The late moral theologian Germain Grisez, who died Feb. 1 at age 88, once wrote in the book “Personal Vocation: God Calls Everyone By Name” (OSV, 2003; co-authored with Russell Shaw) that “children can and should be encouraged to begin asking themselves what Jesus would have them do in the more important matters that are left up to them — the friends to make, the school activities to become involved in, and so on. They also should be encouraged to begin praying about their personal vocation, in the knowledge that, beyond the small things he asks of them now, God soon will be calling them to larger, more life-shaping deeds and commitments. Unless ideas and practices relevant to the vocational question take root before the teenage years, when children reach that tumultuous period they will organize their lives in ways having little or nothing to do with personal vocation and, very likely, in conflict with faith.”
These words seem to anticipate the challenge now facing the Church of a younger generation walking away from the Faith in vast numbers and seeing very little practical use for religion in their lives.
The good news is that, in addition to these “nones,” the millennial generation also contains courageous young models of faith lived out in the world and across many avenues of Church life. OSV Newsweekly features a roundup of these voices in this week’s In Focus (Pages 9-12, online Feb. 18), which is part of our coverage leading up to the Synod of Bishops in October.
In preparation for the synod, Pope Francis wrote to young people last year:
“A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”
We listened as well and were struck by the prayerfulness, authenticity, humility and willingness to engage the world that these young Catholics exhibited. And they see it, too.
“They’re so passionate and they’re driven, and they have their whole life in front of them, and they have so much that they can do to make the world a better place and impact it,” Kayla August, of the University of Notre Dame’s campus ministry, said of her experience with the students she serves.
The young people profiled represent a Church composed of flawed human beings who are, nonetheless, doing the best they can to witness to the world.
“[T]he way forward is in humility, accepting the ways that we find ourselves in mediocrity, the ways that the technological age in which we live causes us to live a distraction that’s hostile to any kind of robust, contemplative existence,” said James Baxter of Fort Wayne, Indiana-based apostolate Those Catholic Men.
And the authenticity of this thinking and living will make all the difference, said Drew Dillingham of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops office for Child and Youth Protection: “The more we truly live out our faith, and shine forth in a world that can be dark, the more we will be forced to stand up for what we believe in.”
OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young