Well, I just returned from being a guest speaker at a Vocations meeting, with representatives from the various orders around the Twin Cities area... And, face it, the orders that don't need vocations typically don't come to meetings to try to figure out how to get more vocations, if you get the idea...
Anyway, I was asked to come to this meeting because the members of these meetings have noticed a curious thing that I happen to be a part of, called Theology on Tap (a program for young adult ministry begun 25 years ago by the Archdiocese of Chicago
). I have been a part of a group doing TOT here in St. Paul (the only "official" TOT group here -- accept no substitutes! :) and we get between 150-170 young adults on average per night (least was 70+, most was well over 200 young adults!). This kind of success doesn't go unnoticed by those who are wondering why young adults aren't coming to their orders.
So there I was. Talking up a storm about how we began the program, how it has developed for us in the Twin Cities, and the marvelous fruits that have come from the program by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Of course, I know the crowd I'm talking too, so I'm trying my best to speak in their language, personal relationship with Jesus Christ and all that. But, they asked some direct questions, so of course, I gave them some direct answers... Here are some highlights:
I got some pointed questions about justice and diversity from Fr. "Wally." They weren't too difficult to answer, since of course, when you grow in love of God, then that love spills over into love of neighbor. The activity level of our young adults in participating in community work and "social justice" (oh, how I hate that term...) has increased dramatically since we started our efforts to help them to see the relevance of God in their lives. I think "Wally" thinks we are too focused on "us" and not enough on "neighbor;" he had a real problem when I said that Christ died on the cross, not for some ambigious "crowd," but for each and every individual that made up that "crowd," and that with Theology on Tap and other aspects of our ministry we seek to connect with the individuals of the crowd, and not just the crowd. I don't think that answer satisifed him... But he didn't really bother me, I recognized his langauge of "caring progressivism," and I noticed that no one else in the room cared to take up his fight with me.
Some other questions too as to what exactly the "answers" are that young adults are looking for... oh boy... that one opened a can of worms I'm afraid, but hey, they asked... young adults want real answers to their real questions about morality, sexuality, and faith. Answers, not suggested opinions, or approval of whatever they "feel" is right for themselves. I told them that young adults need parents, and in this time of moral crisis and lose of understanding about personhood, they see the Catholic Church as being a way to find direction in their life, so of course, that means that means that these tough questions are asked within the context of the Church -- everything from why homosexual activity is sinful, to why abortion is always morally wrong, to why women cannot become priests (yes... I actually said that... ouch.). Young adults want to know not only what the Church teaches but why, they want to find the reasons for their faith, so that the authority that they give to the Church is granted authority, not blind obedience. It got kind of quiet after that...
I spoke early on about how we go about selecting speakers and topics, which helped clarify things, I brought along copies of all of our flyers and basically walked them through most of the topics/speakers and the reasons for having them, and the fruits that came from each topic... This seemed to help a lot, by allowing me to actually tell them about what was really discussed at the evenings and the feedback we got from them. They seemed amazed at not only the sheer numbers we are ministering to, but the types of people that we are reaching. I told them about the 5+ people we know of who are in RCIA now, about the multiple engaged/married couples that have met at TOT, about the 2 women I know of who entered relgious life after being at TOT, about the countless individuals whom I and others have met at TOT and who have developed into deep relationships (in fact, one of my current roommates and I met at a Theology on Tap!). TOT is not our work, it is the work of the Holy Spirit, and we just hope to cooperate with Him. In large part due to Theology on Tap, there is a revived and thriving young adult Catholic presence in the Twin Cities today -- the Cathedral Young Adults, the Frassati Society, St. Olaf Young Adults, Corpus Christi Catechism Fund, SPO/NET Ministries, University of St. Thomas Catholic Studies, St. Kate's Catholic Club... the list goes on and on. Many of these groups existed before TOT, but it has been TOT that has brought the greatest numbers of various young adults together, so that all of the groups have tighter bonds and deeper connections, and all of them are better able to answer the call to holiness and evangelization.
There was also a ringing endorsment of our group and Adoration from one of the other sisters present that I know pretty well... Apparently she came to Mass at the Cathedral a few Wednesdays ago and discovered our young adult-sponsored Holy Hour -- God bless her, that seemed to get the group interested in why young adults are interested in Adoration, leaving me wide open to talk about personal testimonies. Yay! :) I did try to speak frequently, almost in passing, about the merits of Adoration and how many young people are drawn to it, how many vocations I know of have been heard during time of Adoration. I think this all surprised them, but no one said anything else, either positive or negative, about it, which was too bad. But maybe a seed was planted, who knows?
It really was an eye-opening session for me, to see the fears that many older people have regarding the "zealous" faith of my generation. I hope that I was able to communicate to them that we both love the same Lord, and that we embrace both the best of the traditions of the faith as well as the deeper understanding of the meaning of evangelization that has flowered in the past decade or so. I hope I piqued their interest, and I hope to see some of them at our next Theology on Tap, so they can see for themselves the joy and the yearning for truth of the young adult generation of today that I tried to do my best to explain to them. I hope that they will see this, and take it back to their orders, and be open to bringing about a revival and a reform for them, so that they too may benefit from vocations.
Please take a moment right now to pray for these religious, pray that the Holy Spirit may speak to them through what I said, and that they may be open to the call of our Holy Father to re-evangelize the world, beginning with themselves and their orders -- pray that they may be open to receiving the grace of deeper conversion and a return to the roots of their orders, to the mission of their founders. Pray for their ongoing renewal in Christ. Pray that they may one day "get" us, the new, young, orthodox faithful who are answering the call of Christ today!