. He speaks with the locals about why he came to their town. They say they've heard of the young adult group because it often stops over for fellowship after its meetings. The bar tender, however, notes that the group really just keeps to themselves, so he doesn't know much about them.
Here's the part you may not have expected. Tim is a friend I met in high school. Our deepest bond was that we both had a relationship with God. For that reason we were not to be found in the popular crowd. We told our peers about Jesus, but it was tough for them to understand. We searched for fellowship and community where we could share our excitement for the faith, but our search led us to a Pentecostal youth group 45 minutes away, the only youth group we knew about. That church has since closed down.
This was 10 to 15 years ago. I later learned that groups like Lifeteen and Realfaith TV were there for kids my age, but at the time these ministries apparently didn’t reach our ears. It was easy to feel alone as a Christian, and being Catholic just added me to an even smaller demographic. Tim was Protestant, but at least I knew I could talk about Jesus with him and not get a wide-eyed look.
My friend Tim can attest to this. As strong as our faith was growing up, something happened once the pressures of adult life were placed upon him. After a long spiritual journey, he actually converted to Catholicism; but it was a bleak, lonely conversion. Not being blessed with any Catholic community of peers, he drifted away from the faith many times in his 20s. Who can blame him? The Church wasn’t there, and when it was it failed to relate with what he was going through in real life. His half-hour drive on a Friday night to a church he never heard of was just another case in point.
Friends of mine who are involved in young adult ministry are presented with a similar problem. They have a hard time explaining to fellow parishioners of other generations that their ministry is the only place young adults really have to gather in their Church. Then they're asked 'Why don't these young people just join the many ministries already established in the parish?' An excellent question. Why don't we?
Maybe it’s true that we just want camaraderie and strong relationships with others, and maybe we think religion just gets in the way.
Sometimes a diocese or other large religious organization will organize a social or retreat for young adult Catholics, and sometimes there will be a large showing. But as quickly as the group gathered, like a flash of lightning, it's gone and many people who met that day will never see each other again. That's not enough to form anything substantial.
What we need is an ongoing community that doesn't just meet once a week, month or year. As a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, I've seen it done. There's often a sense that we're alone and don't have much widespread support. If the various, yet small, communities of Catholics from our generation come together we can finally get the sense that we're not so alone, and that there are actually quite a few of us out there. We need to start really getting things done, really accomplishing things for the Church, bearing fruit. The generations of Catholics before us built schools, churches, started ministries and initiatives in their local community. Now we see Catholic schools and churches closing down, and ministries barely hanging on. Even those that are hanging on don't attract those from our generation.
When a Catholic truly inherits his or her faith, truly answers God's call, he or she begins to see how much God really wants to do in this world. No single person can do all that needs to be done. No single company really can. But, it's true that with God all things are possible. This is what the Church needs in this world. She needs to make her presence known in an authentic, powerful way. Youths and young adults feel called to greatness, because they haven't been as battered and discouraged by reality. The Church needs to be there to encourage and foster their idealism like a good parent. There is no limit to what our generation can do if it is based on these truths.
There is so much Catholics need to do, so much we can do, with the power of God. Do we really know what people are saying when they tell us God is calling us to do great things, beyond our imagination! When he puts things on our hearts, there's no reason not to pursue them. He has put all of these things on my heart. I feel it is my duty to tell as many people as I can, and show how God does not hold back his graces, and show how God is looking to set the world on fire. If we want to inspire the younger generation to get involved, we need to give them something to get excited about. We need to show them that they are truly part of something great, a Church that is truly active in accomplishing amazing things and surprising the world. Let's surprise the world! Why are all of the great works of the Church done by Catholics in ages passed? It's because there are too few in the Church that are aware that Catholicism still has that power. The hope of heaven, faith in Christ, is the greatest force for good in the world. Most Catholics no longer understand that. They think Catholicism is a Sunday obligation, a set of beliefs that has lost relevance in the modern world. The Church's truths are timeless. Modernism has just given us tunnel vision. It's time to wake up, open the windows, unpack the Church's dynamite and set the world on fire with faith, hope and love.