Father Terence Kesavan, studying Catechetics in the US, says young people need mentors that inspire them to grow and live out their Christian life.
If you were to ask me about one of the most important yet lacking aspect of the way our faith is lived out, I would say it is community. A faith has to be lived and grown in a community.
During my time as a seminarian in the Church of Christ the King, it was something I pushed for among the youth groups, because I felt they were too focused on the function of the ministry. So, it is quite ironic, and yet so telling of the problem, that a number of youth spoke about their youth community not being a place to grow in their faith.
Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have heard many people using the word “community”, but now everyone calls it a youth community instead of ministry or group. But do they really know what it means to be community? Or is it just a change of terminology.
Community is a way of life that is lived, not taught.
It is like trying to say that I can teach someone how to be married, or how to have a happy family, just by reading a text book.
Some of the theories may help, but the best way is to see and learn from it in practice.
That is why those who come from broken families, often end up making the same mistakes, because they have not seen and learnt from good examples. So, since these youth are looking for community and not finding it, the problem then is that there isn’t that strong of a culture that can inspire and encourage them to grow in their faith.
Many youth look around, in their families and social circles, and do not have role model Catholics that can give them a vision of something more than being a Sunday or lapsed Catholic.
Many parishes do not have a young adult community that young people can look up to and think, that is what I want to be.
They don’t see role models who are prayerful, interested to read and learn more (Bible, and other spiritual inputs), and using the gifts for ministry.
All they see are older Church members or those just doing a function, and living a double life outside of church, which is a bigger scandal than just being a Sunday Catholic.
So why would a young person, who is still trying to find his or her identity, want to step out of their comfort zone and try to be holy when that means being different from what a “normal Catholic” seems to be.
No matter what we do in Catechism class or how many mission trips we go for, if the general culture is one of mediocrity, and just fulfilling obligations, then that is what most of our youth will become. There needs to be a change in culture and mindset, of what it means to be a Catholic, and sadly mindsets do not change very fast.
It almost seems like a chicken and egg thing. If I need to experience a culture for the younger ones to learn from, then it is a vicious cycle because this current culture will always be propagated.
This brings me to the next point, spiritual accompaniment.
This is a skill or method that we are very lacking in. We can call it mentoring or journeying but basically someone more experienced walking with someone less experienced. Somehow it seems to only be found in spiritual direction and especially for those discerning vocations.
We can say that the parents or god-parents should be playing that role. Yes, they should be playing that role when the children are young although not many are. However, once they reach their teens, psychologically they distance themselves from their parents, that is where the need for mentors who are closer to their age is important.
Young people are looking for role models to inspire them to grow and live out their Christian life; to see others who have fallen in love with Jesus, and to want to do the same. But we can’t just leave it as a passive observation, there also has to be an intentional effort to journey with the younger generation, across all ages.
Evangelii Nuntiandi 41 has a quote, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Pope Paul VI, Address to the Members of the Consilium de Laicis, Oct 2, 1974).