Friday, September 28, 2012

Open Letter to Priests by Young Catholics

This is from the blog of Ryan Eggenberger.

We love our priests. They sacrifice so much in service to Christ and his Church. These days, they are overworked, stretched thin and often severely under appreciated. But, like any anyone else, they want to do their best "work" in serving and pastoring their flock, and I'd like to think that they appreciate honest and respectful feedback from the people they're called to serve.

As a group, young Catholics, whether college-aged or young adults, present their own particular challenges to those in ordained ministry. I think it's fair to say that most Catholics in this age group are nothing if not honest with themselves in that they don't "fake" religious faith: they either take it seriously, try their darndest to seek orthodoxy, accept the challenges of our faith and try to live lives faithful to the Church's teachings, or they are honest enough with themselves to admit that they don't believe the faith and they don't make any pretenses about it. In this generation, there is very little agitation to "change" or "challenge" the tenets of the Church from within. Instead, theirs is a measured acceptance of what Catholicism is when it is true to itself, and folks in their 20s and 30s generally either take it or leave it. Simple as that.

So, the "young Catholics" to whom the Church is ministering is a generation who wholeheartedly believe that Truth (with a capital T) is found, in its fullest measure, in the Catholic Church. And they're thirsty for anything that reinforces their ability to "live out the Truth in Love."

We're blessed here in our parish with a great priest who meets our spiritual needs in these and many other ways. But not all parishes are so lucky. This is worth a thoughtful read:

Dear Fathers,

We are writing this letter to you today because we have some things we want to say to you. Some things are easier to say than others, but here you go.

Before that, though, a HUGE thank you. Thank you for having the courage to say yes to your counter-cultural vocation. We are forever grateful and will never be able to repay you. We’re also grateful for your energy and enthusiasm you have for us as young Catholics.  There are few people that value us for who we are and encourage us toward greatness and holiness as you do.

But as you are well aware, times are tough for our generation of Catholics in America. Numbers of weekly Mass attenders are small these days.  Some studies show that only 10% of young adults in their twenties are attending Mass regularly. This is very concerning, to say the least.

With that, here are some things we want to share with you. You may know this already as some of you are from our generation. But we want to share anyway, just in case you don’t know.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.