When I a young teenager, going through my religious education, I recall going on a Diocesan retreat. There was a notable surprise about the retreat that meant nothing to me at the time, but in hindsight explains much of our current struggles to pass on the Faith. Most of the weekend (70%) was doing fun activities, and the rest was spent talking about God.
Looking back, it is clear to see that there was a profound shift in the way we were going to teach the youth about God. I consider myself a part of what I call the “Lost Generations” of the Church. These are the generations that grew up post-Vatican II when many parishes stopped teaching the truths of the Catholic Faith and focused more on the psychological and emotional elements of the faith.
Why the shift in direction?
There are numerous reasons why, but for the sake of brevity I want to point out one of them that is still incredibly true today. We know that during this tumultuous period, there were several “revolutions”, such as the sexual revolution. This was the perfect storm created by Satan to attempt to bring the Church down.
While all these social transformations were taking place and influencing our faithful, those working in the Church were also beginning to make decisions. One of the biggest decisions was based on a fear (again from Satan). The fear was that we can’t have church events that are “too religious” or we will push the kids away. So we began to see Diocesan Youth Conferences where the highlight of Saturday night was a dance instead of Jesus.
In our religious education programs, we fear giving the people the entire truth. Instead, we are trying to teach them how to add “a little Jesus” to their already over-extended life.
Returning to the Truth
Having been equally guilty of doing the same things, I am convicted of this critically essential truth. I lacked true conviction of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospels are very clear. We can’t serve two masters – God & mammon (Mt. 6:24). Yet, out of fear of presenting the truth about our Faith, we water down the message of the Gospel, and then wonder why people don’t want to buy it anymore.
We are simply afraid that if we present an invitation to encounter Jesus and teach them that it will cost them everything, those offered the invitation will reject it. We lack confidence and conviction to present the actual truth. I have found over the years that when the truth is presented as something (and Someone) of substance, the people respond.
One of the best examples of presenting the true Gospel to youth are the Youth Conferences presented by Franciscan University of Steubenville. The dances are out and our Eucharistic Lord is placed front and center. All this is augmented by the sacrament of Reconciliation and powerful teaching.
We must reexamine our own belief in the Gospel and restore a profound conviction for it. If it is true, it will stand! We must stand with it!