At the recent conference “Cultures of Formation: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,” held at the University of Notre Dame, Katherine Angulo of the Archdiocese of Atlanta began her presentation by inviting attendees to call to mind a young person in their lives who would identify as a “none” — an individual not affiliated with any religion — and to speak that person’s name aloud.
It was a poignant start to a presentation on approaching young people holistically that broke down walls between the academic and the pastoral, presenting at times alarming statistics on the ages at which young people stop self-identifying as Catholic — the median is 13 — but also reminding participants of the power of simply being present in young people’s lives.
As the Church approaches this Easter Sunday, we are once again reminded that we all know someone who has drifted away from the Faith. Not just relegated to a faraway place, the mission field is here at home, often encompassing members of our own families. Around this time of year, it’s not unusual to hear parishes and dioceses encouraging active Catholics to invite a friend or relative back to Mass. But how often do we actually do it?
Maybe we are hesitant to issue an invitation because we don’t want to “rock the boat,” especially within our own families. Or maybe it’s because we feel uncertain in our own grasp of the Faith and are reluctant to open ourselves up to the follow-up questions or discussion that such an invitation, even when fruitful, might generate. Or perhaps we have acquired what Pope Francis has called a “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and allowed our own practice of faith to grow cold.
There is no better time to take a risk to bring others to the Faith or to seek a renewal of our own faith than during the holy days that call us once again, in the pope’s words, to enter the mystery of the empty tomb. To do this, we can look to the central mysteries of the Faith for help: that Jesus Christ suffered, died and rose from the dead, all to save us from our own sinfulness. This proclamation of Jesus (called the kerygma) is something Pope Francis sees as central when it comes to evangelization.
“We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more ‘solid’ formation,” Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium (No. 165). “Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma.”
During this Holy Week, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to give us the courage to bring a greater understanding of the meaning of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death to those who have fallen away from the Faith. Perhaps we could make a special point to attend the Triduum — and invite family and friends to this special liturgy, as well as Easter Sunday. Perhaps we could invite them to walk The Way of the Cross with Jesus on Good Friday. At the very least, we could spend some time in the presence of Scripture or the Blessed Sacrament, quietly reflecting on the events that took place on Calvary and praying for our loved ones.
May we also take every opportunity to remember how Jesus has played a saving role in our own lives and how that encounter with him has transformed us. Through nourishing our own Faith this Holy Week, we will be better able to nourish that of others.
OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young