Saturday, September 29, 2012

A priest writes young Catholics back

Yesterday Brad re-posted a letter to priests from a blog. I read the letter and now, out of courtesy, write back.

Dear Young Catholics,

Thanks for your very kind if not lengthy letter. I appreciate your awareness of our limited time and chaotic schedules but I have carved some time out to write all of you back.

With your permission, I'll just use what you wrote and respond to the best of my ability.

First, we love orthodoxy.
We’re hungry for the truth. We’re hungry for sane logic, common sense, and Jesus Christ.

A huge number of us love the traditions of the Church that our parents and Grandparents didn’t like so much. You know why? Because practices that are distinctly Catholic help us stand out in a world that is obsessed with mediocrity, fitting in, and being “normal.”

The practices that make us distinctly Catholic – like frequent confession, adoration, the Rosary, and even the regular use of incense at Mass – in a mysterious way, these things  help build up our identity as Catholics in the world.

While you may think there’s too much of it, we think there is far too little.

I believe you make a good and valid point. I do run across some of you who very much love the ancient and timeless traditions of the Church and try to live by her immutable teachings. However, when it comes to sacraments that are important to those of us who are younger, such as matrimony and naturally, baptisms, it seems there is also a strong sense of customization and personalization.

It is painful sometimes to tell a bride that the beachfront wedding she has dreamed of isn't in line with traditional orthodoxy. It is also equally difficult to gently tell parents that the fallen away Catholics chosen to be godparents aren't really fit to serve by Church standards.

Now, I know it's easy to blame the parents and grandparents for passing on dislike for the traditions. Totally get that. But also, those folks were told at some time by their priests and bishops that they had to run the Church and there were various ways of being Catholic instead of one way. This really made it easy for the priest and people to do things the way they wanted to without hurting any feelings.

And really, between me and all of you, I don't think there's too much "frequent confession (sic), adoration (sic), the Rosary, and even the regular use of incense at Mass". We do most of that here but also y'all have to remember that it's tough to do those things when orthodoxy also demands some obedience to a bishop. Our bishops sometime make it hard for a priest to pastor when he feels that things aren't going the way he wants them.

So, maybe write the next letter to a bishop!

Second, prayer is tough for us.  The world we grew up in is a world unlike anything you can ever imagine. We don’t remember a time without the Internet in our homes. Our attention spans are embarassingly short, and silence is almost non-existent in our day-to-day lives.

We never learned how to just sit and ‘waste time’ with God.

Pray with us. Offer more times for adoration. Teach us the prayers of the Church, like the liturgy of the hours, adoration, and the countless novenas. We are thirsty for this stuff, and truly desire to make our parishes houses of prayer.

Prayer is tough for us all and there is not enough bandwidth to tell why! But it's never "wasting time with God"! Time with God is not wasted. It may seem so and you may feel that the time spent could be spent in other areas-school work, going out with your friends, tweeting- but that time isn't just yours. It's God's time, too!

I try to pray with you. It's just hard to get y'all out for it. I appreciate when you "shoot me an email" and set up an appointment with me for direction and prayer. It does bother me that many times you're a no-show or cancel just right before the appointment. But I know you are busy too and perhaps it would be wasted time.

As far as offering times for Adoration (should be capitalized, btw), we have cut out some time each week for that. It used to be longer but, as predicted in the Gospel, the spirits were willing but the flesh was weak.

Ditto for the Liturgy of the Hours.

Again, I get what you're saying but also know you have so much going on in your own lives that to commit to something that is perceived to be a "waste" of time is difficult. It's also tough because some of you think of it as one more thing to do and it's just hard to carry that burden.

Prayer should be something you make time for and sanctify time with. Just saying, I'm here for you.

Third, we need help dealing with porn, sex, and relationships.
The culture of death is here, and although we know Christ is triumphant in the end, it’s winning in a lot of our lives right now. We need help, and we need it fast.

More then confession, we need more resources and support to combat the slavery of porn. Let’s be honest here: a majority of guys in our generation are hooked on it.

It’s not enough to tell us in confession that we need to pray more, use more blockers, or do something nice for somebody else as a penance. Those are great, but the problem is still getting worse.

What we need are people in our lives who will help us fight it. It’s embarrassing to ask for help, or to talk about this outside of the confessional, so please start organizing programs, groups, and mobilizing men and women who are steadfast to engage our generation for mentorship and spiritual direction. If you don’t, who will?

