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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Catholicism for Dummies?

The Pope has appealed to the Church in America to study contemporary culture to find a way to appeal to youths, if we hope to break away from the danger from turning, as a society, to materialism in place of spirituality.

That's just what the Church in America has been trying to do. Unfortunately, too many adults just don't know how. The problem is that modern liturgy often treats "Catholicism for youth" as if it were "Catholicism for Dummies."

It's true that young people often listen to different types of music on the radio than fogeys like me. It's also true that they dress differently, style their hair differently, and use different slang. (My daughter would be cringing at me for using a word like "fogey.")

But the truth is that kids don't want adults to be like them, because they find comfort and security in knowing that we are past fads. They are reassured by the fact that we are stillness in their lives of perpetual motion. They look to us for an example of what they will be, and though they will rarely admit it, they like knowing that they will be like us, too, one day. You see, when we are "fogeys" it gives them permission to be, or at least to know that they will be. It gives them hope that some day they will be able to dress in last year's fashions without worrying about what their peers will think.

When they see people too old to sway with every wind, it tells them that there is something more permanent in this world than their ever-changing tide. They want the same thing from the Church.

They like music at church that we think is too outdated for such trendcatchers. They like that church gives them a break from the constant pressure to be hip.

They like knowing that God is eternal, and His Church has permanence.

If we truly hope to heed the Pope's advice and find a way to appeal to youths, what we need to do is stop trying to appeal to youths. We need to appeal to human beings of faith who happen to be young. We need to give them the same quality that we hope for, ourselves, in a liturgy. Teens and young adults are not nearly so flighty, or so snobbish, as many liturgists seem to think. Let's invite them to take a break from worshipping popular culture, and worship the Eternal God.