Is there a ‘way out’ for a generation of Christians in need of purpose?

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By Father Jean Joseph Brice

Christianity radically and concretely lived has enormous evangelical power. Today, the Church is losing generations of Catholic youth and young adults. It is arguable whether that’s due to scientism and relativism. How about indifferentism? This generation doesn’t care about politics, history, religion, God, meaning and purpose, holiness, gun violence, poverty, diseases or hunger. Though that’s worrisome, we need not despair. There’s a way out. We only have to be bold enough to try it.

The overwhelming power of goodness! That’s the way out. Truth is great, but not the most appealing at the moment; the way of beauty is powerful, but right now, our world is drunk in their ways. There’s something winsome about goodness; no one can be indifferent to it. Think of Mother Teresa — it forces one to ask what drives you. It is like a catchy and beautiful song. It compels you to listen even if you don’t want to, then it stays with you the whole day. You hum it, you dance to it, you wake up with it in the morning. It gives you reasons to go on, and it sets you on mission.

Not yet convinced? Jews, Greeks and Romans thought Christianity was a preposterous faith — something that will eventually die out. Their charity to each other, the outcasts, rejected and marginalized echoed so mightily in the halls and palaces of the pundits, they were forced to take a closer look. How were the Christians different? When those around them routinely disposed of unwanted infants and left the elderly and the sick to die, the Christians cared for theirs and those that were not theirs. When the Roman Empire was wallowing in corruptions and immorality, the desert fathers would have none of it. They went to the desert to prepare themselves in the ways of the gospel; within years, they came back and reinvigorated the church and society in the virtuous life. They became educators, re-transformed the farming industry and re-evangelized their world. That means they were scientists, professors, inventors, poets, historians, orators etc., and from them came the Franciscan and Dominican Orders. Out of these come St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure and St. Francis et al, which later gave us people who made awesome scientific breakthroughs such as Roger Bacon (Franciscan brother, the “grandfather” of the Scientific Method), Roger Boscovich (priest, advancing geometrical measurements in astronomy), George Lemaitre (priest, and Father of the Big Bang Theory), Thomas Hilgers (Enriching Marriages through Science) and Robert Spitzer (priest and physicist) just to name a few.

In a letter exchange between then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera, then-president of the Italian Senate (2004-2007), they proposed that a “creative minority in the church, for the church, above and beyond the church and for society” made up of convinced secular and Christians be formed to reorient Europe to its Judeo-Christian values. Through their persuasive goodness and joy they would offer people a different way of seeing the God who suffers with us and leads us to true greatness, and help them discover the great pearl of the gospel (Without Roots, p. 120). It seems to me that the early Christians, the desert fathers, the Franciscans and Dominicans had been those “convinced minorities” at one point. What would happen in 50 years if all religious orders, dioceses, seminaries and parents of our time decide to become that army of soldiers for church and society again? The future George Lemaitre, Augustine, Mother Teresa, Louis and Zelie Martin, Aquinas and Thomas Merton would be found.

While the Church figures out ways to deal with indifferentism, each person’s personal dedication is necessary. So dear parents, do your job well; you are the first and the best of teachers in the ways of holiness. Priests, be joyful. Preach well; pray hard; strive to be holy. Young adults, be a game changer. Youths, your future is linked to greatness. Choose it. If the church is to find her trademark identity, if this maddening world is to stop and listen, we each have to do our part.

“Ask the Newly Ordained” features Fathers Brian Morris, Joseph Brice and Stephen Battey — who respond to questions about the faith from Rhode Island Catholic readers. Have a question? Ask the Newly Ordained! Readers may submit questions by sending them to Editor@thericatholic.com.