I recently decided, more or less on a whim, to be a Sunday school teacher at my parish. I saw an e-mail asking for new instructors, so I called and volunteered. I’ve also recently decided to help out more with junior high ministry at the parish that sponsors my young adult group. These commitments may turn out to be quite disastrous for me: While I love being around kids, teaching them has never been my forte – I just don’t have the patience.
So why am I putting my sanity on the line?
It started, I think, when I went to Philadelphia to report on the Theology of the Body Congress for the “Son Rise Morning Show.” Having charged my way through the texts of Pope John Paul II’s general audiences in preparation and then spending three days focusing on different aspects of this great teaching, I quickly jumped on the TOB bandwagon. It was then that I realized this is the kind of information teenagers need to have: We need to catch them early, before the rest of the world can get to them with a very different, and very wrong, message.
Then it occurred to me that this mentality can be applied in all aspects of our faith.
Cincinnati’s Archbishop Dennis Schnurr likes to say that young people are not the “Church of the future,” but the “Church now.” If that’s the case, and I believe it is, we need to be equipped with real catechetical knowledge as early as possible!
So here’s the deal. We are young, we are hip, and we are equipped with that catechetical knowledge. WE need to be instilling this information in those in younger generations. Why? Because we’re young and hip.
Think about it. When I was in grade school, I clung to the younger teachers, and so did all my friends. I bet most of you did the same. We certainly learned from the older teachers, but whom did we admire? Whom did we want to imitate? We wanted to be like the young ones.
I don’t think kids have changed that much since our childhoods, and so I’d venture to say that they’re still attracted to young adults. We have the opportunity – dare I say the obligation? – to take advantage of this.
That being said, here are five issues on which I think every kid should be properly catechized before graduating high school (the earlier, the better).
This is arguably the most serious temptation facing kids today. Think of all the smut and soft porn that we see even on billboards along the highway. No one is completely sheltered, and we need to attack this one head-on
As an aside, do you ever see parent-aged people in these ads and music videos? Nope, you see people our age – just another reason that WE need to be appealing examples of how a young adult should live and act.
We must express how important this sacrament is in our lives! If we don’t drive home the point that everyone is broken and needs forgiveness, and that we receive abundant graces through confessing our sins and receiving absolution, they could be lost forever on the topic. What a loss that would be.
We need to correct the misconception that in answering the call to be a priest or a religious means that your life will become boring and mundane the minute you profess your vows. The church needs good priests and religious who know how to enjoy life and just be joyful. If we can convince this generation that religious life, while challenging, is a gift from God, the greater chance we all have to be part of a vibrant Church with inspired leadership.
4. Reverence for the Eucharist
So many people don’t think twice about Whom they are receiving when they go to Communion. Many don’t care. Also, I already regret the number of years I spent without adoration. What an amazing opportunity we have as Catholics to be literally in the presence of Jesus Christ! How many kids even know what adoration is? This needs to change.
5. True Church Teaching on Social Issues
Abortion, contraception, and same-sex “marriage”: The Church has a clear stance on each of these issues, and these beliefs do not make us Catholics intolerant. We live in a world that says, “What I do with my body is my business and no one else’s,” and, sadly, many young people accept that mentality without question because they don’t want to be deemed bigots. If you know and believe and express the doctrinal and biblical basis for the Church’s viewpoint, that won’t be an issue.
I suspect that most of you would add more to this list. We are up against SO much evil and cultural apathy in this world, and if you think it’s a hard battle for us to fight, imagine what it’s like for a young and impressionable tween or teen. If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re battling like a champ. It’s time to help others in this fight. It’s time to equip ourselves to be able to guide the next generation. They haven’t dismissed us yet, so let’s try to break through while we’re still young and “totally” hip!