Being Catholic, reaching youth/young adults: Jamie Manson’s presentation to Call to Action in Golden, Colorado, September 2016

February 15, 2017

Being Catholic

Catholikos (from which Catholic is derived) means being oriented to the whole, seeking to make things whole, trying to view the whole cosmic picture

Christianity started as a cosmic religion that sought wholeness.  Jesus is the wholemaker and calls everyone to create wholeness, where things are fragmented.

When Christianity became dominated by Empire and began to ally itself with power, this word started to be translated as universalis – moving together, conformity, moving together toward one thing.  This – being conformist, legalistic, orthodox, allied with power and empire or corrupting power – is different than moving toward wholeness.

The gospel says you/we actually encounter the living God in the margins.  This is where God lives or dwells – in the world.  This tells us a lot about God and who God is.  Why God is not in the center, power, authority.  When our hearts are broken, they are also broken open, and we can make new beginnings.


Discussion: Where are you finding sacrament?  What does Catholic mean to you?

The Jesuits talk about finding God in all things, being men and women for others, something oriented to good and that great truth and trying to get there, around radical love, for all of us to pursue

We all know sacrament is outward sign, instituted by Christ (us acting in accord/alignment), to give grace

God is everywhere, according to the Baltimore catechism.  We are not in charge of God or saying where God is not.  God dwells in everyone.  Everyone has dignity and deserves to be treated with dignity.  Everyone is the beloved child of God regardless where they are in their life.  As church, we need to be and represent God’s justice, vision and generosity, with radical openness (to being wounded), with radical vulnerability.

In much of the world, in many communities, the community model remains.  The individual sacrifices themselves for the good of the larger group, family, or community.  And gender often remains determinative.

Over the last 50 years/since the 60s, there has been a radical shift from a communal model to individualistic model of society, with a new feeling of wanting to be in control of your own destiny.

Gen X and Millennials are the first generations to be born in a purely individualistic culture.  The sense of living in a large village with your family is uncommon outside of immigrant or Latino communities.

There is an impact of this individualism and loss of community on (our) religion. Religion relied on community and communities relied on religion for rites of passage, to teach the moral code.  The relevance of religion has really declined, to give us our morality or teach the faith.  Bishops et al. don’t have the influence that they used to.  This is a crisis of power in the hierarchy and it may be contributing to them getting more and more reactionary.

Youth choose/think about ethical and moral ideas, have more options than many used to, for their time, attention, and money – an extraordinary amount of choice, including mega-churches with coffee shops and rock concerts on Sunday.  Even though young adults have incredible choices, there is a deprivation from not having a built-in village or community there is a hunger for community and spirituality that is new and deeper and hungrier with this generation.

More traditional religions are not answering this hunger.  Multiple generations are being sent away hungry, but it’s not like the younger generation doesn’t want this (religion).  We don’t communicate like we used to, sit around and talk.  (With new media and ways) there is a lack of wanting to use words, encountering directly, and looking in the face.

There is irony here:  churches are supposed to give, feed, nourish.  A lot of young adults want to be connected to some tradition.  They feel rootless and have a sense of things being constantly in flux.  Churches could be helping and reaching out.

A Georgetown study found about 10% fall into a highly orthodox category; what about the rest (90%) who want a sense of their history, want spirituality and aren’t finding a home?  We don’t have much on offer.

We asked some young adults what they wanted – they said:  could you rent us a room at the center on Sundays for 2 hours, buy us a pizza (and that’s it—not direct them).  They just wanted to sit and talk about their faith with others.  Have a meal, look each other in the eye, and just talk.  Once a month, and then everyone would go to mass together.  They all are extremely close friends.  We maintain our connections.

Sharing a meal and being present to one another is Eucharistic.

This is why religions die:  if/when their rituals become irrelevant.

Anything we can do to make the rituals relevant again…

Feeding, talking, sharing our stories – could relate to big S Sacraments.

Meeting young people where they are, helping connect them to great traditions, giving those traditions new life, re-telling / remembering Jesus’ radicality, speaking truth to power, especially John’s gospel and the many ways Jesus lifts up women.  Women are a force for change.