That first sentence was a doozy! Seems you guys have read the talking points of the JP II era!

What can I do? Well, not much.

And even though you don't agree with what is said in Confession (capitalized when speaking of the sacrament "smiley face"), the sacrament isn't by nature therapy. With all due respect to Pope John Paul II and his admonition for priests to use the sacrament for counseling, it's just not built for that. When you say you will "avoid the near occasion of sin", then we are supposed to accept that.

I'll take your words to heart about organizing groups for porn addiction and such but don't expect much. It's an embarrassing and deeply personal problem and to admit it publicly isn't attractive to many people. It's not really in the purview of our Faith, or any really, to ask that of others.

Mentoring and other programs? I know you young people will not be happy with this next comment but here goes: People can be hypocritical when it comes to sex. Even priests. Bishops, too. Maybe popes.

If you need help though, I'm here for you. I can admit you into some spiritual direction and guarantee the same protections as the Sacrament of Penance.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to teach and preach NFP. The Church’s teaching about sex and sexuality is good news. A recent study showed that a majority of Catholic women still don’t agree with the Church about certain aspects of the teaching on articifical contraception. However, those same women are open to hearing why the church teaches what she does.

We’re used to hearing about sex, but from all the wrong sources. The Church’s wisdom is saving grace, and we want more of it.

If you young people can get me the figures on that survey in the first paragraph, I'd be happy to look it over. When I was in college, I was told never to say "a recent survey" without citing the source of the survey. So, I'd like to see the numbers of dissenting women who are open to hearing the Church's teaching. By the way, Church is capitalized. I'm sort of a freak about that.

But since we're talking about sex again, I do talk about NFP. I've even had people yell at me, walk out of Mass and even leave the practice of the Faith over it.

As much as I'd like to educate you more, I'm not sure if that's in the agenda of our Diocese. I was told NFP wasn't affordable by a representative of Catholic Charities here.

However, I do talk about the Church's teaching and faithfully defend it when called on by the media or teaching RCIA and marriage prep.

Fifth, preach more about Jesus, and that he is alive.
So many of us went to Catholic schools, but so few of us realize that Jesus is actually, really alive.

This is concerning, because this is why we are Christians.

This basic fact about our faith is not known. Given the fact that most Catholics learn about God from the ten minute homily, which often leave more to be desired in terms of content, we can see why.

Don't get me started on Catholic schools. I have been started before. It's not good.

You're asking about the Resurrection? Well, it's the theme of my homilies often. Always appears in my funeral homilies and prayers. I also use it as the support of the RCIA program.

And..meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeow! First, ten minute homily? Wow. I try to go 7.5. Good to know. But I try to make the content...well...full of contentiness. Fail some. Win some.

Ten minutes? Ow.

Just hear me out on this, though. You come from the "world that always had internet", correct? That being true then you're in that generation that I've noticed gets to hear and see things an infinite number of times over and over and over again. From the time you were a child, your mom probably let you watch that one DVD every day. You can probably quote verbatim Lil' Wayne's every song. You have watched that one youtube video of your friend snorting sugar and coughing a zillion times. This is perpetuated.

And yet, most of you who come to Mass hear one message once a week. It's DOA. Some may do other things. You may read blogs or subscribe to twitter feeds that promote Catholic orthodoxy. But most of you sort of just drift and catch a touching message here or there and even the best of you sometimes miss the rigors of orthodox belief in the Resurrection.

For example: Is your sweet grandma in Heaven? If you said "yes", then you made my point. Unless your grandma is Mother Theresa, which would be awkward.

Lastly, we need more opportunities for the sacraments in general.
It’s difficult for anybody of any generation to make the 3:30pm confession time on Saturday afternoon, especially for those of us who have two jobs and a young family to take care of. Appointments are great, too, but having at least one more opportunity once in a while would be ideal.

We know, you’re busy too. But if the sacraments actually are what we say they are, then they need to be more widely available. The world is quenching us, and we’re thirsty for the Fountain of Life.

Agreed. I'm not too busy to administer the Sacraments and I do sit "in the box" more than I used to and, really, more than some of my priest peers. And there is good response to it. And from young people!

So, anyway, thanks for writing. I hope I cleared up a few things. Truth be told, I've learned more about being a pastor from attending to the young than ever before. If you have any more to talk about, you know, do what you have to do with us old folks.

Shoot me an email.